Seniors Comments (0) |

The Runner who talks to God

The name Fauja Singh is an inspiration to senior runners the world over, Capt Seshadri takes a look at this remarkable runner.

An 89 year old Punjabi man in London, wishing to train for a marathon, landed up at Redbridge, Essex, probably in deference to the formal attire of the country of his residence, dressed in a three piece suit, much to the bemusement of his coach. To further add to the trainer’s surprise, the bearded and turbaned old man confessed that he thought the marathon was run over 26 km and not miles. Not that it mattered at all. His training began in complete earnestness and dedication. The outcome? In 2003, at age 92, he completed the London Marathon in 6:02 and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 5:40.

This is the saga of Fauja Singh, a name that must now be familiar to every marathon runner across every continent. This was the same person who, born on April 1, 1911, in the village of Beas near Jalandhar, the sports goods capital of India, struggled to walk on his weak and scrawny legs until the age of five. One hundred years later, the very same ‘old’ lad set eight world age group records in a single day at the Ontario Masters Association Invitational Meet: 100 m in 23:14; 200 m in 52:23; 400 m in 2:13:48; 800m in 5:32:18; 1500 m in 11:27: 18; the metric mile in 11:53:45, the 3000 m in 24:52:47 and the 5000 m in 49:57:39. A series of events that no professional athlete would dream of attempting even at the peak of his career!

Where most master athletes would take weeks to recover from such a strenuous ordeal, just three days later, on October 16, 2011, Fauja Singh scripted history as the first centenarian to complete a full 26.2 miler, running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 8:11:06. Sadly, this amazing feat never made it to the Guinness Book of Records, since he had no birth certificate to prove his age, despite a passport confirmation of his date of birth.

Even though he was undeterred by age and never laid low through injury, this living legend decided to call it quits from competitive running after the Hong Kong Marathon on February 24, 2013, where he completed the 10K in 1:32:28, a timing which is just outside the qualifying limit of 1:30 set for the Tata World 10k, and meant for runners who would qualify as his great grandchildren! The proud moment of his running career was when he carried the Olympic torch in July 2012. The retired Fauja now runs for pleasure, health and charitable causes. Fauja Singh was honoured with the British Empire Medal in 2015, for his outstanding contribution to sports and charity.

The 52 kg, vegetarian Sikh attributes his longevity, stamina and outstanding fitness to his non-meat diet comprising roti, dal, vegetables and curd. Good hydration with plenty of water and ginger tea, early sleep, an abhorrence towards smoking and alcohol, and a professed diet of love and respect from the world around him, keep him going strong. His take on running successful marathons at such an advanced age: “The first 20 miles are not difficult. As for the last 6 miles, I run while talking to God”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

Read more

Featured Comments (0) |

Elite runners: the old and the young

Elite runners have evolved over the years, Capt Seshadri takes a looks at the greats old and new to see how they have made history.

Running old

Young or old is not defined by age in numbers… it is the youthfulness of the mind that matters.

Muscle is, after all, under the control of the mind. Or at least, it ought to be. Here are two supreme athletes, divided in age by 30 years, who have set the long distance tracks literally on fire!

Elderly young? 43-year young Tina Husted proves it beyond doubt. Having grown up in a small town, this girl’s first love was basketball, but she soon turned to track events, excelling in the middle distance races of 800 metres and 1,500 metres. After her marriage, she was languishing until 2010, when a casual challenge by a friend to compete in the ‘Warrior Dash’ ignited the running spark in her. A three year, intensive training program followed. Tina was now destined to be the ultimate long distance elder runner.

The three year itch to train intensely, brought about several successes, with sub 3 hour marathons; but the intensity took its inevitable toll. Below par race performances connected to fatigue and injuries dented her physically, but her spirit was unbroken She enlisted the coaching services of the JFK50 miler Race Director Mike Spinnler. This experienced coach and former champion runner put her through a regular training regimen… 50 to 60 miles (80 to 100 km) per week, traditional workouts like hill running repeats, interval training and endurance runs of slow pace over longer distances. The results speak for themselves. Year 2012, and the JFK 50 Miler in 7:22:44. An incredible feat even for a sub 3 hour superstar runner. A comeback in 2014, with a personal best of 2:46:55 in Philadelphia put her right back on track. A Grandmas marathon in 2:47:27, Columbus in an even better timing of 2:47:06 and Husted was back in the reckoning.

Mother of three, wife of a very senior bureaucrat, active release therapist, real estate agent, athletics coach, Tina Husted’s commitment is a philosophy for younger runners to emulate. Balancing family life, personal commitments and life’s pressures still come easy to Tina. Focusing on short term goals and achieving them leaves her to concentrate on the bigger ones. According to her: “if it means getting up earlier than usual to do your run, then do it. Just get it done.” It is little wonder perhaps, that her 5 k race times at 43 are better than at 19!

Running young

At age 13, most young girls would be content playing video games and watching romantic serials on TV. No such distractions for Alyana Szuch, the sensational teenage runner who has begun giving experienced elite athletes a run for their money. Quite like her peers, young Alayna too was not fond of the outdoors and running and spent much of her day doing art. But her genes, derived from her Ironman and ultra runner parents, probably took over through her casual running with them and her elder brother and kid sister, on the tracks right in the backyard of their home in Evergreen, Colorado.

Age 11, year 2015. The Xterra National Championship Half Marathon saw her coming in second in the women’s field. And in the high terrain, at the US Mountain Running Championships, she came in at a very creditable seventh place. The 5k then, is literally child’s play as Alyana runs it in just over 20 minutes, over 4 minutes ahead of the nearest female competitor and most of the men, including her elder brother Colin. With such phenomenal achievements, she was quickly spotted by Ellen Miller, the US Mountain Running Team coach, who was willing to make exceptions to her age to train her for greater running heights.  

Alyana, the school student, has studies on her mind too, taking college classes way ahead of time. And alongside, competes in biking, swimming and skiing! Psychologically too, she appears way ahead of her time and age, understanding that physical and mental robustness are the key to winning performances. This young lady, whose immediate goal is to run marathons and earn scholarships to college, simply does not let the pressure get to her. Says Alyana: “It doesn’t matter your age or who you’re chasing. You just have to do as well as you can. I just realized that running makes me happy; it makes me feel really good.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

 

 

Read more

Motivation Comments (2) |

Leadership Lessons from a Marathon

Marathon’s do more than just test your endurance, they give you valuable leadership lessons writes Nandini Reddy

Everyone takes to marathon running for different reasons. Some do it for health purposes, some for passion and some for the challenge they offer. But if you pay closer attention you will realise that it offers you important leadership lessons that you can apply back to your team and business.

Here are the five leadership lessons every marathon teaches you

Determination to execute an idea

Your decision to run a marathon most of the time happens out of the blue. Many runners start from zero at the beginning of a year and end up cracking goal timings by the year end marathon. This achievement usually has relentless training and a methodical plan. In a professional context this applies to executing projects and ideas. Methodical planning, goal-setting and time management are qualities you learn on the running track and can be applied to your work. Focus on the plan and commitment to achieving goals can also be replicated in a work situation.

Step wise approach

When you start training, you begin with a run walk combination and then slowly progress to running short distances then running for a longer time and then finally to running a fully marathon. This step wise approach helps you reach the ambitious goal of completing the distance of 42kms. This same logic applies to teamwork on projects in the office which requires a step-by-step approach to measure progress.

Encouraging others

When you trying to finish such a competitive and high endurance event, encouragement goes a long way. During marathons shouts of encouragement from spectators along the way and even fellow runners can boost your energy when you are struggling along the course and help you cross the finish line. In a corporate environment people spend more time pulling each other down rather than encouraging each other. Only when we mutually encourage each other’s progress can we build a positive work environment.

Avoiding Burnout

Runners know the importance of rest and recovery in between their rigorous training sessions. Injury can lead to frustration. Similarly, in a work situation if we need to achieve our goals for a project you cannot over stress your team and expect high quality work. You need recovery breaks that energise the team and as a runner you will understand the importance of these breaks.

Achieve and Repeat

Its never enough to run a single marathon. Every time you cross the finish line you will be itching to run the next. Marathoners hardly ever say that they never want to run another marathon. Even as they are receiving their medals for completing a marathon, their mind is already planning for the next one. This attitude is important at work and that sort of motivation keeps the creative juices of your team flowing and always ready to take on challenges at work.

Finally, if runners didn’t have fun they would never run. The same applies to your work, if you and your team have fun on the job you are less likely to have attrition and will achieve better results on each project.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

Read more

Featured Comments (0) |

Ironman Times Ten

Laura Knoblach, took the Ironman and multiplied it by ten to become the Iron woman in a man’s world, writes Capt Seshadri.

The Ironman is one of the toughest endurance races in the world. While many such competitions are held across the globe, the Ironman World Championship, often acknowledged as the culmination of all of these, is held in the picturesque island of Hawaii, more associated with sand and surfing than endurance events. The course comprises a Waikiki Roughwater swim of 3.86 km, the Around Oahu bicycle race of 185.07 km and the Honolulu Marathon.

Since 1997, athletes with disabilities were allowed to compete in a separate category; however, the cut off times for them were no different from the so called, able bodied competitors. John Maclean of Australia, became the first physically challenged athlete to successfully complete the event.

The Deca Ironman

The Ironman, however, is not the final test of endurance. Introducing the ‘Deca Ironman’! This unbelievably tough and taxing event is meant for a very niche few of master athletes, with extraordinary physical fitness and mental stamina to even consider competing. Here, participants complete the length of ten back to back Ironmans. Obviously, it takes weeks, with each leg being ten times longer than the normal. That constitutes 38.4 km of swimming, 1,792 km of biking and 419.2 km of running.

Here then, is the story of a woman, who rewrote the history books of the Deca. Laura Knoblach, all of 22 years, had already gained lots of experience in marathons and even double and triple Ironmans. But these distance runs and tests of endurance still left her dissatisfied at being unable to realise her potential and her dreams. Urged on by a friend, and realising a ‘beast’ within herself, Laura signed up for that ultimate test of endurance, the Deca Ironman.

Knoblach’s Challenge

Swimming was the first event. It was not just the distance but the ennui of swimming 750 laps of a 50 metre pool. While the specified time was 25 hours, Laura completed it in 19. At the end of it, she didn’t even have the energy to dress or change, almost passing out in the shower. A few hours of rest and it was time to start the biking leg. This was another set of loops, 200 of them over an 8.8km course. It was a nightmarish ordeal of 270 km a day. Often, while cycling at night, Laura would see ghosts… of trees appearing like people out of the darkness.

Now, Laura the endurance athlete, had always been better at biking, so she attempted to finish her forte as quickly as possible before the ten marathons. That was to be another hallucinating effort, having to run 330 laps over a short 1.25 km loops. Boredom and tiredness at its worst! For the first two days, Laura just walked. From Day 3, she began to run. Finally, after 320 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds, a thoroughly exhausted by deliriously happy Laura, crossed the finish line of the Ironman Ten, making history as the youngest to complete this ultimate test of human endurance. And in the process, breaking the US women’s record by over 13 hours.

During the entire stretch, she hardly had six hours of sleep a day. Food and drink were almost a continuous process along the journey. But this unstoppable Iron Lady just couldn’t halt herself. Laura Knoblach spent the next six days biking along the far side of the Rhine, simply to satisfy her curiosity as a tourist!

If there is one thing she proved, it is this: there are no limits to your endurance. When the body says no, let the mind take over.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

Read more

Motivation Comments (0) |

Running Longer

If you want to run continuously for an hour without taking walk breaks then here is how you can achieve that, writes Nandini Reddy

Running non-stop is a dream every runner wants to achieve. Most find it difficult to run without taking walk breaks in the initial running days. When you start you are on a run-walk schedule until you find your pace, strength and endurance to run longer. As you get better you will be running more and walking less. If you have achieved running for 30 minutes straight and are through to the best time for your 5k runs then you have to hit the next goals of running for 60 mins or more without taking walk breaks. ‘

Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you want to run non-stop:

Create a Run Routine

Ensure you create a running plan and pre-run routine. The running plan will help you mark off goals and track your progress. A pre-run routine should include nutrition and preparation. Ensure you lay out your running gear the night before. Ensure you have bottle of water filled and ready. Plan for a simple snack ahead so that you are not scrambling in the morning. Chart out a warm up routine that you do without fail before the run. The focus should be about getting out and running in the quickest possible manner.

Relax and don’t stress

Running for 60 mins straight is a big goal for all runners. You are already on the right training path to achieve this goal, so now its important to run relaxed. If you start your run stressed then you are less likely to achieve your target. Don’t look at your GPS watch or worry about your pace. Just focus on the distance you need to cover. The idea is to finish the distance and stay energized through the course. The idea is to not run fast and stay positive and motivated through the run. If you stress and wind yourself out before you reach your goal distance and time you will be demotivated to even try again.

Fuel well

Nutrition and hydration will ensure you do not tire fast. Try to eat something 30-60 minutes before you run. You meal should include more carbs and be low on fat and fibre. For hydration stick with water and only choose electrolytes if you plan to run continuously for longer than 60 mins. Good options for a pre-race meal would be bananas, apples, figs, skim milk, cheese or peanut butter on bread.

Stay Committed

The running longer plan builds endurance and the idea for is to run without stopping and without getting hurt. The plan will gradually build so don’t over-stress your body in the first week itself. Fatigue will accumulate so its important to rest and recover. Stay alert for injury and ensure that you get them treated early on so that you do not have to lose time running.

A determined runner will complete his run despite all odds. But the idea is run more than one time. So don’t put all your energy into one run. Ensure that you can run longer for every training run you have chalked into your running diary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

Read more

Featured Comments (1) |

The wind of change

The first role model for black and female athletes, Capt Seshadri remembers the stunning achievements of the ‘Tornado’ Wilma Rudolph.

The date was November 12, 1994. The flag of the state of Tennessee flew at half mast as the citizens shed tears at the passing away of child number 20. From a family that had two more siblings. And all of them from a railway porter father who was twice wedded. This is the story of the ‘Tornado’ of the 1960s… the fastest woman on earth.

The Early Years

Wilma Rudolph, the first American woman to win three golds in a single Olympics, was born on June 23, 1940, into a family of indigents. From early childhood, she suffered from various illnesses like pneumonia and scarlet fever, and at the age of 4, contracted infantile paralysis. In the process of recovering from this debilitating disease caused by the polio virus, she was forced to wear a leg brace for the next four years. The following years were a constant trip to Nashville for treatment and massages for her leg, which was supported by an orthopaedic shoe. But this wonder kid, at age 12, broke away from the restrictions and began walking without artificial support.

Back at high school as a tenth grader, Wilma began playing basketball and her rare, natural talent was spotted by Ed Temple, the track and field coach of Tennessee. And so, fourteen year old Wilma signed up for his summer training camp; in a short time, she was winning as many as nine events in a single meet. Even while a high school student, she trained with the Tennessee State University women’s track team, the Tigerbelles, racing and winning amateur athletic events with amazing regularity.

The Olympics

Wilma’s Olympic debut came about in 1956 at Melbourne, where she competed in the 200 metres and collected bronze in the 4×400 metres relay. Some time later, while still a student, she ran the 200 metres at Abilene in the US Olympic track and field trials in a world record time that stood its ground for eight years! Her sprint to fame however, came four years later at the Stadio Olimpico at Rome, where she set the cinder track ablaze with three golds, in the 100 & 200 metres and the 4×100 metre relay, in the process becoming the first American woman to achieve a triple Olympic gold. But the 200 metres still proved her favourite where, although she won gold in the final in 24.0 seconds, she had already set a new Olympic record of 23.2 seconds in the opening heat!

The ‘Tornado’

Wilma Rudolph was one of the first role models for black and female athletes. Her Olympic success is quoted as having given a tremendous boost to women’s participation in track and field events in the United States. The effect of her successes went far beyond her collection of medals; she was instrumental in breaking the gender barrier in a male dominated area of track and field athletics. A sensational achievement in such an era, fighting physical disability, fiscal hardship and a social handicap, proving to the world that in a battle of disability vs determination, the winner is ever predictable.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

Read more

Featured Comments (0) |

Standing tall – from a wheelchair

Capt Seshadri tells us the extraordinary story of Para-Olympian Deepa Malik who brought home the silver medal from Rio, in 2016.

This is a saga of unbelievable courage and the will to win against all odds. Set in the backdrop of the Kargil war, when a brave army Colonel was fighting for his country, back home, his wife was fighting for her life.

This is the true story of a woman with indomitable spirit, who simply refused to give up.  Army daughter, army wife and mother of two, Deepa Malik was diagnosed with a tumour in the spinal cord that required 3 major surgeries and 183 stitches between her shoulders. Paralyzed from below the waist, she was destined to be consigned to a wheelchair for life. Her elder daughter was in need of special care with a motor disability called hemiplegia. But nothing could daunt this extraordinary woman who simply refused to look helplessly upon life as a paraplegic. While most able bodied sports persons would be content with success in a single sport, Deepa began a multi-faceted sports career at 36, an age when most sportspeople retire.  Over the next few years, she became a champion biker, swimmer, rally driver and athlete, creating and breaking records in every sport that she attempted.

The Unstoppable Spirit 

Her old passion for biking was rekindled and, with a ‘quad’ bike modified to her specifications, she enrolled with the Himalayan Motorsports Association and the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. Over an 8 day period, in rarefied atmosphere and sub zero temperatures, at an altitude of 18,000 feet, she rode her bike through 1,700 km, the first woman to undertake such an arduous journey. In 2013, Deepa biked 3,278 km from Chennai to Delhi, the longest ever drive by a paraplegic woman.

Discovering that her shoulders needed strengthening to help with her biking, she took to swimming, little realizing what she was about to achieve. In her S1 category, she holds national records in 3 styles – freestyle, breast and back stroke. Breaking away from the limitation of a swimming pool, she plunged into the Yamuna river and swam against the current for a distance of 1 km.

Her competitive spirit soon turned to a new area. For 19 months, Deepa relentlessly fought for a licence for an invalid person’s modified rally vehicle and followed it up with an FMSCI rallying licence for competitive driving, both firsts for any physically challenged person. Her grit and determination saw her complete two of the toughest rallies in the world – the Raid de Himalaya in 2009 and the Desert Storm in 2010.

The Big Win

In 2016, at age 46, Deepa won a silver in the Paralympics in the shot put, becoming the first Indian woman to win a medal in these Games. Currently, she holds national records in the F53 category in the shot put, discus and javelin throws and the Asian record in the javelin. Between 2010 and 2012, Deepa was ranked first in Asia in all the three throws; at the world level, she ranked second in the shot put and third in the javelin and discus throws.

Overall, Deepa Malik has won 58 national and 18 international medals in various disciplines. Not one to rest on her laurels, she also actively works to highlight the needs of other paraplegic sportspersons to the authorities, with great success. For her achievements in swimming, she won the Arjuna Award in 2012. Her untiring work in contributing to sport and her fighting spirit against pain and disability to make a mark on the world stage, won her the prestigious Padma Shri award in 2017.

Deepa had this to say on winning her 2016 Paralympics silver: “I hope my journey and the medal can serve as an inspiration for differently-abled individuals to break out from their social boundaries and pursue their dreams.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Capt Seshadri Sreenivasan is a former armed forces officer with over 30 years experience in marketing. He also a consulting editor with a leading publishing house. He is a co-author of the best selling biography of astronaut Sunita Williams.

Read more