The Body Achieves What The Mind Believes


By Sumit Poddar


It was way back in Kolkata in 2014 when it was a life of ease. Life was about going to office, sitting for 8 hours or more, eating junk food and no physical activity combined with weekend parties and friends. Suddenly, I began experiencing mild back pain in the winter the same year. It turned out to be unbearable and one very fine day in Jan 2015, I collapsed and the situation was like I was unable to sit for 2 minutes due to severe pain. In fact over a period of time, walking 100 metres at a stretch became a challenging task for me.

Was It The End Of Being Fit Again?

I consulted doctors and they asked to me to take complete rest with medicines and physiotherapy for a month and also to reduce my weight. I weighed 81kgs at that time and getting back into shape was very difficult for me as I was not involved in any fitness activity since college days, that too almost 6 years. I remembered the days when I would train myself in martial arts and all fitness activities. I simply asked myself one question ‘If I could do that then, why can’t I do it now?’ I challenged my will power to break the mental barrier. I understood that the process would be physically and mentally difficult.

There were people all around me cracking jokes about my back pain but I just ignored them and stayed calm. One day I woke up in pain and promised myself to get so fit that the same people cracking jokes would appreciate my efforts one day. So rather than seeing injury as a setback, I used it as a catalyst to train differently. I started setting goals.

Goal Setting

My first goal was to reduce 6 kgs in 3 months. So I started with back extension exercises and short walks of 500 metres to 1 km and then to 4.5km a day. I changed all my junk food habits. Over time when I got the confidence. I started jogging and walking for 4.5km a day. I found that within 3 months I was able to reduce 6 kgs of weight. First goal achieved!

My next target was to do all fitness related exercises without hurting my back and started running 4.5km a day for remaining months and reduced 3 more kilos to reach 72kg. By then I was confident of being back on track and then running became my regular therapy to stay fit.

Entry Into The World of Marathons

One day I saw banners all around Kolkata for TSK Kolkata half marathon run where few of my office colleagues were participating and I wanted to participate to challenge myself. I registered for the 10km run without proper training. I planned to do a practice run of 10km the day before the race day and injured my knees badly. I knew that running 10km would be very physically challenging but I was not anticipating the way my body had reacted during and after the run. With injuries in my knees I wanted to do the run the next day as it was a challenge for me to prove my will power and so I went for the race next day.

I started running despite the pain in my knees and kept on going with volini sprayed on my knees as backup. By that time, I realised that if I stop to take rest I will collapse and will be unable to complete the race. So, I continued running and didn’t stop. I completed the 10km run in 58 mins and was very happy to complete it despite of all the pain. It was about realizing a dream and proving to myself that I could do it.

My next goal was to run another 10km in IDBI Federal 2015 March, which ended up as 17km run due to mismanagement of routes. It was the time when I realized that if I could run 17 km then I can easily train myself to reach 21km by the end of the year. After a 6 months break from running I participated in the Airtel (Run For Education Nov 2016) and completed 10 km run in 1:06. I then realised that I am not as fit as I should be.

Going Forward

After the Airtel Run, I participated in a 5km Puma Ignite Your City run and there I got introduced to Nishant Maheswari (from Kolkata Ultra running group). I told him about my interest of completing a half marathon and to train myself for that. He introduced me to their interval training coach Bablu Sir and asked me to join them for the Sunday long runs. I started training myself with the coach and I could feel the difference back then with all the endurance training. I joined the whatsapp group ‘Dose of Fitness’ and used to see all the activities of running. One day Prema and Vipul wanted to run long distance and asked if anyone wanted to join and then I showed my interest to join them.

We started running from Elliot Park- Princep Ghat – Victoria Memorial and back. Then Prema and Vipul shared their experience of running and gave me many tips on running. We completed 16km run and I was very happy and felt very confident. I completed my first half marathon at Rabindra Sarovar Lakes on the 31st Dec 2016 with Vipul, Prema, Prerit, Dev of Kolkata Ultra along with Subhro and Avinash. All this boosted up my level of confidence.

My next run was 10km Trail run where I met Kaunak Biswas, a Kolkata Ultra runner. Meanwhile, I also participated in 10k TCS run, 10k Bengal Rowing Club where I secured 2nd position in the Guest category as I completed it in 47 mins. The next big run was of 21km in IDBI Federal Life Insurance Kolkata Marathon 2017 where I ran with the pacer of the 2 hour bus, Sandeep Madan Sir. He made me push my limits and I completed it in 2:00:05. After all the runs I completed, gradually I was getting more confidence and then setting targets and achieving the. It was very interesting and challenging.

The Learning Curve

I learnt something from all the last runs that ‘Once you are physically trained then you are mentally capable of completing any feats you wish to do’. Post the IDBI run I completed another 21km Trail run organised by Sportiz. I have completed 25km along with Avinash accompanied by Vipul, which was my maximum distance covered till date on the last day before I had to shift to Guwahati.

With a heavy heart and lots of emotions attached, I shifted to Guwahati with all the experiences I gathered from Kolkata Ultra and coach Bablu Sir and the tips all runners used to give me. I didn’t want to stop running and took rest for a few days after shifting and then started running with the Guwahati Runners Group. In Guwahati I completed many half marathons, Sunday long runs, hill runs and also tried to help my fellow runners with HIIT as much as I could learn from my coach. I heard about a Full marathon organised by Guwahati Runners/GNER on the 23rd April and my fellow runners asked me to participate in it and I started with training sessions.

However the weather condition was not too good and rain washed away the plans to complete a 30+km before the full marathon. Then I decided not to participate in the full marathon as I was not mentally prepared for the run and urged my interest to co-ordinate with the participants and volunteer. Even on the race day I planned to do a short run with the participants and to cheer them up.

The Twist

Once I started running, I didn’t stop and kept running till half way of 21km and then I wanted to complete the full marathon despite all the pain and difficulties. I completed my first full marathon successfully! The interesting part of the run was that I didn’t even register myself for the run and started running and ended up completing the full marathon and after that I did my spot registration. That was my motivational factor post 21km and so I completed the run. Finally I have achieved my dream of a full marathon unexpectedly!

Learning From The Run And How Running Inspired Me :

  1. When you have tough times in your life, instead of giving up, fight/struggle so that you can end up mastering your problems’
  2. ‘The body achieves what the mind believes.’
  3. Whatever image you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life. If you continue to believe as you have always believed, you will continue to act as you have always acted. If you continue to act as you have always acted, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. If you want different results in your life or your work, all you have to do is change your mind.

The best kind of confidence comes from knowing that you can do really hard things. That you’re doing everything you can to work towards a stronger tomorrow.


Nostalgia and Dreams

This marvellous journey with Kolkata Ultra gave me the golden opportunity to meet so many great runners, namely, JBro, Nishant, Prema, Vipul, Prerit, Richa , Kaunak, Howard, Gaurav, Anant and many more. I have learnt a lot from there tips and experiences they shared with me and many runners like Chao Lengdon, Diju Boro and many more also helped me. I ended up with a lot of friends from the running community. My special thanks goes to my coach Bablu Sarkar who made me believe in myself and trained me with full passion and efforts. Thanks to all my friends who supported and motivated me during my journey.

I will always remember all the tips and experiences with Vipul, Prema, Howard, Kaunak, Bablu Sir and all, such that I can do more training and reach my next target of an Ultra run and many more to go.

My dream run would be a 100km run from Guwahati to Shillong.

Special thanks to my friend Sneha Pandey who has guided me throughout the blog.

‘Once you are physically trained then you are mentally capable of completing any feats you wish to achieve’.


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