Sunil and Sangeeta Shetty became the first Indian couple to run 100kms together and they achieved it with some style _ bagging a podium each.Sunil, 51, finished second in the senior category while clocking 13 hours and 37 minutes, Sangeeta recorded 16 hours and 47 minutes to emerge top in her senior category. She, in fact, was the only woman to finish 100kms in all category.
Though Sangeeta took more hours on that glorious November day, she will hold bragging rights over her husband for she finished her first marathon 20 minutes faster than Sunil who clocked six hours.
Mumbai Road Runners caught up with the glorious couple as they ran us through their life story and the day when they achieved history.
We have to start by asking you how running came into your lives?
Sunil: I was a runner but I ran in my youth days only to keep fi which wasabout 5-7 kms. Somewhere along life’s journey I started gaining weight. I was in a 24×7 job and I ballooned to 88 kgs. I realised I had to restart running but in 15 months my weight came down to 64. Then somebody encouraged me to register for the SCMM and I did and ran the first half marathon in 2009. It was a struggle as I took three hours. I came home and promised to Sangeeta that I will never run a half marathon. I have not run another half marathon after that!
Sangeeta: I was a sportsperson. I played basketball, badminton and table tennis, but never took it to a serious level. I was good for college level. Then marriage came along and then our daughter. Like most woman after childbirth, I put on weight, like most women, I worried over my weight. I started the process of losing weight by walking while my daughter played in the park. I would walk for hours around the park, keeping an eye on her. Finally I started losing weight and started going with Sunil while he went on his long runs, I would, of course, walk. One day, he encouraged me to run.
Sunil: I ran my first full marathon in 2010 and struggled through the journey over six hours. Thanks to the net I checked some running programmes and modified it to my needs and have since run only marathons.
Sangeeta: For two years I ran the half marathon, 2010 and 2011 and then finally graduated to the full in 2012. Since then I have run full marathon in Hyderabad.
For somebody who started running so late, your progress to ultra came fairly quickly
Sunil: It began with coincidence. We happened to meet a coach who had come home to deliver something. He later recognised us as the running couple and encouraged us to attempt longer distances. But running an ultra was serious business and we were not, at that point in time, doing much of core strengthening. We were just running. Again we dived into the internet and checked out how to go about training.
Sangeeta: I used to get shoulder pain and lower back pain, Thanks to the core strengthening. I was able to run the 2013 SCMM without any pain. We realised the value of strength training.
Sunil: When we ran the 75k at the Bangalore Ultra in 2012, we realised that there was another couple that had run longer distance together. This time, I am sure we are the first couple in India to run 100kms.
How did you prepare for the race
Sunil: After finishing the 75 kms, both of us felt strong enough to run more kms. We told ourselves that 100k is our next target. After running the Hyderabad marathon, we went into serious training mode.
Sangeeta: We ran one 50k and one 60k. For the really long runs, we start around 3.30 am and run around Shivaji Park. Sunil stays with me till daylight breaks then he sets his own pace. We head towards NCPA and thereby complete the 60k training run.
…And during the run:
Sunil: We had planned on an 8:2 strategy, run for eight minutes and walk for two minutes. It worked wonders for us because we were the only ones running in the final part of the journey. I had a target of 13 hours, 30 minutes. I missed it by only seven minutes!
Sangeeta: I had a fall in the 7th km mark and I started bleeding from my right knee. I had a cut. But, surprisingly, I felt a strong resolved rising through me and I did not think about the remaining 93 kms. My target time was 15 hours so I extended that by quiet a few extra minutes, finishing in 16.47. For the last leg of the 100k journey, I had Sunil pacing me which means that he ran 112 kms.
Why are you guys able to graduate to ultra distance so quickly and also do it so successfully.
Sunil: We are not bothered about the time we clock in races. Also, we like to run alone or in the company of each other. If you like the lonliness of a runner, I believe you are bound to become good at running ulra distances. If you are obsessed about time, you might as well do marathons.
What is the mental strength that you need to conquer the distance over the normal marathon?
Sunil: Running ultra distance teaches you to be patient. You have to build a mental resolve to tackle such distances. If you break down the distance into smaller goals then it helps to tackle the big one fairly easily. For the 100k we took each 12.5k as a leg and worked on completing each one.
Do you follow any regimen?
Sangeeta: We are foodies. But a week before a race, we discipline ourselves. We eat home food, avoid fried stuff, add more brown rice to our meals. But once the race is over, we do not stress on what we eat. We basically what we like.
What is the next step?
Sunil: I want to attempt the 24 hours run. I feel I am ready to accept the challenge. But as far as Sangeeta is concerned, I think she should wait.