This is an edited and rephrased version of a post by Bijay Nair on his Facebook Page.
For the average person, a spine surgery means the end of the road in many ways, especially when it comes to fitness activities. But my dear friend Pratik Desai came back strong after a spine surgery. Doctors had given a diktat that he may not be able to run again, but the champ that he is, Pratik proved them wrong through sustained training and self-belief.
A Comrades finisher, a good friend, and a champion, Pratik turned down offers for modelling from big names in the industry to pursue his love for running. An extremely busy executive, the 35-year-old is General Manager in a steel trading company called Vinar Overseas Private Limited. He travels a lot, and runs even more; here is Pratik Desai for you.
Why did you start running?
I started running purely out of curiosity about what is it that makes people so happy after a run. I had never ran in my life before or never even won a athletics medal in school as I was too busy playing table tennis and doing folk dance. Then I happened to meet a 60-plus person in my gym who said he is training for the SCMM Half Marathon. I was like if this guy can run 21km, why can’t I?
I asked him where and how he manages to run at this age and he simply asked me to join him on a run in the neighbourhood. He introduced me to Top Gear MIG running group and with 3 weeks of Training managed to pull off a Half Marathon injury-free. Since then my life has transformed for good and I have been on a journey of evolving and knowing myself as a runner. My identity, my passion, my goals, my lifestyle revolves around running. I graduated very quickly from a half marathoner to a marathoner and then ultra-marathoner by finishing Comrades Marathon.
Tell us about the injury setback
As Luck would have it, a few months after Comrades I had to undergo a spine surgery. The surgeon said that chances were I won’t be able to run long distances ever again or it will take at least a few years of rehab. I have learnt the harder way how important training your lower back, cores, glutes, and flexibility is to make sure one stays injury free.
I was lucky to have my family, my coach Suchita Varadkar, my running friends and most importantly my parents and my wife, to help me quickly recover strongly in a span of 8 months and since then I haven’t looked back. I have finished two full marathons and am looking forward to another two. My wife in fact has supported me by starting running and has done two half marathons already including the Satara Hill Half Marathon. I am so proud of her.
How do you train?
I train with my extended family and by far the best running group in the country – Top Gear MIG. With them running becomes an addiction and my training goes like this:
Your running goals
My short term running goal is to have a bronze medal around my neck at the 2016 Comrades Run. In the long run, my goal is to never get injured again and continue getting stronger. And, if god willing, an Ironman.
Running tips for new runners
While running a marathon, listen to your body first, mind and heart later. It’s OK to reach the finish line at 2.01 hours or 4.01 hours. In the end what is important is that when you finish the marathon you should be smiling, having enjoyed the run, the training process. Always rememver that you earned the medal with hard work.
About the author
Bijay Nair is a 38-year-old former LtCdr in the Indian Navy, and now works for the National Classification Society of Shipping. He’s been running Marathons since 1999, and in the timed events since 2008 after leaving the Navy. He’s veteran of 40 half marathons, 5 marathons and a 12hr Ultra run, having run all over the world. In 2012, for the project 121212 (to commemorate the unique 12/12/12 date, which incidentally was also his birthday) he ran 2012km to support cancer patients at the TATA Memorial Hospital and collected Rs 1,21,212. He’s currently posting inspiration profiles on his Facebook wall with the hashtag #TheyInspire