For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself — Haruki Murakami, from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
Maybe that’s what people get by running — a feeling that they are elevating themselves every time they push themselves to reach a target. 23-year-old Kieren D’Souza also loves running, and his reasons echo those of Murakami. “I want to see how much better I can get,” he says, trying to explain his passion.
Kieren is an ultramarathon runner, which basically means he runs races that are really, really long - much more than the standard 21km and 42km ones. And he is also going to become the first Indian to participate in what is termed Spartathlon, a hardly-believable 246km race in Greece which has to be completed within 36 painful hours.
Owing to his dad being with the Indian Air Force, Kieren has done his schooling literally all over the country, including the cities of Jodhpur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Mumbai and Faridabad. He was an active guy and was always into sports, but it wasn’t until college that the marathon bug bit him. However, it certainly wasn’t love at first sight. “I began with a 12k run while I was at St Joseph’s, Bengaluru five years ago. The first one was the worst one (marathon) I’ve ever done. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be doing any running again.”
But once the pains subsided, the gains came to the fore. Kieren was soon back to running in half marathons, progressing gradually to running full marathons and then going well beyond and was fueled by the things he could accomplish with his ability while just practising. “When I started, I couldn’t imagine running these sort of distances on foot. What got me going was the interest and curiosity thinking how I could possibly do that and once I did it I thought I should do more of it. During training, I could run between places and towns or in the mountains I could explore treks and trails -- that other people take 3-4 days to finish much faster -- in a few hours. I get a sense of achievement when I do such things.”
Kieren will have to push himself more than he’s ever done until now at the Spartathlon, to be held during Sept 30-Oct 1 in Greece. The race is from Athens to Sparta and took shape from the legend of Philippides, the Roman who is believed to have run the same distance to convey news of impending war in Greece over two centuries ago. Kieren had to cover 100 miles (about 160 km) within 22 hours at the Bhatti Lakes Race in Faridabad to qualify for the race and then was picked by lottery.
Three companies currently support him by providing him their products - Unived Sports, Azani and Sunto. “I don’t have a company on board that is financially supporting me yet, but I’m in touch with many companies and I hope something works out soon.” Of course, his biggest support have been his parents, with his dad also playing the roles of his motivator, coach, crew and manager. And it also helps that his friends are always excited about his races and have spread the details of his endeavours on Facebook.
Reach Out: www.spartathlon.gr