Deepthi Velkur talks to Rephica Becky Pde, a runner par excellence who recalls her best marathons, podium finishes and future running plans.
Rephica Becky Pde, a 35-year old working mother from Shillong, Meghalaya is an ultra-runner who believes that we have only one life, one body so we have to give it the healthy lifestyle it deserves so that it does not give up on us easily.
She has an impressive running history:
- Finished 1st at the Kargil International marathon
- 4th place in the 18-35 year category at the TMM 2018
- 2nd place in the dizzy Khardung-La challenge (a distance of 72KM)
- 2nd place at the AU bank Jaipur marathon
At the moment, she is training for multiple events such as the 60KM Everest marathon that will take place in Nepal in May 2019, the 222KM La Ultra in August 2019, the 72KM Khardung-La challenge in September 2019 and also the 80KM Manali ultra in March 2020.
FM: You come from a family of runners, did you feel any pressure to take up running or was it something you chose to do to stay healthy?
Rephica: I was always into some kind of sports since childhood. I started running because I had health issues like hypothyroid and I was gaining weight. My family are all runners but they only encourage me to lead a healthy life by doing something. At that point, I had taken part in a 10 KM event and have never looked back since.
FM: When did you move to running longer distances?
Rephica: I moved to running long distances in a few months as I was already training for it. I did a few 21 KM and long practice runs every weekend. I really enjoyed running longer distances as I used to feel very content that I achieved something at the end of the run.
FM: Take us through your experience of running your first full marathon at the iconic TMM in 2018?
Rephica: TMM is a race very close to my heart. I was ready for running my first full marathon officially as I had already covered many FM distances during my training. It was the most amazing experience as it was my first to experience a crowd of this magnitude and the people of Mumbai are the best and they cheered and motivated me the whole way.
FM: Why is running the Kargil International marathon so special for you?
Rephica: Kargil international marathon was special to me for various reasons:
First, I come from an army background and secondly, it was in Kargil that Captain Clifford Nongrum, a good friend was shot dead. It was an experience to witness the place and all the hardships that the army bears to protect us. I was a podium finisher there and it was good to tell everyone that I am from Shillong too.
FM: You transitioned very quickly into running ultra-distances within 2 years of having started running? How did that happen?
Rephica: The transition to running Ultra distances was not hard as by then I was training really hard and I was confident enough to take bigger challenges. I wanted to test myself and my endurance. It changed me completely because I understood the power and mental strength that one needs to endure everything.
FM: Soon after finishing the Kargil marathon, in less than a week you went on to do your Khardung-la challenge(72KM) followed by the Ladakh marathon and stood 2nd (the only woman so far) at Khardung-La. How did you manage that feat?
Rephica: I was well prepared and absolutely confident in my training so I wanted to test my ability as a woman and as a runner. The 72KM Khardung-la race was indeed very challenging but I kept my focus and trusted in myself mentally and physically that I could do this.
The Kargil marathon was also a tough one and I ran it as a practice run to build myself for Khardung-La. The toughest ultra is definitely Khardung-La as the temperatures and high altitude often test the breaking points for most runners. The weather was -18 degrees and it started raining for a few kilometres. I was drenched and had to climb 33 km uphill within the cut off time to reach the top. As I was climbing, it started snowing and the freezing temperatures and high altitude with less oxygen was the most challenging part. I drank only water and Enerzal for the entire 72 km as I could not take out my hands to take any food as they were numb. I knew I could not give up and I was totally focussed and determined to finish the race no matter what the consequences were. After a gruelling 12 hours and 15 minutes of rain, snow, harsh winds and freezing temperatures, I finished strong with no injuries and also won myself a second spot on the podium. It was good to see so many of my friends and family cheering for me near the finish line. Unfortunately, there were many participants who could not finish and many of them had to be hospitalised due to hyperthermia.
After I rested for a day, I knew I was strong enough to run Ladakh full marathon with the support of my friends. This was a challenge that no woman has ever done and I wanted to set a record. So, I ran another full marathon with the toughest terrain and low oxygen levels and yet again had a strong finish and set a record of being the only woman to have completed the race. I’m happy that I did not fail myself and I trusted my instinct and training.
FM: Which has been the longest distance you’ve run to date?
Rephica: The longest distance would be the Income Tax department run from Guwahati to Shillong. I supported them for almost 100km and have done a couple of 100 km alongside friends.
Every run is challenging because we don’t know how our body will react on that particular day. As for me, my body really never gave up on me and it is because I train a lot to build my endurance. I believe for ultra-running its more with having a fit body and mind.
FM: How was it to be a pacer at the AU Jaipur marathon that happened this Sunday?
Rephica: It was my first experience as a pacer at the AU Bank Jaipur marathon. I was pacing a bus for 4.20. I tried my best to motivate and push my runners and there were not many runners who ran at that speed so it was a success as I was pacing only a few of them. They crossed the finish line before I could.
It’s amazing to have won another podium in the second position. I will also be pacing in Amity Gurugram Marathon this Sunday in a 5 hours bus. So, it’s a back to back full marathon again for me. I’m also the ambassador for the Jamnagar Reliance green marathon on the 17th February where I’ll be doing a full marathon yet again.
FM: How do you strike a balance between being a working mother and still make time for doing what you love(running)?
Rephica: Time management is important to balance your work and family, so I wake up very early to train and head for my day job and then go to the gym when I find the time during the day. When it is something you love doing, you always make time for it.
FM: You’ve set your eyes on the Everest marathon this May and the La Ultra Ladakh(222km)? How are you training for it?
Rephica: All my Ultras are mostly in the hilly regions so I train myself to do more hill running and build total endurance. I do a lot of cross training and strength training in the gym. So basically train twice a day till I get fit and feel confident to take on the challenge.
FM: What are the benefits of running? How has it impacted your life?
Rephica: Running has really helped me to be extremely fit and has made me a tough person both physically and mentally. It surely has uplifted my self-confidence and changed me and showed me the beauty of life itself. I’m so mentally strong now that at this point nothing is going to shake me…all thanks to my running.