Despite a low average weekly mileage, the country’s urban distance runners have been graduating to ultra races from marathon.
What’s interesting is that the number of these runners is growing. The start list for South Africa’s popular ultra run - Comrades Marathon --- points to that. In 2010, only 10 Indian runners had registered for the race. For the upcoming edition on June 2, the number of entrants from India is 40, two of them women.
Gurgaon-based Vishal Dua is among those who will be testing his limits in the South African event. Perhaps, to prepare himself for the event, he often ventures out to add miles to his training dairy. His recent run, a 67 km, lasted over eight hours, beginning at 11 pm.
Vishal, 37, a former Army medical officer, wasn’t as enthusiastic about physical fitness in his formative years. It all started in 2008, when he was ‘pushed’ into running by close friends. After a couple of months of training, he managed to plod home in the Mumbai Marathon in 5hr 28 min.
Vishal, who now works for a corporate, feels, “Running beyond a certain distance becomes more mental than physical.”
Tanvir Kazmi, is another distance runner from the National Capital Region (NCR). Eight summers ago, he plunged into distance running by sheer chance. Now he is an avid runner. Running not only gives him mental peace but has also toughened him mentally. “I have learnt to accept challenges in life,” Tanvir said on the benefits of running.
A young entrepreneur from Mumbai, Vineeta Singh, too says she didn’t think beyond inter-house competition during her school days. Leisure hours at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, were directed towards other things. But things changed after she completed a marathon in early 2007. “It was by chance that I got addicted to running,” she says.
Despite a demanding schedule, she works for over 10 hours a day, Vineeta, 29, can’t recall if she’s missed training in the past six years. “Without running…I feel something is missing…it has become an important part of my life.”
Satish Gujaran’s tale is equally fascinating. From a sedentary lifestyle, he has become a talking point in ultra running circles. The Mumbai distance runner was in fact the fastest Indian, clocking 9 hrs 45 min, at Comrades in 2012. He hopes to cut down on his time. “I am fitter than last year,” was how he explains his preparations for the race.
When Satish started out, he would halt 10 times to cover a distance of 1000 metres. But he did not lose hope. Perhaps, it helped him to complete his first full marathon in 2005 (4hr 45min). Today, he devotes his leisure hours to running. "It helps me work better in office," he said.