Every morning for 61 days, Pune-based ultra-marathoner, Ashish Kasodekar, woke up at 4:30AM and ran a marathon, a distance of 42.2 kilometres.
It was a well-planned endeavour, cast in the form of a two month-long running event, organised by Run Buddies. The one extra day was Ashish’s decision to test himself after running for 60 days.
In 2021 Ashish was turning 50 and wanted to run 50 marathons consecutively to celebrate it. “ When I found out that there was a Guinness record for 59 back-to-back marathons, I decided to extend it to 60 days,’’ he said. His plan was to execute the project in April but he was not able to do so as the country was in the grip of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
However, the groundwork for Guinness record requirements began. As per the Guinness guidelines, Ashish was required to achieve this record in a public event. There had to be two finishers apart from the record seeker, four witnesses, photographs and video recordings among others.
The event that was created was titled Ultra Dynamo. The lead sponsor was Traveltime Car Rental Private Ltd. It was organised by Run Buddies at Savitribai Phule Pune University on a loop of 5.3 km. Run Buddies organised it like a multi-day event offering runs of varying distances such as 5 km, 19 km, 21 km and 42 km.
The organisers invited other runners to join the event and run a marathon. Ashish started running on November 28, 2021. “ When I started my endeavour, there were very few cases of COVID-19 but the numbers started to climb,’’ he said, adding that the organisers reduced the number of runners to be invited to run. “ There were many runners who ran a marathon for the first time during those 60 days,’’ he said.
Even as COVID-19 was spreading fast in its third wave, Ashish remained untouched by any infection. “ My routine was well-organised. I would wake up at 4:30AM and get ready to leave for the run. At 6AM, the run was flagged off. Once, I was done with the marathon, I would head home, have lunch and rest. I was eating, sleeping and exercising well,’’ he said. “ The positive energy of those 60 days, meeting so many people and leading a disciplined life helped me immensely,’’ Ashish said.
According to him, his preparations by way of fitness for the two month long-event spanned both stretching and strength training. During the two months of a marathon done every day, Ashish counted the run itself as his fitness routine. He did it as a mix of running and walking to keep injuries at bay. He laid emphasis on recovery, making sure that he ate, stretched and slept well.
In endeavours like the one he was attempting, wherein an activity is repeated and sustained for a long period of time, the main thing to manage well, he said, are discipline, avoidance of injury and proper recovery. You keep that cycle going.
Although repeating the same loop for two months, Ashish said he never found the experience monotonous. “ For me it wasn’t at all monotonous. Every time, I completed the loop it was an opportunity to refuel and see my friends and those who had come to encourage me. I called it my Recharge Station,’’ he said.
A team of 8-9 friends, friends from running and volunteers of Run Buddies, helped Ashish execute the project. On most days, Ashish completed the distance in about five and a half hours. “ Speed was not the issue. I wanted to run easy to stay injury free. I took each day as it came. I am happy with the way it finished,’’ he said.
Ashish is a keen basketball player. Apart from runners, hockey players and basketball players came along for the run on a couple of occasions; the latter dribbling their ball on the 5.3 km loop. “ One person in a wheelchair also completed the marathon,’’ he said.
Ashish’s aim was to officially conclude the project on January 26, 2022, to coincide with India’s Republic Day. He ran for one more day to test himself after running for 60 days. “On January 27, I ran the marathon in 3:45 hours,’’ he said.
Ashish has been participating in running events since 2013. He has been focussing on ultra-distance events. In August 2019, he was the first Indian to finish the 555 km-category at La Ultra The High in Ladakh. In January 2020, he completed Brazil 135, an ultra-marathon held in the Serra da Mantiqueira mountains.
In July 2022, he is scheduled to do the Badwater 135 ultra-marathon. The original plan was to do Badwater in 2020 but the event was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“ In a few days’ time I will start training for Badwater,” Ashish said. The race in the US, covers a distance of 135 miles or 217 km from Death Valley to Whitney Portal, the trail head to Mt Whitney. It takes place annually in mid-July when the weather conditions are extreme.
(The author, Latha Venkatraman, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai.)