At near 60 years of age I have realized that I have one talent. I can train harder than most people and do so with unwavering enthusiasm. Today I will share with you my experience of running.
One Round Behind!
I think it was in 8th class. I participated in a race of 1 mile-4 rounds of the athletics track. There are qualifying heats before the final. In the first heat I ran, I was left one round behind by the first few runners. The first two runners in each heat qualified for the second round. I was wrongly taken as qualified because I finished my third round just behind the first guy, who had completed 4 rounds! This was a good reality check- a tremendous embarrassment! I decided that I will never allow such a thing to happen again. I started getting up in the morning & began to run. I have not stopped till date!
Deepak my Guru
In 9th I began playing Tennis & learnt quite fast. By 10th I had become the second best player in the school. Deepak was one year my senior. He was the school Tennis Captain. Deepak has been my guru in numerous things, including Tennis. We were preparing for the Patrician Schools’ meet to be held in Mussoorie. Deepak taught me one simple lesson in life, which I have not unlearnt till date: “Training harder than others increase chances of success”. I will call this lesson as “Deepak Formula” henceforth. We played Tennis for about two hours in the evening and after each session we ran one mile to build endurance.
School Days: No Success in Running
Despite training harder than all others in school I never got any success in any running event. Results have not been a major concern for my doing things. I never stopped running.
NDA: Second Reality Check!
In the first term in NDA I was an average cross-country runner. All guys from sainik schools, military schools and top level schools were much better and those who had never run in school used to come behind. However, in second term I found that the ones who had come behind in the first term were improving at a faster rate. In the second term cross-country I came in the fifth enclosure, which is 10 min behind the first guy in a distance of 8.5 km. This was embarrassing. There was one problem that NDA life posed-there was no time available to apply the “Deepak Formula”. We were barely getting time to eat and sleep. The NDA cross-country competition starts & ends at the Glider Dome. Approximately 800 metres from the start there is a bottle-neck & guys run like mad to avoid getting trapped in it. I got tired in this stretch itself-lungs ached, legs ached but somehow I kept running. I tried numerous strategies advised by people. Farooquee, my Squadron course-mate & Tennis partner in NDA team used to skip practically all practice sessions but used to come way ahead of me, despite my never missing any practice session. Sometimes we feel that life is unfair.
There were numerous times that I wanted to stop during practice or competition but continued. The trick I used: Pray to God, “Please take me to the finish line today, I will never run cross-country ever again”. It did work.
Run Through Rape Hill!
There is a portion in the route which has a hill, very appropriately named, “Rape Hill”. I had to walk the up-slope. Some self-styled experts suggested to run uphill. When I did that, I had to walk later. Hence, walk or run upslope the result was the same.
Run Through Thorny Bushes!
One very innovative idea someone told me was that during the route we had some thorny bushes & if one ran through it then the prickly thorns caused pain, little bleeding and made one forget the pain in the lungs. I tried it. It seemed to work a little but did not alter the position I got in any serious way.
Result Till Fifth Term
Whatever the method I tried the result remained more or less the same. I moved up from fifth enclosure to fourth enclosure by fifth term. This was hardly an improvement.
In sixth term cadets tend to slacken a little. I never do any such thing in life. We get a little more time in hand. I was also a serious Boxer & trained a considerable amount during that training & improved in endurance. I still came in the fourth enclosure.
At IMA the focus is on 2-mile & 10-mile runs in Battle Physical Efficiency Tests (BPET) which are run with a rifle and haversack. We, NDA guys, join the second term at IMA. I was by now a reputed Boxer and had used the “Deepak formula” to great advantage. There was much more time at hand. On Sunday mornings Sandy (he is presently a Maj Gen, heading the prestigious College of Defence Management) & I used to finish a 5 mile run prior to the morning tea & then attended the games session. Suddenly I found myself among the top 10-15 guys in the course in these runs.
I was no longer asking help from God or getting influenced by stupid suggestions. The focus had shifted to managing the pace-when to keep steady-when to accelerate, rather than the pain in the lungs & legs.
I did the Commando Course in Jan 84. From Mar 83 onward I had been training with Boxers. I reached the Commando Course at a much higher level of fitness than at IMA. Commando Course had an initial 10-mile run. Sandy (he won the Commando Dagger) and I were running together. We began gradually & slowly kept crossing the groups in front of us. After 8 miles there was only one guy ahead of us. We kept following him at a distance of about 8-10 meters. Around 9th mile I told Sandy, “Let’s cross him”. Sandy said, “You go”. I picked up pace and ran alongside Mohinder, the leader till then, for about 15-20 meters. He did not have the energy to match me & I easily ran ahead. I finished the race comfortably ahead, so much so, that I walked through the finish line first time in a major race. I stood first in all the speed marches during the Commando Course by a considerable margin-always walking through the finish line: 16 km, 24 km & 40 km. In 32 km I stood third (it is an interesting story for another day). During these runs I had beaten all the cross-country medalists from NDA, IMA & OTA.
I am still the guy who had been beaten by one lap in a four lap race and had come 10 min behind the first guy in NDA second term. “Deepak Formula” does work!