Hyderabad Runner, Arun Kumar Kaliappan, talks to Deepthi Velkur about his running aspirations and what motivates him to keep running.
Continue running injury-free.
Run in an exotic, historic, off-beat location.
Simple aspirations define Arun and his love for running. Hailing from a small town called Kadayanallur in Southern Tamil Nadu, Arun a mechanical engineer by profession has been fascinated by running ever since he took to it in 2012. Living in Hyderabad, he is associated with the Hyderabad runners’ group and has an impressive running record.
He has completed the Javadhu Hills Ultra 2 years in a row (2016 – 50K and 2017 – 75K) and the towering Khardungla Challenge – 72K in 2018. Overseas, he has completed the Niagara Falls FM that starts off in Buffalo (US) and ends at the Horseshoe Falls (Canada) apart from 4 HMs in California. With a PB of 4 hours and 14 mins in the FM and 1 hour and 47 mins in the HM, Arun is constantly looking at improving and bettering his own targets.
At home, he has a fantastic support system with his wife Gomathi Priya also into HMs and a 12-year son (Akhil) who is an active badminton player.
In this conversation, Arun takes us through his running career and what motivates him every day.
FM: How did your journey as a runner begin?
Arun: Like with most working professionals, my job keeps me desk-bound and I yearned to be a lot more active and keep myself fit. With that in mind, I started walking and jogging over the weekends at the KBR Park (Hyderabad). From there, running became a passion and bit by bit, I stuck with it and slowly moved on from being a recreational runner to a marathoner and even an ultra-marathoner.
FM: Which year did you run your first FM and take us through the experience of your first race?
Arun: Prior to my first marathon, I had been running half-marathons for nearly 2 years. It was in 2014 when I had my chance at doing my first full marathon – the Hyderabad Marathon!
I must credit the superb training ecosystem offered by the Hyderabad Runners group that was largely instrumental in me achieving my FM target. I went through a 16-week training program that included – Strength workouts, Interval, Tempo, Hill running workouts and long runs on Sundays. The training was hard and strenuous but along with a group of buddies, we formed a tight-knit training group that all had the same goal in mind – progression to the FM league. This training group really helped motivate one another and we enjoyed it.
The race itself was one of most difficult that I have run, in terms of the weather. The marathon day was hot and humid from the word go, so I was a bit cautious during the first half of the race and kept it consistent during the second half. I completed the race in 4hours and 44 mins – a rather satisfying effort given the conditions and the feeling of accomplishing my first FM was very special.
FM: Hyderabad is a challenging terrain to train on. How do you go about training on such a tough terrain?
Arun: To be completely honest, we don’t really do anything specific to the terrain. We have built our training plan in such a way that it includes the local terrain and the rolling hills as part of our routine whenever we step out for a long run. In fact, we enjoy exploring the tougher routes within Hyderabad like Movie Towers / Jubilee Hills or Banjara Hills on a regular basis.
FM: When did your association with Hyderabad runners society happen? How has it shaped you to be a better runner today?
Arun: My association with Hyderabad Runners started in the year 2012 soon after I took to running. I was initially sceptical as I thought they were a mad bunch of people who go out for a run at unearthly hours. Look at me now – I am also part of the same group!
It is one of the most vibrant and accessible groups out there with a great culture of camaraderie and focus. The group dynamics is what pushed me to experience various events in terms of location and distance. The group has also helped me connect with several other runners– many of them who inspire you and some of them get inspired by you. It is a good feeling both ways.
FM: You were the mentor of “couch to 5K” training program with the Hyderabad runners. What was the main idea behind this program and where you successful with the training at the end?
Arun: It is an amazing program transforming people in hordes every year. The aim and structure of the program are so meticulous that it introduces running and healthy lifestyle to people in the most optimal way – ‘Getting started gradually and Listening to your body as you progress.’
The program was very successful as most of the runners from the group graduated as regular runners and keep at it still. Of course, in any program, there will be some dropouts, as some people are unable to continue due to time constraints or latent health issues.
FM: What qualities does one need to possess to be a good mentor?
Arun: In my view, there are 3 key qualities a good mentor needs to have:
- Be disciplined
- Lead from the front and
- Possess the ability to take everyone with you.
FM: Khardung La challenge(72K) is considered as one of the toughest Ultra-marathons in the world? How and why did you register for this event? Give us a glimpse of your experience at the race?
Arun: Khardungla Challenge 2018 is one of the highlights of my running journey for the sheer amount of dedication and planning it demanded. I had a great bunch of friends (Santosh, Srini, Vish, Harshad and Subham) who took on this challenge along with me. We had valuable inputs from Shailendra Bisht, our co-Hyderabad runner who had done the event the previous year which motivated us to register for the event.
We all trained together for about 3 months and travelled along with our families for the event.
The race was quite eventful. It was a surreal experience to go through the brutal terrain and low oxygen conditions up to the Khardungla Top. The climate and high-altitude conditions did not allow us to get into our usual rhythm anytime during the race. But we kept on pushing each other to finish successfully well within cut-off time – the main thing was that we were all safe and sound at the finish line! Khardungla Challenge will be an everlasting memory for sure!
FM: To take on such tough races, you need to be mentally and physically strong. How do you manage that in a race?
Arun: Training is the mantra. There is no shortcut for race performance other than getting trained properly. Very few people are gifted naturally to pull off remarkable things at a race. But training sincerely for a chosen race always helps…almost always. Even training fails us sometimes…in that case, train harder and smarter!
FM: What is the one characteristic that defines you as a runner?
Arun: In one word – “Tenacity”.
FM: What big races have you planned for the year 2019?
Arun: I have 3 ideas at the moment –
- The New Delhi Marathon in Feb is the one that I have planned so far
- Hopefully sign up for an Ultra Run soon and
- Wishing to do a few World Majors sometime in the near future.