Standing among the hundreds of spectators that day, 35 years ago, a young Ashok Kumar had in mind a most natural question: would he ever get a chance to run in that marathon he watched in awe
Standing among the hundreds of spectators that day, 35 years ago, a young Ashok Kumar had in mind a most natural question: would he ever get a chance to run in that marathon he watched in awe It took him 33 years but he did what he had yearned to do, on an April day in 2014. That he was in his 50s did not matter. For here at last was that coveted event, the biggest fundraiser in the world, the London Marathon. It was not easy but after five hours and 31 minutes, Ashok finished his 26.2 miles (about 42.2 km) and two years later, has also completed the New York marathon, the Boston marathon, the Berlin marathon and one more London marathon. That makes it four out of the six major marathons in the world – the two yet to be covered are the Tokyo marathon and Chicago marathon. Not to mention the two half marathons in between – The Great North Run in New Castle, and the Silverstone Adidas run.
Ashok had moved to London in 1979, an event he calls life changing. But his life started in Chathannur, in Kollam, where he went to school and took his BA in English literature. By then it was time to go. To London where his father was. “I was into sports in college, playing badminton and kabaddi, representing Kollam in the state championship of ’79 and winning too,” Ashok says on a day he visited Thiruvananthapuram, meeting old friends. He had come on vacation, days after finishing that last Berlin marathon in September. Ashok has all the dates with him, and the medals. Boston was also this year, in April, when he finished in four hours, 53 minutes.
The New York marathon was however the most difficult one, he says. “It was hills all the way, and runners go through all iconic locations – Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Centre Park, Manhattan.” Ashok was surprised to see that after the Sunday run, everyone wore their medals in America on Monday. “They call it the Marathon Monday. And people everywhere, absolute strangers, congratulate you on seeing you with the medal.” Different perhaps from the Englishmen with their stiff upper lips Ashok had been used to. Decades in London had brought to his English a British touch but his Malayalam remains as pure as when he left home, with a heavy heart and many big dreams. Life took him through unexpected turns, when the first job that was meant to last a little while went on for nine years, when a civil service job came and an internal exam gave him the confirmed position of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Taxes in 1992.
He got married in 1989, and in pictures that Ashok shows on his phone, you could see a proud family supporting their adventurous hero.