Protima Tiwary catches up with the man who finished his first Ironman in under 12 hours, Kaustubh Radkar.
India’s first Ironman, Fastest Indian of the Year, 22 Ironman Finisher title holder, swimming champion and an inspiration to many, Kaustubh Radkar says he lives for the Ironman World Championships. We caught up with him for a quick chat about what keeps him going for those 17 hours.
I grew up as a swimmer, with 1995-2000 being my best years where I was the Indian National Champion in various events. In 2001 I won a swimming scholarship and made my way to the United States of America. I kept at it for a couple of years before ending my swimming career. Now see, I was used to extremely high levels of fitness. I had to replace my swimming training with something else, and I realised running was the easiest way to do it. Since I was a long distance swimmer, I also opted for long distance running. I ran my first NYC Marathon in 2016 and have never looked back since then.
But being an Ironman finisher at 22 championships, people forget that I am a runner too, and only treat me as an Ironman athlete. I am not complaining though! Ironman has been my passion for over ten years now. It’s been the reason I wake up with a purpose.
So what you’re saying is…you’re not just a marathoner, you’re an Ironman! What has been the highlight of your ironman career?
With 22 Ironman championships under my belt, I have a bunch of high moments that define my career. I could go on and on, but the top ones would be the time when I finished my FIRST Ironman in 11 hours 41 minutes in Arizona. 29th March 2015, Port Elizabeth, South Africa is also special since it was the day I completed Ironman in all 6 continents. Another one would be qualifying for and finishing the Ironman World Championships at Kona.
Marathons don’t always go perfectly. Any moment you’d like to share with us where you thought things were going downhill? How did you overcome that?
I had just finished Ironman Wisconsin on September 9th, 2017 and was at the start line of the coveted Berlin Marathon in just 2 weeks! The first 23-25kms went right on pace, and then things started to fall apart.
Having enough racing experience, I was able to cool off and managed to finish the Berlin Marathon in 3 hrs 26 mins. When things go wrong, it always comes down to what happens in your mind. Having a mantra for this time helps a lot; it has certainly helped me and my trainees. “Mind Over Matter” is what we chant when things are not looking too good.
What did you learn from your worst and best races?
Ironman is all about discipline and consistency, and you have to put in a lot of hard work. You might have enjoyed the best race and might be supremely talented and strong, but each Ironman is a different experience and you cannot let go of hard work. From my best races, I have learnt humility and discipline. One race does not define you- a fact that I keep sharing with my trainees.
From my worst races, I have learnt how staying positive is the difference between giving up and finding a way to solve a problem and finish a race. It’s very easy to be down on yourself after a bad race, and how you react is what separates the great from the average.
As a runner, what is the one quality that defines you?
Willpower! If you were to ask my family, my willpower has defined me throughout my life.
They say consistency is key – but how do you build this consistent pace that they talk about?
We all have goals when it comes to running. We want to run faster or run at consistent paces throughout workouts and races. As runners, we dedicate time every week to target speed, tempo, long runs etc. But it’s crucial for longevity to invest time in other aspects such as strength training, core work and of course, diet.
Strength training, flexibility, core work is essential to gain time and endurance, but more importantly to stay injury free. A lot of times people complain they are either stuck at a certain pace or not able to achieve consistency. It’s because the focus has been on running only, and not the diet and strength training.
Could you share your training routine with us?
As a full-time coach, a lot of my training now happens with trainees all over the country. I run thrice a week (typically Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday) and I also do some indoor bike training every Wednesday. I also hit the gym on Wednesdays and Fridays. Saturdays are for outdoor bike training.
Swimming is my strength, and I do 2 short sessions of 30 mins in the pool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Fridays are for the long distance swimming sessions. I also add in a couple of sessions of yoga in my training schedule.
An ultra-marathon is a combination of mental and physical strength- any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race?
My last Ultramarathon was the Comrades 89.2kms in May 2016. I ran an 8 hrs 47 mins race that year and ended up as the fastest Indian that year. If you have trained well, during the training itself you have moments where you face your fears, start questioning yourself and find ways to overcome those.
Ultramarathon training involves setting a strong strategy and then being patient. Far too often athletes steer away from their plan due to the excitement of the event. Even at Comrades, I had told myself that the race doesn’t even start till 60kms, that I must be patient.
The Ironman Triathlon organized by the World Triathlon Corporation entails a 3.86-km swim, 180.25-km bicycle ride and a 42.2-km marathon that must be completed within 17 hours. For most of us, simply reading the distances is a daunting task. But for supermen like Kaustubh Radkar, it’s a way of life. Thank you for being such an inspiration to the running and marathon community in India!