Capt Seshadri profile prolific runner, Sudha Singh, the national record holder in the steeplechase.
Early on a cool Mumbai morning, a host of Indian and international athletes lined up at the start line for the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019, in what has become the foremost long-distance running event in the country. The Kenyans and the Ethiopians, both men and women, were being keenly watched, with high expectations from the recognised leaders. Foremost among the Indian women was an athlete more famous for her steeplechase wins than marathons.
Sudha Singh was born on June 25, 1986. A national record holder in the 3000 m steeplechase, her foray into the international arena began in 2005. It took five long years of hard work, intense training and perseverance before she broke through to dominate the Asian track scene in the steeplechase with gold medals in 2010 in Guangzhou and 2017 in Bhubaneswar and silver at Jakarta in 2018. Her Guangzhou win was historic in that it debuted in an Asian Games, making her the first winner of the title. Qualifying for the Olympics in 2012 she was unable to make the finals, being pitted against an array of experienced international athletes. In 2016, the year in which she ran her maiden Olympic marathon at Rio de Janeiro, she returned with swine flu, which laid her low for the rest of the season.
A fresh start under new coaches Lalit Bhanot and Renu Kohli, fetched her the silver in the 3000 m at the Jakarta Asiad in 2018, despite having been virtually written off as ‘too old for the event’. The next trophy in her showcase was a silver among the Indian women at the Tata Steel Kolkata 25k, which she ran in an impressive 1:29:11.
Her sights were now firmly set on the marathon at the IAAF World Championships in Doha, for which the qualifying mark had been set at 2:37:00. On January 20, 2019, at the 16th edition of the Tata Mumbai Marathon, Sudha ran the race of her life to a gold among the Indian women, in a course record timing of 2:34:56, also her personal best, making the cut for Doha, with plenty of time to spare. Powering to victory, she was far ahead of her nearest Indian rivals and even beating a few elite runners from the heart of Africa.
This champion woman athlete was recognised for her golden achievements by the Government of India, with the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2012.
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.