‘Twisterhood’ and the school of running wizardry

Members of Tower Twisters togged up in ethnic wear. Photo: Special Arrangement

Imagine a Zoom session on pure mathematics by college professors being interspersed every now and again with a raucous recital of the first ten numbers by kindergarteners.

Though both exercises deal with maths, throwing them together is an incongruity. Tower Twisters, a chapter of Chennai Runners, spotted a similar mismatch with the result that it now operates with four official WhatsApp groups.

Vikram Mohan, one of Tower Twisters’ founding-members, notes that one WhatsApp group hosts those members with a blinkered vision, being fixated only on running. The group has a low tolerance threshold for any attempts to get a non-running line in, straight or edgeways.

There is another for members “who are serious about running” but simply cannot resist the temptation of running through every topic at hand, “chatting away to glory”, as Vikram puts it. This group countenances these digressions, as almost everyone is guilty of them at some point.

Another WhatsApp group is for cycling enthusiasts.

The fourth is for the “tenderfeet”, starting out on their first runs and it is called an incubation group. Being baptised into the running fraternity though this group is a test by fire. The term “incubation” does bring the full extent of its meaning to the table, but quietly papers over the closer scrutiny that is behind it all. These beginners are “on probation”, their seriousness about running being silently gauged by the core team members, who are present in all four groups.

Vikram explains: “There are people who would want to join such clubs either to network for business or socialise or both; we want to keep such people out,” says Vikram. “Do not get us wrong. We want our members to form friendships with each other; only that we want friendship to be a byproduct of the joint pursuit of excellence in running and fitness training, and not the primary objective. In fact, we pride ourselves on being as close-knit as a family, and we have coined a name for this bonhomie: Twisterhood.”

The group derives its name from the fact that members practise at the Anna Nagar Tower Park.

A charming cachet the group may like to flaunt is Strides, an annual running magazine, though the last issue saw the light well over a couple of years ago.

The magazine about running was started in 2017, and is three weeks old. Since the pandemic began, the magazine has not had enough feet to make it to the printing press.

When the magazine was launched, there was the predictable question: “Why run a magazine, when Chennai Runners has one?”

Vikram explains: “While the Chennai Runners’ magazine would make better runners of those already running, our magazine targets couch potatos with the objective of making runners out of them. It is meant to be a guide for someone who has relinquished the couch and needs help to get started. A newcomer would have those questions for the group. How fast do you run? Can I keep pace with you? There could also be questions on safety, particularly for women joining the group.”

In the three years that it was in circulation, the magazine would always appear around Tower Twisters’ anniversary — April 2 — and add to the grandeur of the occasion.

“The anniversary run would have remarkably more than the usual number of runners — 1500 to 2000 runners,” says K Sathyanarayanan, core team member of Tower Twisters.

The magazine earns its keep, drawing advertisements from local commercial entities, and the proceeds go towards funding exercises to promote running and fitness in the neighbourhood. The print order is usually in the range of 2000 copies and circulated in Anna Nagar and surrounding areas as far away as Nelson Manickam Road, says Sathyanarayanan.

Tower Twisters did not plan anything big for this anniversary, as Omicron was hogging the news in January, around the time the chapter starts activities marking the run-up to the big day.

“We conduct challenges in the weeks leading up to the big day: One of them is creating teams and tasking them with targets. A team would bend over backwards making sure every member is in attendance every day of the contest, as that would push them up the points table.”

Though this anniversary would be low-key, one could still expect a turnout of around 400 runners.

For details, call Tower Twister coordinators at 9840233233 and 9884169590.

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