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Sole mates: friendship on the run

Running is a great form of exercise, it is even better when you get have people who spread positivity as a team. NT BUZZ catches up with leader Manoj Patel who started Sole Mates exactly a year ago

Janice Savina Rodrigues |NT BUZZ

While the rest of the world is still asleep at 5:30 a.m., in Colva you’ll often spot an assortment of brightly dressed runners laughing, stretching energetically. And when you hear a voice call out ‘Let’s Go!’ the colourful troop fall in and start running, the steady rhythm of their feet pounding the streets is the only sound you can hear.

The Sole Mates, as they call themselves, are a group of people from South Goa who discovered that running can be a fun way to exercise and meet every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The group was formed a year ago on a networking app, when marathon and sports enthusiast Manoj Patel, was approached to train a few novice runners for a 10K race. “Lots of groans and complaints were heard when I first announced that the sessions were to be held at 5:30 a.m. But the group met week after week, and in December 2017, 12 first-time runners took part and crossed the finish line at the Goa River Marathon to successfully complete their first ever 10K,” says Manoj.

A year later, the group still complains about the early mornings, but they show up every week, eager to catch up with each other, a few morning miles and indulge in this new-found love for running.

Manoj has managed to hold the group together not just as a coach, but as a mentor and their biggest cheerleader. Discovering running, while he was going through a rough patch in life, he experienced the benefits of running and decided to share his passion with others. “It was my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much,” says Manoj. Sole Mates has now crossed over 40 members till this day.

Talk to any of the Sole Mates and you’ll feel the camaraderie and support that binds this group. Like the name suggests, Sole Mates is more than just a ‘running’ group. “Each of the runners joined the group for different reasons, whether it was to get active, get over something or just get away from it all. But what they found was genuine connections, forged over miles of friendship. It’s what has made the group such a positive and supportive community. The Sole Mates have always welcomed all types of runners – good, bad, slow or fast – and is a strictly no judgement zone. In fact there have been people who have told me that they have become generally happy people after joining the group,” he says.

With events like the monthly birthday celebrations, group breakfasts and a 70-kilometre Independence Day relay, this group knows how to keep going all year around. “But the real joy of being a part of the Sole Mates can be experienced on race day, when the massive love, support and cheers they shower on each other is what helps many cross the finish line with a smile of their face,” he concludes.

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