It is a lazy Saturday dawn like any other in Mumbai. At a quarter to six, the trains and roads are empty but for loud milkmen and some blearyeyed drunks.
The Mahalaxmi Racecourse in the heart of the city is high on energy. Endorphins, to be precise. What on earth are endorphins? Endorphin or endogenous morphine is produced by the pituitary gland at times of stress or strenuous physical activity like running. It also gives runners like Sandeep Kothari the quintessential "runner's high".
Make no mistake, Kothari is no junkie. The 40-year-old manages the domestic equity funds of Fidelity. Three times a week, at the crack of dawn, he and his wife Prachi head to the racecourse to pound the grass.
"It is a good way to get your endorphin high," says a beaming Kothari. "It is also a great way to beat stress." Kothari regularly clocks 12-13 hours a day at the office. A regular participant at the Mumbai Marathon, which is held annually on the third Sunday of January, the Kotharis run as much as 45-50 km a week as they get closer to the marathon on January 16, 2011.
At the sprawling 325-acre racecourse, the Kotharis are not the only ones giving competition to the horses. In a small patch, nearly 50 middle-aged people are cooling off after their daily run. The group is a headhunter's delight as there is more senior talent on that piece of land than at a management convention.
"It keeps me active throughout the day," says Jagdish Kumar, perspiring profusely, and clearly on the crest of a runner's high. When he is not running, Kumar, 48, is overseeing the happenings at STAR TV as president of its south Indian operations.
So, what has got busy professionals like Kothari and Kumar waking up with the larks and running? It is a group called Striders. Founded in 2004 by two former professional athletes - Praful Uchil, 39, and Deepak Londhe, 36 - the group has over 225 members who assemble at nine places in Mumbai.