Comfort is a good thing, to an extent. Too much comfort, though, can become boring.

Ritika Shah decided she needed to shake things up a little bit.

The 31-year-old, who has never participated in any sort of organized athletic activity, felt like it was high time she did. Once she found out about the free training program for the Mill Race Marathon, Shah chose to give it a shot.

“I had never tried running before,” she said. “I hear people say either you hate it or you love it, and I just wanted to find out which way I lean towards, so I was like, ‘You know what? This is the best way to do it — step out and try.’”

Story continues below gallery

On the first Saturday morning, Shah ran about 2 miles, the first training distance for those planning to run the half marathon on Sept. 24. Although she didn’t complete the run at a particularly fast pace, she made it through in one piece and didn’t want to give up.

That, she says, is enough for now.

“I think I was one of those people that were lagging behind,” said Shah, a Toronto native who moved to Columbus with her husband, Abhishek Damani. “But I was kind of like, ‘This is for me; I’m not going to compete. … I’m going to do it at my pace.’ So that’s my goal — just to do it for myself.”

Damani has been running for a while, regularly covering 5 or 6 miles at a time recreationally. But he won’t be accompanying Shah on her Mill Race journey, thanks largely to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

Even if he were healthy, Damani concedes, he’s not sure he’d be up for a half marathon. He’s providing emotional support, though — something Shah is also getting from being around other runners in the training program.

“I’m not sure if she would have taken it on by herself if it were not for the program and the encouragement and the training,” Damani said. “When she sees other people doing it, or in the same bucket as she is, I think that has helped overcome some of her fear.”

While Shah is stepping outside of her comfort zone by running the half-marathon, she’s not stopping there — she also will be chronicling her journey for The Republic through a biweekly diary.

That’s not something she would normally be up for, Shah said, but she feels that the idea of sharing her thoughts on the training process publicly will help give her a little extra push.

“Usually I keep the goals to myself because I don’t want the pressure on me,” she said, “but I think it’s a good thing. I think it’ll help me be more accountable.”

It’s all part of the end goal — just completing the course, no matter how long that might take. Even if her time doesn’t set the world on fire, Shah said that she’s “crossing that finish line no matter what.”

She’s tried to envision herself coming across the line, but she’s not quite sure what sort of facial expression she’ll be wearing after 13.1 miles.

“I probably, knowing myself, will be emotional and break down,” Shah guessed. “I’ll probably find (Damani) and hug him. I’ll be tired, probably, just on the floor, but with happy tears, hopefully.”

About Ritika Shah

Age: 31

Husband: Abhishek Damani

Hometown: Toronto

College: University of Toronto

Works: Analyst at Reams Asset Management, Columbus

Running career: The Mill Race Half Marathon will be Shah’s first organized race of any kind.

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.