This is an edited and rephrased version of a post by Bijay Nair on his Facebook Page.

A mentor and a messiah to many underprivileged runners, he’s also my coach and mentor. This is not an interview with Sanjay Shinde or Sanjay Sir, but a free flow of emotions and conversation.

One of the things that everyone knows about Sanjay is that nobody can take a better stretching sessions than him. More than anything he is a wonderful human being and a soul. A super-cop and a super coach, who believes he still has to learn and hone his coaching skills. He founded ClubMarathon a running group in the Mumbai suburb of Mulund and we are lucky to have him as coach.

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He is traditionally a half marathoner, but once ran a full marathon with us and completed the ‘practice run’ in 3hr, before claiming he won’t run 42km again. A great coach, he sacrificed his timing in SCMM 2015 to pace an erstwhile national athlete, who went on to win the category. Here’s Sanjay Sir.

When did you start running?
This question takes me back many years. I was actually running to survive the race against life when I was a kid. I got selected in 1990 for the BEG (Bombay Engineering Group) army training centre in Pune. I was selected from Maharashtra in boys group and especially because of my excellence in athletics. I was posted there for 3 years and then moved to Hyderabad Artillery Centre in Golconda, a facility for athletics and was there for 5 years. I excelled there and was hopeful that someday I will represent our country.

I represented two states – for Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh – and won medals for both. Nutrition and diet were big issues. In those days being an athlete was only a majboori (struggle or load). Body used to go through tremendous wear and tear and because of the constant demand, I moved to middle-distance running where results started coming within a year. Training used to be very tough and hectic; I use to train for two hours twice daily for 6 days a week.

What’s your training schedule like?
I try to run long distance twice a week and do weight and strength training twice a week. I also try to get some hill training done on one of the days. I used to play lots of games like handball, football and rugby as cross-training. Like every athlete my body too has started cracking and I decided to do half marathons recreationally with the best timing of 1:29 at easy pace. I am training hard to break into the sub-1.20 zone.

Events you have participated in
I have run the 800 and 1500 m for three years for Maharashtra at junior level, and represented Andhra Pradesh at nationals for 4 years in the same categories. In middle-distance, I did a 4K for seniors at national level, a 12K at the same stage and another 4K at the All-India University meet for Pune University. I have also represented all-India police teams from Maharashtra for track and field, and cross-country running from 2003 to 2007.

Sanjay Shinde running at the SCMM
Sanjay Shinde running at the SCMM

Tell us about your current coaching stint
I stay at the police quarters and see a lot of youngsters wanting to get into the forces. Recalling my struggling days, I decided to pitch in and mentor them for the physical training required.

Soon many youngsters started joining me for the evening training routines. Down the years almost all of them cleared the physicals but they were getting stuck in the written and orals. I can only urge them to study harder, as I myself struggled with the same.

I decided to foray in to coaching as an honorary affair for people who want to train for marathons and thus started ClubMarathon, a training group in Mulund. My focus is not to make them super runners, but strong runners with adequate strength, resistance, and ability in hill and distance training. I am happy that I am able to contribute to the sport which gave me so much joy and a life.

Shinde runs the ClubMarathon group in Mumbai
Shinde runs the ClubMarathon group in Mumbai

Running tips and advice
When you take up running as a hobby, give it your best and train like a champ with the right guidance. Never ever underestimate the physical requirements, so get yourself completely assessed. Secondly, your body is your temple so don’t abuse it. Give yourself time to mature as a runner and respect other runners. Finally, age doesn’t matter, it’s the attitude that matters.

My last request to people who read this is to support underprivileged runners. There are many in the interior parts of the country and Maharashtra who run fast and furious. Maybe someday with your support, they can run for India, a dream which I couldn’t achieve.

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 12 hr 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

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