Spocial Revolution: Chandra Gopalan – “You find renewed energy when you know that the finish is close”

Chandra Gopalan, the first woman to complete the 100 kilometre Bangalore Ultra, writes about the physically and emotionally draining challenge she took up for herself, and how she conquered it.


Chandra Gopalan, the first woman to complete the 100 kilometre Bangalore Ultra, writes about the physically and emotionally draining challenge she took up for herself, and how she conquered it.

My 100 kilometre run dream started in November 2010 when I completed the 75 km run at the Bangalore Ultra. Obviously, I wanted to do it at the Ultra in 2011, but it was not to be as I had a few health issues to take care of. Santhosh, my running coach and the founder of Runner’s High (RH) where I trained, advised me to drop my pace and distances for a year. And for the first time in 6 years, I had to drop my favourite Mumbai Marathon. It was a great step towards rebuilding myself.

When the training started, I found that I was the only woman among a bunch of 9 guys (an older one – I am 45 – at that) and that Santhosh named us “The Jobless-Long-Boring-Runners”. We all got along really well from the first training itself. We covered lots of running scenarios and conditions – hills, speed, distances, heat conditions, night runs, etc. Every Wednesday we would be in a sports stadium, running up and down the huge steps. It was these training runs that helped all of us to achieve our dreams on the day of our run – visualizing our trial runs over & over again. We had also started doing some tough gym sessions every week, which helped too.

My race plan was simple: I would run with my friends Vinay & Kaiwan, who were both doing the 100 km run too. We stuck to our running rhythm – running for 25 minutes and then walking for 5 minutes – from the start.

The sun, meanwhile, took Runners For Life’s slogan (“It’s tough, are you?”) too seriously, beating down on us from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, by which time we had covered close to 65 kms. I was amazed that I was still running without fatigue and kept thanking Santhosh and the guys for the relentless trainings.

As the sun went down, it started getting chilly and I suddenly realized that only the 6 of us were running on the course. All the rest were walking. That’s when I realized how well Santhosh had trained us with the “Time on Feet” concept.  We had RH pacers with us (I had Kanishka – my dear friend), they had nobody. It was strange to see most of the 100K/24 hour runners walking alone. What a privileged lot we are at RH! Not to forget the amazing crew support at the start point.

By now, my son Sidharth decided to join me. At the 78th km, he grabbed a plate of curd rice and fed me while I trudged along, to save time. Other runners were looking at me dumbfounded. I remember the times I have fed him as a child. Life had come a full circle. Things were going fine when it all started going wrong suddenly at the 82nd km. The heat of the day was building up inside and I had this violent bout of vomiting. Within a 100 metres, my head was spinning and I was holding on to Sidharth’s arm for dear life. We walked the next 4 kms and suddenly I realized that I was staggering all over the place. Santhosh came along and told me that it was a nutrition issue. Kanishka insisted on taking me to the medical tent, where they declared that I was fine. A pill down my throat, some lovely rice ganji (starch water) with sambar and half a cup of coffee later, I was back on track.

It’s strange how you find renewed energy when you know that the finish is close. I ran pretty consistently in the last 3-4 loops to finish my 100 kms to a rousing cheer from all the support crew. Vinay had finished slightly ahead and Kaiwan came in a bit after, so we started and ended almost together.

What an amazing experience it was! Right from the training to the run, the support crew were simply amazing. Just to see their warm smiles when your body is zapped of all strength is enough to rejuvenate any runner. They were like an F1 pit crew – somebody feeding, another stretching the runners; someone with water, another one ready to pace.

I can’t end this mail without a special mention of Santhosh. He has more faith in my abilities than I do. Thank you, chief, for the mentoring.

What’s next? A continuous run for 24 hours run, maybe. Age may not be on my side, but, what the heck – I feel like a 30-year-old and you are only as old as you feel!

– Chandra Gopalan

This story is a part of the Spocial Revolution series, a collaboration with SportsKeeda featuring stories of sports as an instrument towards social change and voices from the community on sports as a choice in sustainability.

Have a story of how sports changed your life or someone else’s? Write to contribute@thealternative.in 

Also read:

Spocial Revolution: Racing across America on a bicycle


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. more

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