Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Day with an Elite Ultra Marathoner!

Since joining Hyderabad Runners in September 2011, I have had the chance to meet some really inspiring people. Arun Bhardwaj (http://arunbhardwaj.wordpress.com/about/)  is definitely amongst the top of that list. It is said that for ordinary people, marathoners are a mystic and for marathoners, Ultramarathoners are an enigma. Arun surely is. 

Saturday March 17, 2012 was decided as the date for Annual Dinner of Hyderabad Runners and Arun was designated as the Keynote Speaker for the event. He arrived in Hyderabad on Friday evening and the group ran with him on Saturday morning. That’s when I had my first glimpse of GOD.  I was given the chance to chaperone him around town and was amazed at his humility and down to earth nature. He is a pure vegetarian, teetotaller and one of the few real time practitioners of simple living and high thinking. Mind you he IS amongst the best in the world. But no airs at all. Few salient points from my time spent with him.
  1. Arun started running after his first daughter was born to show to her that impossible is nothing. If you set your mind on to something with all seriousness, it is definitely achievable. He named his first daughter Zola on a middle distance runner from South Africa Zola Budd. He also named his son Yiannis on Yiannis Kouros who holds all the World Records in 100 Miles – 1000 Miles running.
  2. Arun is from a very normal background with his father being a KV Teacher and the lone earning member of the family. He was very weak and suffered bouts of malaria every now and then while growing up. Was diagnosed with a tumour and was operated four times before he turned 17. Spent 11 months in the hospital recovering from the last surgery. He moved to Delhi when his father got transferred and did his B.Com from DU thereafter joining the Planning Commission as a Clerk.
  3. He was always good in sports. Tried first in Chess and reached upto State level but due to various external factors, gave it up. Moved to powerlifting and was doing good till the time one of his old injuries came into play and started acting spoilsport. He also figured that it might be difficult to reach the world standards prevalent that time due to his injuries, so he moved to running. BTW he could do 500 push-ups at one go during those power-lifting days.
  4. His prep for his first long run i.e. 180 kms from Haridwar to Baghpat was not much. max he had done previously was only 32~33Kms at a stretch run and his training average for the previous 6 months was only 2Kms/Day. But he still took up the challenge and came shining through it.
  5. I have been thinking of doing the Comrades Ultra Marathon either in 2013 or 2014 which covers a distance of 90 KMs and it being the oldest Ultra Marathon in the planet is a signature event. I hesitantly asked him whether he has taken part in that and he shrugged his shoulders and told me that "Its only 89Kms". Even though it was not the same derision that most marathoners use towards 5K/10K runners, it was similar and caused by the fact that mandarins of sports bodies in India weren’t exactly helping him. So he wanted to concentrate on the more hardcore events. He says he has had to take personal loans to attend international events due to apathy in the bureaucracy inspite of provisions being there in the government regulations.
  6. Having fought his way through the system and various prejudices to continue his sport and that too always representing the country, he is not bitter at all. As a matter of fact he has a zen like attitude and says "Someone had to take the lead. I guess it was me". He even refused an offer to migrate to Australia under elite sportsperson category because he wanted to be his country's flag bearer.
  7. During all this conversation, I sheepishly asked him if he ever had a DNF (Did Not Finish in sports parlance). He replied in negative and narrated one of his race experiences. In a 7 day race in Athens, he twisted his ankle on potholes on the 2nd day causing terrible shin pain but still went on to complete the course and did some 570KMS. His logic was simple. Giving up is easy. But once you give up, you cannot ever ask your children to give their 110% and not throw in the towel. Because you'll never have the conviction to say it. And once your kids grow up, they'll know that their parents had "given up" themselves.      
I can keep going on but I think I'll rest here due to paucity of time and space. He also shared few of his upcoming plans but it wouldn’t be prudent on my part to reveal them here. But I can assure you, your jaws will definitely drop when you hear about them.

I further quote a section from a friend’s blog (Taken from http://runbrajeshrun.blogspot.in/)
If there is something that you think you cannot do because of circumstances in the past or you not being in the right place at the right time, or because of your physical, mental or genetic make-up, all that you are doing is telling the world – and yourself – a bunch of lies. 
Saturday 17th March 2012 will remain a red letter day in my life. To me, Arun Bhardwaj is the living embodiment of these simple but powerful words:

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it.
Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion.
Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare.
Impossible is potential.
Impossible is temporary.


  1. Well written, AB!
    Thanks to you and Brajesh for documenting the rendezvous with the great man, Arun Bhardwaj, so well! Can always look back on this evening and get inspired whenever down in the dumps...
    What an inspiration Arun is - what commitment, determination and passion he has! Total respect!!

  2. All the very best for your COMRADES ULTRA 2013 or 14.... train hard and finish STRONG....

    Raghu Rao Molugu

  3. Super AB...Impossible is nothing...