Like the eponymous character in the film, Paan Singh Tomar, Ram Singh Yadav too opted for running in the army to get extra diet.
But unlike Tomar, who turned a dacoit due to a family feud and was gunned down by the police, pressure from his family forced Yadav to give up his first love — running the 10,000 m and cross-country — and switch to marathon to send the extra money to his near and dear ones.
In the last seven years, Yadav has gone on to become a top marathon runner and has achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark for the London Olympics. He ran a minute faster than the 2 hours, 18 minutes he had to clock to qualify.
"Initially I was into 10k, but purely because of the money, I switched to marathon. Now, I am happy I earn decent money and I have also got a chance to represent the country in the Olympics,” the 31-year-old, who is in Bangalore to run the TCS World 10K event on Sunday, told HT.
Like any youngster from Babiyav village in Varansi district, Yadav too began running to prepare for the physical test to join the army.
“Running landed me a job in the army. After that I opted for sports so I would get extra diet,” he said.
“I was married, so I was under pressure to send more money home. But I had taken up athletics seriously, so I had to spend from my pocket on supplements and a high protein diet. As my family's demand for money kept mounting, I decided to quit the sport. I left the camp and joined my unit in Rajasthan, but my coach convinced me and I was back training again.”
Running for money
He was encouraged to follow the route. In 2006, Yadav pocketed Rs 75,000 by running a half-marathon in Delhi and won Rs 1 lakh in a marathon in Meerut. He earns around Rs 4-5 lakh per year as prizemoney.
His personal best of 2:16.59, clocked at the Mumbai marathon in January to qualify, is slow to threaten the serious contenders at London, but will surely encourage more Indians to take up the lucrative road running as as career.
The writer's trip has been sponsored by Procam