Nitendra Singh Rawat is one of India’s fastest and leading elite marathon runners. He has represented India at the Rio Olympics 2016 as well as the 2019 London Marathon. He was the winner of the 2019 Tata Mumbai Marathon. Currently, he is busy preparing for the Tata Mumbai Marathon 2021 and the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers. He took time to interact with Finisher Magazine and answer a few questions. Excerpts:
How did your running journey start?
I started running after I joined the Army. I used to play cricket as a hobby, beyond that I didn’t have any experience in sports, specifically in athletics.
After I completed my training in the Army, I was posted at Poonch (near the India-Pakistan border). Prior to that I was a part of the Kumaon Regiment and there, I was staying with the sports team. I observed them practising, working hard, resting, recovering and resuming practise again. This inspired me to take up athletics. The Army and the soldiers protect the country, but the Indian Army also has another mission – Mission Olympics – the task of producing Olympic champions. I am proud to be a part of the Army that inspires sports and has encouraged us.
Many athletes were disappointed last year after the Olympics got postponed. Many of them were not able to train properly. How did you cope with the pandemic year? How did you motivate yourself?
2020 was a tough year not only for the sports fraternity, but also for every individual in the world. With the postponement of the Olympics, it was a difficult time for athletes since each one was practising hard to give their best performance at the world’s biggest sporting event.
But every cloud has a silver lining, the athletes took the pandemic in their stride and focused on self-improvement and getting back to their roots. I was recovering from my injury, a knee fracture, so I got the time and opportunity to recover and workout for the upcoming selections for 2021 Olympics. This pandemic also made a lot of people go back to their hometowns and be with their families and loved ones. We got the chance to connect with our friends and help those who were impacted and were in need.
You have been part of some of the top athletics events – London Marathon, Rio Olympics. Can you share your experience?
Participating in these top athletic events was an excellent learning experience. At these events, you are competing with the world’s best. You get to understand and observe what and how they are doing things differently in their training schedules. You may want to compare with how things can be improved in your own training.
Every event adds to your experience and that experience helps in improving your future performances.
How’s your training for the Olympics coming along? What are you focusing on?
Currently, my focus is on the Tata Mumbai Marathon. I am going to be participating in the marathon after almost 1.5 years after my injury and the ongoing pandemic. Yes, it will be challenging. We are currently training at the Ooty Training Centre. I am excited to put my best efforts in training with help of my coach and my team. There are no limits to achievements, let us work with new goals, new inspiration and self-belief.
Can you share some of the most challenging moments in your running career and what did you learn from them?
For an athlete, the most tough times and challenges are always an injury. I had a knee surgery, but post-recovery, I represented India in the Rio Olympics 2016. I had another hamstring tear in 2016 but I did not give up and qualified for the World Championships.
What’s your training routine? What do you eat in a day?
Nutrition is a must when you plan to have high performance workouts. I would say nutrition is an important part for every individual and not only for sportspersons. I maintain a balanced diet with mainly carbohydrates and proteins. I also ensure that I maintain my hydration and drink minimum of 5-7 litres of water.
We train from morning 7am to 10.30am, then have breakfast. Recovery and rest is essential, hence I follow a mandatory two-hour resting period. Evening practice starts from 3.30pm and we end by 6.30pm. This is followed by dinner. We retire for the night by 9.30pm since the next day awaits more challenging workouts.
What do you think is needed to make athletics more popular in India? What kind of infrastructure and organisational help do athletes in India need?
In India, athletics as a sport needs more media representation to be popular. A sportsperson in India participating in athletics mainly comes from less privileged backgrounds. Athletes pursue their passion for the sport but they are constantly concerned about job security. India should aim towards more investment in athletes through sponsorship, job security and better training facilities. With this support, an athlete’s passion and their targets and aims can be met and we can surely work towards winning more medals for our country.
Your advice to people who have just started running.
My advice to those who have just started running is that you need to first concentrate on your posture, and strength and conditioning. Do not increase your mileage unless you are strong enough to go that extra mile. You need to avoid injury if you want to continue running. Injury-free running will give you satisfaction and you will keep improving on a daily basis. Good luck to all the runners.