The Ironman Triathlon organized by the World Triathlon Corporation comprises a 3.86-km swim, 180.25-km bicycle ride and a 42.2-km marathon that must be completed within 17 hours, in that order. It is, undeniably, one of the toughest one-day sporting events in the world — a challenge that Dr Kaustubh Radkar has taken on and completed, not once, but 11 times since 2008. In the first chapter of this two-part interview, India’s very own ‘Ironman’ gives us the lowdown on triathlons and his experience of being a part of this exceptionally demanding athletic event.
Give us a background to your interest and involvement with triathlons.
I was a national swimmer growing up, and in 2001, I went to the USA on a swim scholarship. After my graduation, I took to running as it was hard to find a swimming pool during my Masters Degree. I moved to Colorado in 2007, where a lot of my friends were doing this cool race called Ironman. I was pretty fast in the pool and had run a couple local marathons so everyone told me to give it a shot. Arizona 2008 is something I will never forget; I won the swim overall with a time of 47 mins 30 secs in the harsh cold, including the two punctures to my bike that I had to fix myself. That’s the beauty of Ironman; you don’t have any outside support. When I started the run, I was smiling. I knew that I was inching closer to the finish line with each step. I completed the race with the Indian flag, and that’s a moment I can never forget.
You’ve won Ironman titles in all 6 continents, with the latest being in March 2015 at Port Elizabeth. What were some of the challenges?
Port Elizabeth is called ‘windy city’ for a reason. The sea was very choppy which made sighting during the swim very difficult, while the bike route has a lot of climbing and the headwinds and crosswinds didn’t help our case. It was also hot, about 34 degrees, so we had quite a few challenges going. I was under a little pressure since I was representing the country. My bike was damaged in transit to South Africa, and during the race, my derailleur kept falling down so I had to stop, fix it, and keep going.
What is the general reception towards triathlons in India?
Right now, India is at a tipping point with triathlons. People have started to look for other challenges (besides running and cycling) and triathlons provide this to them. In India, there are at least 6-8 triathlons being held now. Once this number grows, I think more people will join in. The biggest problem here is swimming; majority of the people are either scared of the water or don’t have access to good pools. Once this hurdle is crossed, triathlons become easier to tackle.
Which upcoming events are you looking forward to participating in this year?
I will be doing the Ironman Zurich on July 19 this year; it will be my 12th Ironman and if I finish that, I will get into the legacy program. It’s a unique program for Ironman finishers that will get me a shot at the World Championships in the next few years.
Who has been your inspiration over the years? What keeps you motivated?
Besides my family, I have some Ironman friends who keep me motivated. They have similar stories, full-time jobs with a family, and are still doing couple of races a year. I love the challenge these races bring, I get to test my fitness and it’s a goal to look forward to during the year. The added excitement is that I get to visit new parts of the world as well as see the great friends I have made who also try to sign up for the same races.