Arguably India’s leading ultramarathon runner, Arun Bhardwaj recently achieved yet another landmark by winning the gruelling 72-hour running challenge at the Icarus Florida UltraFest in the USA.
Running a sum total of 71 hours and 41 minutes, and completing an astonishing 325.78 km, the 46 year old was in typical great running form, with an average lap time of 13:44. It’s an official Indian national record for the duration of 72 hours! And yet another feather in Bhardwaj’s ultra-running cap!
Ultrarunning is an altogether different kind of sport that requires will and skill in combination. In an exclusive interview with FirstRun, Arun Bhardwaj talks about how he started running and his training.
1. When did you start running and what do you love most about it?
I started running with a goal to become ultra-distance runner at the age of 30. What I love most about it is the feeling of freedom, which is rarely found in other sports. For example, in football, your movement is controlled by the movement of other players.
2. What are some of the most challenging ultras you’ve participated in?
My first 6-day race in Australia (2002). I didn’t have any experience of such a race and was without support crew. I also finished the 2011 Badwater Ultramarathon 135 miles in Death Valley. National Geographic ranks it the toughest footrace on the planet. I am the only Indian finisher of that race so far.
3. Any favourite running memories?
It has to be the George Archer 6-Day Race at Hekpoort in South Africa in 2010.
Here I was without personal support handler, ran the first four days on total of 4-5 kg fruits until race director realised that I was getting nothing from the race kitchen since I am a vegetarian and they had only non-veg food. It was raining from Day 2 to 5 so it turned into a mud race, and runners had to cover an average of 70 km per day to avoid elimination. In those situations I covered 567 km (94.5 km/day) in all becoming the winner and what could be sweeter than putting my motherland’s name on the top. Still I am the only Indian to have ever won a multiday race.
4. How do you usually prepare for an upcoming race?
I try to run everyday with a longer run once in a week. Since I am a family man and also have professional commitments, I have to adjust my training accordingly. Distance between my home and office is 25km, so I choose to run one way and then run for another hour during the lunch break.
My favorite pre-run food is banana, and post run is my homely vegetarian food.
5. What are some of your favorite running spots in the world?
I loved Death Valley in California, USA and Memorial Square in Colac, Australia.
6. Do you have any particular running gear performance?
No. It just should be as per the need of the given environment of any particular race.
7. What upcoming running events are you looking forward to in the coming year?
There’s this amazing 1000 mile race in Brazil, and another six-day race adventure in South Africa.
8. What would be your words of advice to beginners who’re attempting to take on the trails?
It is true that ultrarunning is a different kind of sport that requires a higher level of will. There is no shortcut, and it needs hard work just like climbing a mountain. Just don’t quit.
Main image: George Archer Six Day Circuit Race – South Africa