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Runversation: Forrest Gump-on-steroids? Try ultra running

THE ASIAN AGE. | SAMUEL SUDHAKAR
Published : Jun 22, 2017, 3:38 am IST
Updated : Jun 22, 2017, 3:38 am IST

This is a challenge you will go on only if you are convinced that there is more to life than logic and common sense.

Ultra runner Kieren D’Souza on a little run at the base camp of Friendship Peak in the Pir Panjal range in Himachal Pradesh.
 Ultra runner Kieren D’Souza on a little run at the base camp of Friendship Peak in the Pir Panjal range in Himachal Pradesh.

Ever wonder what it takes to turn a passion into a career? How about making a career out of the curious sport of ultra running, covering 42 km and usually much more, about 50 km or  100 km or even more, running on trails in the middle of nowhere? Or running hundreds of miles in scorching heat, or slogging across deserts, or racing against the clock through numerous check-points with cut-off times?

Dehydration, fatigue, cramps, the urge to give up — are all possible reasons to abort the challenge. But for the ultra runners this is all about running for joy, setting personal goals and trying to overcome every obstacle.

The 24-year-old Kieren D’Souza is one of the most recognisable faces in the sport of ultra running in India. He became the first Indian to complete the gruelling 246 km Spartathlon in Greece last year. With his long hair, his beard, his speak-your-mind attitude and frugal lifestyle, he is a hard man to beat.

“As humans, we’re designed to explore. We love stories of people overcoming boundaries and obstacles in order to succeed. It’s just another version of that story for a group of people who love running,” Keiren says.

He says he has chosen a way that is totally different and much healthier. “It was a hard process to go through, but rewarding as well and it taught me to believe in myself and not in what I do.”

For Kieren, getting past the comfortable threshold of his limitations, both physical and mental, is exciting.

There is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runner knows this instinctively.

The doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort, said David Blaikie, an athletics historian and statistician. Ultra running these days has gone from a fringe pursuit for distance freaks to a competitive sport attracting a lot of runners. It can change your mind. It will focus your perspective and help you see things as they really are. All those lies you believed about yourself are exposed. And it’s easier to see yourself as you really are: strong, courageous and able.

“I willingly discipline my body and mind to endure the training and to run arduous and punishing distances.  It started back in 2011 when I was in college. I used to read about these runners covering insane distances, and those feats left me inspired and enthused,” Kieren says.  

“I’ve always loved the outdoors, to travel and to go on adventures, and ultra running allows me to do all that. For me, growth comes from each race: a rock within myself that grows firmer, more substantial,” he says.  

“These races have taught me to face all that confronts me with an open heart, an open mind, a desire to journey through and beyond,” says Kieren who represented India at the World 50k Trail Championship last week in Italy.

Challenges greet us all, only to pass, making room for new challenges which pass too. The world out there is full of rules. Some succeed by following them, others by breaking them. You have to find the right balance.

The writer can be reached at gs.sudhakarrao@gmail.com

Tags: dehydration, ultra running, kieren d’souza