-By Atul Sharda
Sports and passion go hand in hand. For most part of my life, cricket was my passion, having played and followed the sport for years. Even though I followed a few other sports, cricket was the one sport that ranked highest for me (Like most of my Indian friends). All this was until one fortunate day when my dear friend Shripal Shah registered me for a 10K run organised by Calcutta Swimming Club.
To be honest, I was not very serious about the 10K run. As a matter of fact, the whole idea was to enjoy with my friends and have a good time at the event. Little did I know the run would be a turning point in my daily routine.
During the run, I met another close friend Vipul Majeji, who as compared to me was a pro in running. Having seen me all nervous before the run, he gave me ample support and encouragement. His words had such an impact on me that I managed to finish my maiden 10K run in 52 minutes. At the finish line, during the celebrations Vipul introduced me to this wonderful bunch of people. They called themselves “Kolkata Ultra”. The passion and positivity for running that I saw in their eyes encouraged me to immediately join the group. I thank my stars for having done that.
Everyone in life goes through a transition period. That moment when I joined Kolkata Ultra was mine.
Training with the group made me realise, it is not just about stretching and running. Our training schedule included Yoga classes and regular thrice a week running besides other work out routines. Our yoga instructor Harsha Pandey Banthia herself a brilliant runner became more than just a trainer for us. She always motivated us and pushed us to our limits.
As the days passed we heard about the amazing event which was going to take place at Cherrapunjee. On just hearing about the place all of us said “Let’s Go!”
Cherrapunjee is a hilly region so we planned our training accordingly, instead of running on flat roads, we prepared by running on flyovers.
On the 15th of July, 24 of us left for Guwahati, which turned out to be one of the most amazing train journeys of my life. Lack of time forced us to move to Shillong in cars immediately. Reaching our destination on the 16th, everyone was excited about the following day. We received our respective BIB’s and assembled in our hotel rooms. The night was a long one for me, considering the next day would be my first outstation run and a full marathon at that (my first). Sleep came very late, however, we were confident of each other’s abilities to finish “ekdum solid” the next day.
On the 17th of July, morning of the biggest run of my life so far, we were greeted warmly by the entire Kolkata Ultra family. The amount of motivation and encouragement we received cannot be explained in words.
6AM, 17th of July, the race began, and we were greeted by a loud thunderstorm and the heaviest rain I have ever seen. Focused on running, I still couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty of the location. It was unfortunate that we did not have our cameras to capture the exotic beauty of the trail.
During the course of the run, we shared stories with some extremely qualified runners with vast experiences. Their stories inspired me to keep going on and not just for the marathon I was participating in.
Undoubtedly, it has been the most difficult run that I have been a part of. I distinctly remember the 39th km, when I started to lose focus and my resolve was shaky at its best, my friends from Kolkata Ultra were there egging me on to not give up and finish the run strongly. Richa Kumar, who has been a great support for me along with Mayank Agarwal, Prerit Kedia, Aditya Prasad and Poloumi, were all there. Special mention to my dear friend Sudhir Ahujha, who had finished his 21K run, still helped me finish my 42K strongly by running the last 3K of my run beside me.
Jaidev Raja (J Bro) is a great mentor for all us, always there to help and guide us in our times of need. It was a proud moment to watch him allow me to finish the first full marathon before him. Prema Rajaram (J Bro’s buddy runner for the event) was my partner when I first ran my unofficial full marathon in Kolkata heat of 42 degrees. Having done this with her before, I know how wonderful she can be as a buddy runner.
As the saying goes, No Pain No Gain, receiving accolades and medals at the end of the run was a moment I would cherish for a long time. This couldn’t have been possible without the support of my KU family. I would take this opportunity to thank everyone in the KU family for helping me through the tough times and enjoying the good times with me.
The encouragement and appreciations didn’t stop at the event. The welcome I received back home was inspiring!
This experience has made me believe that
“It’s attitude, not aptitude that brings altitude.”