A man whose mighty spirit kept him going on his running journey despite the odds, meet Nanjundappa who has carved a name for himself in the running world.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference” – Robert Frost.
In this story, you will read about a man with this kind of spirit who saw his life change because of his willingness to take a chance.
The start of a journey.
30km outside Bangalore, in a small town called Chandapura, is an unassuming man who loves to run. M. Nanjundappa hails from a close-knit farming family and through his zeal for running has carved a name for himself.
Growing up, he was very interested in sport and represented Karnataka in Kho-Kho. Soon, he realized that he was inclined towards running and in 2009, he started training for marathons. With his limited knowledge on training, gear, no coach, Nanjundappa trained alone for 3 years. Despite the shortcomings, he completed his 1st ever timed run in 2010 at Hosur after training for 6 months. It was a 5000m race which he completed in 20 mins and won a podium. Other notable runs he completed within the 1st 3 years were – Oxfam Trailwalker (100K), Chennai marathon and TCS World 10K Bengaluru.
During these runs, he met with Mr Ashok Nath (veteran marathon runner who runs an NGO for aiding deserved runners amongst other things). One day, Ashok approached him and told him that if he’d continue to run with the poor quality of shoes he was running in, it will only cause more problems. That was when Nanjundappa spoke out and said, “I don’t have much knowledge about all these and don’t make much money to meet my expenses for training, nutrition, race registrations, etc. Listening to this, Mr Ashok Nath said he would help me out and the only thing I needed to focus on is improving my run timings. Soon, he got me introduced to Kothandapani sir (a.k.a Coach Pani), running coach at PaceMakers running club (Bangalore) in 2012”.
Meeting with Mr Ashok Nath and Coach Pani transformed his running life and with the right level of support, guidance, and training, he showed improved race timings.
The PaceMakers group train at the Kanteerava stadium starting at 5 AM which for Nandundappa makes for a really early morning as he has a 30K one-way trip. As soon as training is done, he rushes back to the factory for work from 7 AM to cover a 12-hour shift. Given the arduous journey, he limits his team training to once a week while for the other days he trains by himself basis the plan provided by Coach Pani.
Nanjundappa further adds that his training week is typically, “Monday – Rest day, Tuesday -Interval training (tracks), Wednesday – easy recovery runs(10K), Thursday – Hill/tempo runs, Friday – easy recovery run, Saturday – weight training at the gym for 25-30mins, Sunday-Long runs (30-35kms at a pace slower than race pace). The weekly mileage varies from anywhere between 75-95kms depends on the upcoming event”.
Given his lack of exposure and accessibility to information, it was initially difficult for Nandunjappa, but as he met with other runners here and in other cities, he started gathering more insights that helped him to understand on how things work and to this he says, “I have learned a lot over the years and slowly began to adapt myself to the change. The first and foremost thing that I learned is the kind of effort and training other runners they put in, how to behave and interact with them, how to train, when and how to recover, information about what to eat, etc.”.
Training and eating right.
Nanjundappa has completed about 85-90 races across 9 states so far. He has improved his timings, is fast on his feet and has won many a podium finish. When asked if he trains specifically to run fast, he says “As far as the training plan goes, I don’t do anything specific to run faster. Every time I’m given a training plan by my coach, I try to meet it or exceed it on most occasions”. He goes on to say, “I consider all races important and try to give it my best and turn up for training without fail. As the event day draws closer, I ensure I invest time in myself and careful about what I eat, avoid going on the bike, meeting friends, etc. I believe since we work so hard during the training, it’s important that we respect our bodies and take good care of it. Also, my coach has invested a lot of his time on me and it’s on me to respect that and ensure I don’t put myself through any mishaps that might occur before the event”.
Nutrition plays a big role in providing the body with the right nourishment to recover faster and better. Talking about his nutritional plan, Nanjundappa says, “My diet on training days is usually fruits, ragi, chapati, fish, chicken, mutton, fast & up gel, whey protein powder. On race day if it’s a 10K or HM, I generally eat a banana before the race and keep hydrating myself during the race. For an FM, I eat banana and bread two hours prior to the event and hydrate with water and gels during the race”.
The PaceMakers running club has been instrumental in Nanjundappa’s development by providing him with advanced training and taking care of his requirements for 7 years now. To this Nandunjappa says, “They take care of all my needs starting from my clothing, shoes, nutrition, training, registration fees, out-station hotel accommodations, suggesting which races I should participate, etc. They have been extremely helpful and treat me like their own. I feel really humbled by their gesture they have shown over the years”. Additionally, the club has started a fund to aid runners like Nanjundappa.
Nandunjappa’s first international run was the 2019 Jerusalem Marathon. Participating in an international marathon for the first time can be overwhelming and exhilarating at the same time. Speaking of the experience, he says “I had only 15 days after the New Delhi Marathon. I was training to run the FM at Delhi which is pretty much a flat course when compared to the Jerusalem marathon which is a rolling terrain. I was left with very little time to recover and train specifically for the Jerusalem run. If I had more time and recovered well I would have probably done better”.
He further adds, “I got there 3 days ahead to acclimatize to the weather. It took me a couple of days to adjust as it was extremely cold for the first 3 days and gradually became better. The course was pretty tough due to steep rolling hills and bad weather. However, I managed to complete the race in a time of 02:48:02 and stood 8th in the overall ranking across all age categories. Of the 4500 runners, I was the fastest Indian there”.
What the future holds.
Currently, Nanjundappa has timings of:
5K – 00:16:30
10K – 00:32:20
HM – 01:11:00
FM – 02:37:54.
In 2019, he started the season by running the TCSW10K in 00:34:13. His next scheduled race is the Bangalore 10K challenge, 12-hr relay by NEB sports and completing the Procam slam. Additionally, Nanjundappa is aiming to complete an FM in 00:02:25 –00:02:30.