One of the leading ultramarathon runners in the world, Arun Bhardwaj has once again done India proud by not only completing the gruelling 72-hour running challenge but also winning it, at the Icarus Florida UltraFest in the USA over the weekend. 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!
Over the years, Bhardwaj has accomplished even greater running feats such as the 6-day run at the Running Festival Johannesburg, the 72-hour Athens International Ultramarathon, a mind-boggling 10-day run called Self Transcendence NY and the weeklong Loutraki International Ultramarathon.
“Till the ninth standard I was very weak. I weighed only 26-kg. Though I always watched Olympics and Asian games on TV and loved sports, I was never into it in my school and college. It was only after I became a father that I got this urge to make my daughter a sports woman. We (me and my wife) named her Zola (after the name of legendary South African sprinter). Both of us wanted her to win an Olympic gold for India in the future. And then I realized that to inspire my daughter, I should be the best source first. I started running to inspire her, but with time it became my passion as well,” he’s quoted as saying in Indian Sports News.
In 2011, he completed the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, California billed as the toughest race in the world, completing it in 41 hours 6 minutes and 1 second. This race has seen legendary winners such as Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek, Jamie Donaldson and Sumie Inagaki.
Two years earlier he’d won the 2009 George Archer 6 day race spanning 567 km in South Africa and received international recognition for the same. Next year he ran 186.4 kilometers in 24 hours in Kolkata to beat his previous best of 177 km in the same time.
His wins and finishes seem astonishing when you consider he had four major surgeries of Parotid Tumor between the ages of 14 and 17. “I was very weak from my childhood, from the age of 6 to 19 yrs, I was a victim of malaria every year in rainy season. My body weight was only 26 kg when I was 14 years of age and 35 kg at 17 yrs. I, always, was the weakest boy of the class in my school time,” he writes in his blog.
What is it about ultramarathons that attracted him? It’s all about the human nature of the run, and the spirit of the runners. “When you run beyond imagination, it gives to that inner strength and the sense of exceeding and that propels me to keep testing my endurance,” he added in the article.
Next week we catch up with Arun Bhardwaj after his Icarus victory, and get to know his running story up close. Watch this space to know more about India’s ultrarunning legend.