Delhi to Jaipur Ultramarathon (270 km at a stretch)
7th – 8th November 2001
It was November 7, 2001. The first Indian ultramarathon of its kind was to start from the Yojana Bhavan, Parliament Street, New Delhi at 1000 hours. The time was ripe but unfortunately I was stuck about 17 km away from the site due to traffic congestion. The worrisome minutes, however, passed and at 1040 hours my jeep reached Yojana Bhavan. I took it as my first reward to see that such a large number of well-wishers were anxiously waiting for me. It was a spectacular and historic scene for me. The people who have served Planning Commission for 35 years felt that they had never witnessed such a large crowd gathered in the compound of YB and there was no room in it. Why have these people gathered, why such a crowd of audience? For me only ! It, as such, worked as a phillip to my determination to scale down the distance of 270 km to reach the Pink City of Jaipur. I was going to run an extremely endurance run which was quite impossible for them even to think of it. Ultramarathon is a quite strange and perplexing word for the people. As it was getting already late, there left no time for meditation that was quite essential before starting my race. In a hurry after taking two glasses of water I just took a few minutes to be in my costume before arriving at the starting poing thickened well by my enthusiastic well-wishers to see me off for the marathon. Planning Commission termed my endeavour as a Peace Run at the juncture when the entire world was reeling under the shocking incidents of extremism. It was the first of its kind in the country after all; thus a historic one. This is what Mr. Sompal, Hon’ble Member, Planning Commission told and encouraged me for the venture I programmed for. I could see blessings, greetings and astonishment in everybody’s eyes. The people who had seen me practicing had no doubt about my performance and skill yet they were whispering that I had set a very big target at the beginning. But I had full trust in God who motivated me to perform such arduous task and He would fulfill it. At starting platform Mrs. Firoza Mehrotra, Adviser (Admn.), Planning Commission was also present and encouraged me. Amidst the applauding support from those gathered around, Mr. Sompal garlanded me and hugged me before flagging off my journey which was to terminate after 33 hours at Joravar Singh Gate in the Pink City.
At 1100 Shri Sompal flagged me off and kissed me like his own child and it was quite enthusiastic. I started my ambitious journey with taking a round of the building of Yojana Bhavan, by that time all the people gathered on the Parliament Street. Every one wanted to shake hand with me and to pat. Some people ran with me for a while. I set the target of 33 hours for the people but it was 32 hours for myself and I took off accordingly. Whether was hot with 330 C. I was taking 200 ml water after every 15 minutes. I ran first 35 km at a speed of 11 km/hr. S/Shri Ravjit Singh, US, KMS Khalsa, SO, Satnam Singh, Karnail Singh, Narendra Gambhir, Rajan, Deepak, Jitender, and some other people of office went with me upto Delhi-Haryana border.
After 45 km the road was gaining height and circling anti clockwise like a velodrum which made my left leg remained on the upper side and the right leg on the down side and it caused pain in my outer side of the left knee. I took first break after 60 km where I changed my shoes. Blisters appeared on my right toe and both the little fingers. I put duct tape. At night about 10.00 PM I had covered 90 km and took almonds with 50 gm of butter. Crew member Dr. Anand gave me an injection “Voveran” for relieving me of my shooting pain. I wrapped my leg in the blanket and lay in the van for 20 minutes. It was very cool breeze and the temperature had gone to a minimum of 110C. I wore my track suit and started running. I covered 100 km up to 11.30 PM in 12.30 hrs. Now 170 km were left which was still a big task ahead.
At night almost the road are empty and calm but the experience of highway was totally opposite and the loaded trucks were being driven very rash. Once our rear escort jeep had a miraculous escape and the driver started driving it on the verge of the road. Due to continuous pain, it seemed quite impossible for me to stick to my target of 32 hours. It was getting colder and I was shivering with cold. Crew members Hari Mohan Sharma and V.K. Garg encouraged me and Mr. Sharma joined me for few kilometers. Due to jerk in knee, I had to run in the form of brisk walking which resulted into deterioration of my speed and I could cover only 20 km in next 4.30 hours. I crossed Shahjahanpur Check Post, 120 km in 16.30 hours. It was Haryana-Rajasthan border.
Now 150 km remained to be covered in 16.30 hours. To cover this gap, I was to accelerate my speed otherwise it would be a failure to achieve my goal. In the last one year, I told every known of mine about this Ultramarathon race so that a sense of responsibility is always remembered by me. Besides, it was the question of reputation of my office which was kind enough to sponsor my race. Above all, Shri G.P. Grover, Dy. Secy. initiated this run to make it successful as if his own son was performing it He had great expectations from me and had a belief in my will, and I could not disappoint him. But for the precious and valuable suggestions given by my overseas guides and friends, regardless priority, Phil Essam, Yiannis Kouros, Richard, Mark Williams, Colin Gown, Francesca Anderson, and some others, it was quite impossible and Herculean’s task for me to successfully undergo this wild goose chase. They all said, “Believe in yourself and don’t give up” Keeping the fact in mind that my father and my sister along with officials of P.E.O., Jaipur and high dignitaries, gentry of the Pink City and others were waiting for me at the finishing point, I restored the energy and made sprint covering 75 km in 8.15 hours, thus enabling myself to cover a distance of 195 km in 23.45 hours.
10.45 AM of November 8. The weather was sunny and started getting hot gradually. I refreshed myself and got my shoes changed and a massage by Kuldeep and Ashwini.
No doubt my body told upon me and I was completely exhausted and weariness overpowered me. My team mates encourage me and I also stored all my confidence and energy. I recolleceted our forefathers, ancestors and our learned Gurus, a new fervor of energy instilled on me and overpowered my thoughts to reach the orientation peak and overcome all the obstacles and difficulties in the way. Except pain in my knee, I was physically and mentally totally alert and I’d crossed 195 kms in 23.45 hours. Still a distance of 75kms was left to be completed in 9 hours. The goal seemed nearer now and a thrill of resurrection zingled in my every tinge.
Due to desert area, it started hot soon and I was accustomed to run in hot season. I reached Mahoharpur Toll Plaza at 1.50 PM. It was 225 kms in 26 hours and 50 minutes. At this toll, Rs. 40/- is paid for every vehicle. But the toll incharge Mr. Narpat Singh allowed our escort vans to go through VIP channel as the motto of the run was for Peace and sponsored by Planning Commission, Govt. of India.
At 3.00 PM, I reached Chandwajee Police Station. Now Jaipur is 35 km ahead and still I had 5 hours. At this spot Jitender, Dinesh and Mr. Surendra Nagi of my office reached by their car. They could not stop themselves to see their friend at the finishing point at Jaipur. I felt a sense of renewal in my strength and energy to see them. Now I started brisk walk due to the fear if I run at a faster speed now, my knee may not swollen again and may still create problem to reach the finishing point. K.K. Sharma (Delhi State’s veteran best athlete for two years) accompanied me in my mission I wanted to complete my race within the stipulated period of 33 hours but my knee was not allowing putting excess strain over my legs.
20 kms before the finishing point, Paramjit Sharma, Rajeev Sharma, Jainender and Chander of my office reached by their car. I decided to have last respite and my energy again renewed. Ashok, Ashwini, Arvind (all my brothers), Kuldeep and Doctor also gave a massage to my legs. All of them helped me in all the way. Ashwini, my youngest brother (age 23) ran bare foot with me many kilometers with me throughout the journey. It shows the blood relation and affection. My elder brother, Ashok, who had no indication to go with me could not deprive himself and witnessing this great unique Marathon. After getting massage, I changed my dress and once again started to run. But my knee was again wanted not to cooperate with me.
I started walking at a speed of 8 minutes / km. Yet now, I have successfully completed 255 km. Still 15 km are left for the completion of this exclusive ultramarathon. I’ve taken a time of 31 hrs and 40 minutes. My target of 33 hrs now seemed impossible. I started panting and my heart started throbbing, as it was a regular steep hike. People from Jaipur on their bikes and scooters came to us and followed us. Steep hike starts from here. I did not care and suppressed my feelings of knee-ache, sped up. Mr. Kanhiya Lal Sharma also started running with me. He is Under Secretary in the Ministry of Foods & Public Distribution and Best Athlete (Veterans) of Delhi State for last two years. He encouraged me as an elder brother in every way from the birth of idea of Delhi to Jaipur run. Now, fifty minutes were left in 33 hours and a distance of 11 km. Here Dinesh conveyed me the message of good luck from Ravi Srinivasan of my office which was very much inspiring. Police Escort van started before 4 km from finishing point. Local people also started running with me. Except drivers, photographers & doctor all the crew members were also deriving pleasure in running with me. Finally, at 8.10 PM I entered Joravar Singh Gate. The distance of 270 km was completed in 33 hours and 1- minutes. It will prove a milestone in Ultrarunning in India. Almighty, omnipresent and omniscient God helped me in achieving this goal.
At finish point, Mr. Bhanwal Lal Meghwal, Hon’ble Minister for Youth & Sports, Govt. of Rajashtan welcomed me by garlanding and announced an Award of Rs. 5100/-. My younger sister Anju sweared my forehead with kumkum. The SDM, Jaipur City, Mr. Om Prakash, Head of P.E.O., Jaipur, Mr. Sharma, Supdt., P.E.O., Jaipur with their Staff and other Government officials extended a warm welcome to me. Mr. G.P. Grover, Dy. Secretary (Planning Commission) reached at finish point also and it was an unexplainable feeling for me. My father, who is a Principal in Central School, Jaipur was accompanied by the students. They had my autographs (a strange feeling and experience to me). They wanted to know about some clue for reason of this kind of feat, I told them they should have an ambition. If you are ambitious and honest in your mission, success will be always yours.
I am grateful to all who contributed in this mission in any form. If I have to name, then main motivation came from, regardless priority, my mother & father, Zola (both – Zola Budd and Zola Bhardwaj) & Sofia Bhardwaj (my daughters, I always feel disappointed when see no name of India in world-class athletics so when my elder daughter came to this beautiful earth, I set a goal for her to become Olympic gold medallist and to inspire her named after great Zola of South Africa. And chose myself only as an ideal before her and undertook ultramarathon), Al Howie (Trans-Canada runner, only after reading about his feat the bug of ultrarunning entered in my mind ), Yiannis Kouros, Vlastik, Matt Mahoney, Philip Essam, John Twartz, Francesca Conte, Richard Tout, Cliff Young, Colin Gowan, Dick Tout , Rod Dalitz, Sandra Barwick, Ultrarunning & Ultramag, Meenu (my colleague), Sunil & Joginder of K.L. Sharma’s office and many other unnamed. I should also give credit to my colleague Sharad Pant and my boss T.P. Biswas who always motivated me and very liberal to me.
A very big part of credit goes to my wife Sangeeta who is serving as a teacher in Central School, Rewari and lives there alone. I could not visit her for weeks and if went, almost stayed outside the house for running. She never let me down and always encouraged me. I have only one word for her, matchless.
Total intakes during the race: Water : 10 ltrs., Fruit juice : 10 ltrs, Butter: 50 gm, Almond : 250 gm, salt : 5 gms, Honey : 200 gm. 1 small piece of bread. 1 tablet = ibuprofen, 1 injection of Voveran
Bodyweight before the race = 63 kg ; after the race = 61 kg.
Used no walkman.
-Arun Kumar Bhardwaj