A mallakhamb player in his younger days, Amod Bhate started running on a whim. He ran to increase his fitness and stamina levels for 11 years, before taking part in a half marathon in 2012. “I was athletic in school. I took part in mallakhamb competitions at club level. Somewhere along the way, studies became the front bencher and fitness took a back seat. In 2001, when I was in US, my room-mate and I decided to go for a jog on a nearby ground. I was panting by the time I finished the one mile run. That’s when I realised I was in a bad shape,” recalls Bhate.
Were you overweight, we ask? “Yes, I guess I was. I think I weighed 80 kg then and was a good eater too. I never said ‘no’ to food!,” he says with a grin. During the remainder of his stay in the US and later when he returned to India, he continued running. “I felt good. Running was something easy to pick up, or so I thought. In 2012, my roommate from US, who had also moved to India, told me about this Kaveri trail run and said, ‘It will be good fun. Why don’t you join?’ That was the first time I registered for competitive running. I took part in half marathon. I finished it in 2 hours 11 minutes,” adds Bhate.
In 2013, he took part in Hyderabad Marathon said to be the toughest in the country because you run through the city, which has man made elevations. “Again my timing was good. I covered 42 km in under four hours. And, that’s how I got into competitive running,” he explains.
Talking about the early days, the ex-techie informs, “When I started running, there was no running community as such. There was no social media hoopla around it either. So it was beneficial in some ways. There was no pressure on me; I could focus on my fitness. There was no competition to prove myself in the initial days, like it is now. Now, when a person starts running,
s/he is immediately asked — when are you up for 21km or 42 km? Or what’s your timing? That’s a lot of pressure to handle, when you are starting out. So my advice to people who have started running is, to take it slowly. Don’t do it for FB likes.”
Bhate also explains that he had to learn all of it on his own, until he met his coach. “The running scene is now more organised. There is more structure. After doing ‘practicals’, I studied the ‘theory’ of running — that is you don’t have to run on all seven days of the week. On the days that you don’t ‘run’, you can do other cardio building or muscle strengthening exercises. So during rainy season, I would go up and down the Parvati hill or the Vetal tekdi. Or I would run around the track of SP College,” he adds.
Bhate has qualified for the Boston marathon in April, after clocking 3 hours and 10 minutes in 2017 Mumbai Marathon. Says he, “People who are expecting quick results should realise that the injuries will be quick in the happening too. So choose your races carefully. You don’t have to run 21 km/42 km in back-to-back events. Also, it’s necessary that you evaluate your strengths, stamina, endurance and fitness levels. It’s not necessary for everyone to run a full marathon. Much as this might sound discouraging, it’s the truth.”
The key to not burn out quickly is to identify your needs — do you want to run competitively or focus on fitness and stick to it. “This distinction is important to stay on road and enjoy a relatively injury-free running life. Yoga and meditation will give you mental strength only if you are sure of what you want. And, the last bit would be diet. You can’t eat conventional sugar and spice-laden food when you are running to stay fit. So figure out where you want to be and plan accordingly — with an expert’s help,” concludes Bhate.