Tanaji Nalavade, 23, would toil on his two-acre field in Tardaal village, Kolhapur, in the morning, and practise running on it every evening, after speaking to his coach over his mobile phone and jotting down his daily training routine. On Sunday, his dedication paid off - Nalavade earned his first-ever prize money — Rs 50,000 approximately — at the Mumbai marathon after he came first in the amateur category of the full marathon.
Nalavade had nobody to train him for long-distance running and was working alone till a chance meeting with running enthusiast Giles Drego from Mumbai three years ago gave his running career a boost.
“I had come to Mumbai with my friend to run in the half-marathon in 2009 and was introduced to Giles sir. Since then, we have been talking on the phone every day, and I train according to his instructions,” said Nalavade, whose timing of 2:46.31 would have placed him in the 11th spot among the Indian athletes had he been qualified to run in the elite category, for which he was not eligible.
Nalavade began training to run seriously in 2007 after he entered a cross-country event and could not go beyond the first kilometre. “I got upset and started training alone. After competing in a few local events, I came to Mumbai in 2009,” said the youngster, who quit studies after Class 7 and struggles to understand English.
Drego instructs Nalavade in Hindi or in the smattering of Marathi he knows. How does he communicate the technical aspects of running? “For the past two years, he has been coming to the city a few days earlier, and I show him a few things. He takes down the notes, goes back and follows them there,” said Drego, who coaches youngsters in Bandra and Juhu apart from leading a running enthusiast group, Run, Run, Run, Run Mumbai Run.
Having run the half marathon twice, Drego asked his prodigy to try his luck in the full marathon as it could Nalavade money. To his delight, Nalavade won in the first attempt.
The youngster knows what he will do with the prize money. “I will buy two buffaloes, which will give milk and provide an added source of income,” said Nalavade.