Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Born Free......Ruled by Garmin (and the refreshing tale of Bhupendra Rajput)

It was 4 am on Sunday morning, and as I went through the last minute check of my equipment (my cycling equipment !), I went into a mini-panic. The screen on my Garmin had frozen, and consequently, so had my brain. We were about to embark on a 200 k training ride from Panvel to Pune and back, and the thought of doing it without a functioning Garmin, freaked me out. Once again technology came to the rescue, and in the light of the moon (and the golden arches of the adjacent McDonald's), we browsed the net on our blackberry, and googled out a solution to the problem. All was then well with the world, and we went on to complete a strong 200 k ride. If all this sounds Greek to you, let me take a step back and explain. Garmin, is a company which makes GPS-enabled devices, which 'talk' to satellites orbiting the earth and give you live feedback on your distance, speed, average speed, etc etc, as you run or cycle. Fortunately or unfortunately, I have possessed one of these since the past 3 years, and it has changed my running and cycling completely. I have become a data junkie, and like all junkies, cannot function without it. The plus side is that thanks to all this real time information, I have been able to significantly improve my endurance event times, but it has come at a price. The price is the loss of "absolute freedom" that running free is able to give you. I always envy those who are able to step out of their house, and just go for a long run, without bothering about trivialities, like time, distance, and pace.

 Which is why I was thrilled to run into (and run with) the embodiment of such a runner, this past weekend in Pune. Bhupendra Rajput is no ordinary runner, and i would like to share his fascinating story with you. I had gone to Pune for the weekend to conduct a sweat study for the Pune Runners Group, along with my friend and colleague Venkat and was privileged to have dinner with Bhupendra. At first glance Bhupendra comes across as a 43 year old mild mannered sales manager of an engineering company, which he is. It's only when you know about his 'other side', will your jaw drop. Mr. Rajput is the winner of the 160 km Bhatti Lake run in Haryana, which was organized in 2011. Besides that he has run several 100 + km runs all over the country, the latest being the Thar Desert 160 km in April of this year. With this impressive resume you would imagine that he has been a life-long passionate runner, with a very competitive edge, but nothing could be further from the truth. I spent a good part of the dinner, and my run with him next morning trying to figure out what makes this man tick, and was left with more questions than answers. I will make an attempt to reproduce our conversation, and beg your pardon for minor inaccuracies in dates and times.

 Bhupendra had never run long distance in his life, till he came across a billboard for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, in January 2006. Just for a lark, he decided to enroll (those were the days when marathon entries did not 'fill up'in under 48 hours). Enroll he did, and completed the 21 km distance in an amazing time of 2:30 hours, without any training. He then did a few more half marathons, and upgraded to the full in 2009. Sometime in September of 2011, a friend of his was planning a 150 k run in Pune, and informed Bhupendra about it. And he decided that he would join him !! Remember, that his previous maximum distance was 42.2 k. Most runners have their weekly schedules planned well in advance, and would never run more than a few km in excess of their schedule. And here is our friend Bhupendra, who without hesitation, and without training, decided to run three times his previous longest run. It was beyond my comprehension that someone could do this, and I repeatedly asked him what his motivation was. His only answer was that he wanted to see if he could do it, but was confident of the fact, that if he needed to stop running at any point, he could always complete the distance walking. To complete this amazing story, he managed to do the distance comfortably, and then went on to participate in the Bhatti Lake 160 km run in Haryana, in which he came first. Bhupendra to this date runs without a watch, and it's absolutely refreshing to come across such individuals who participate in the activity for the pureness of it. More power to him and his legs. We wish you all the best, and trust me, we will be following your every step (though we may not be able to keep up after a while).

 Details on the Sweat Study can be found at:


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