Siva Rangaswamy – From a Diabetic to a Marathoner

My wife considered me an amazing find. I have never had a problem finishing her experimental recipes and never ever complained about any issues with salt or spice. Dream husband material.

Leaving a morsel of food or two in your plate is considered good etiquette in China, since it signifies that you are not hungry anymore. I did not foresee any immediate travel to China and didn’t see a reason to follow that and, whether hungry or not, religiously wipe off every morsel of food. My roly-poly physique then was often a source of jokes amongst family and friends. Honestly speaking, I never actually had a problem with that. To think of it, in a masochistic streak, I actually enjoyed being a reason for their laughter.

I have never been into playing any sport seriously or even following one passionately. I still cannot bring myself to watch even a T-20 cricket match fully. Only once, in my whole life, have I watched a match in a stadium and that too because it was a company paid outing with families. Needless to say, it included the food there as well.

On the professional side, having rode the ‘IT’ industry wave since early 90s, did not have much to complain about. Professionally and financially I was, what the society around would consider as, ‘well settled’. So no real trigger to change anything. Quite secure, I thought, in my world.

“We may not know what we want, but we must know what we DON’T want in life”.

I am not a big reader of self-help books and neither do I consider myself spiritually or philosophically inclined. But these lines of Paulo Coelho seriously set me off thinking as the midlife crisis hit me like most others in their forties.

I decided that I did NOT want to spend my whole life in the security of a corporate job and left the IT job, dabbled into multiple stuff, and had a really amazing time meeting new and interesting people.

On the health front, the annual checkups, post 40, was something that I used to religiously follow and the increasing Blood Sugar levels (around 180-200) were still within the tolerance zone, based on what I heard around. The doctors, of course, always delivered the warnings to take care in their typical matter-of-fact manner. However, with no history of any serious illness or hospitalization, never really cared about these warnings. The body also didn’t show any specific symptoms. And the love affair with pakodas, samosas and the CAD-Bs continued.

All these went on until a minor accident in early 2015, when I skidded off the road trying to avoid a scampering dog in a dimly lit Range Hills road in Pune. Imagine a 190kg 500cc Royal Enfield on a 101kg poor me… with me lying face down on the road. Fortunately, the leg guards on the bike saved me from a major disaster though I was badly bruised. The healing was taking time and visited a doctor who asked me to get some tests done.


“Your sugar levels are what we consider as PANIC levels in diabetes”…

yelled my doctor on seeing my test results (BSL-356 & HbA1C-9.2).

I do have a history of diabetes in my family and so this was not really surprising. While the direct impact and other side effects of diabetes are quite well known for me to describe here, what really shook me was I was just 46 then. Two young kids in their schools and an expensive college education to provide for, and here I was running a monthly bill of almost Rs.4000 in medicines. I have never popped a pill in my life except for an occasional Crocin and here I was on the verge of spending Rs.50,000 every year.

Vikas: These are only direct costs. The Indirect costs are significantly much more. I have number of people in my family who are diabetic and I have seen their costs. Even for small distances they need a cab. Clothes keep not fitting so there is a need of a new wardrobe every few months. And of course the cost of the food one eats.

On the work front, I did travel across a wonderful journey, but ‘Where am I going?’ was a question that constantly kept me awake at nights… with no clear answers.

The ungainly guy that I got to see in the mirror every day, with dark expanding circles around his eyes, just added to the state of general stress around.

Paulo, the actual source of all the ‘keeda‘ that started this roller coaster ride, again reached me out with his same words; “We may not know what we want, but we must know what we DON’T want in life”.

And in March 2015, I decided what I did NOT want in my life:

  • Daily popping of pills
  • An unfit body
  • Negativity in my thinking

“Kehte Hai Agar Kisi Cheez Ko Dil Se Chaaho Toh Poori Kaynath Tumhein Usse Milane Ki Koshish Mein Lag Jaati Hai”

(This quote made popular by Shah Rukh Khan is originally by Paulo Coleho: The Alchemist When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.)

First, I was extremely fortunate to discover ‘Freedom From Diabetes’ (FFD), an amazing program by Dr. Pramod Tripathi (www.freedomfromdiabetes.org) based out of Prabhat Road in Pune. Contrary to all experiences heard from diabetics across last 10-20 years, the FFD program talked about getting off insulin and pills in 4-5 weeks flat. And I am a first-hand beneficiary of that along with thousands of other long-suffering patients of the dreaded disease. An amazing guy and a mentor for life, Dr. Tripathi.

Next, Ashutosh of Viman Nagar invited me to an LSOM (Last Sunday of Month) running event. I still get nightmares of that day when, in the last 2 kms, elderly people in their morning ‘walk’ were overtaking me. My ‘running’ was more of ‘crawling’ actually. And just to clear any misunderstanding here, it was the last 2 kms of a 5k run! Honestly, I do not even count that experience as a 5k. But it got me started. Rohan, a dear colleague and a regular marathoner, was also a great source of motivation and inspiration.

Vikas: LSOM is a run organised every month by Pune Running. You can know more about LSOMs from The Run which changed the Running Culture of Pune and to know more about the next LSOM visit facebook.com/punerunning

With Diabetes behind me now (BSL well under 130) and a cool 6 kgs weight loss as an unexpected benefit of the FFD program, “Dil maange more”. I was on a roll.

On Ashutosh’s advice, went to Pune University on a Sunday and met Sudhi, Mahesh, Vikas and many others who were helping folks like me get started for PRBM. Ran in the PRBM event in Oct 2015 and was ecstatic on completing my first ever 10k in 1:20. Another 10k followed in the ‘Veterun’ event 2 weeks later.

Now that I had conquered the 10k, asked people about my chances for the 21k (HM) in Goa River Marathon (GRM) happening in Dec 2015. 3k to 10k in 2 months & then to 21k in another months? Not recommended, the sane folks said. The crazy lot (including Aparna of Viman Nagar & a school buddy, Venky, in Chennai) goaded me to go for it. Trained for it and completed my first HM in GRM with a timing of 2:49. The free beer they serve in Goa, after the run, at 8 in the morning was undoubtedly the most fantastic drink I ever had in my whole life.

At this stage, I was like “Mera sabse bada fan.. mai-ich hoon“.

By this time, had knocked off overall 10kgs and was feeling real good with people around appreciating the turnaround. A friend actually commented that my skin was glowing! The energy that I was deriving at this stage, both from within myself and from folks around, was phenomenal for the self-esteem. It also helped me discover the path on the professional journey.

With just about 6 months into it, Running has already become a life changing discovery for me. Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, Professionally! Most importantly, discovered a great set of incredible people & made lots of friends along the journey and still adding. Now stationed overseas and just settling down, I discovered a trait that I never really thought I had. Within 10 days of arrival, and no group to help in motivation, I ran the Dubai Marathon (10kms – they don’t have a HM category) on a personal best timing! It’s not about the run or the timing now. Just the sheer pleasure of self-motivation in sustaining a healthy habit.

Now I hope to find a group that matches the Pune group’s energy and its values of sharing and giving.

As I write this, “Dil maange much more”. Next target – FM by March 2017!

Siva Rangaswamy now stays in Dubai. He has been an inspiration to many runners and a mentor to people who had thought they could never overcome their diabetes leave alone run. You can get in touch with him at siva.rangaswamy@gmail.com if you would like to know how to overcome diabetes through running.

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