Actor and fitness enthusiast Milind Soman has celebrated Independence Day every year in a unique way. Until 2020, the now 56-year-old would—annually—run a distance corresponding to the number of years India has been an independent nation. “I ran 70kms on the 70th Independence day… 71kms on the 71st… and so on.” However, last year—on the 74th Independence Day—while the country was grappling with the deadly virus, the fitness icon decided to celebrate the theme of unity by aiming to complete a barefoot solo run in eight days. What commenced at Mumbai ended at the Statue of Unity, Sardar Sarovar Dam, Gujarat, thus marking the first edition of his initiative, Unity Run. “I always celebrate Independence Day, but last year I wanted to do something a bit more commemorative. Last year there was a lot of conflict going on, which is why I decided to take the theme of unity,” he shares.
As the country gears up to celebrate 75 years of independence, Soman is gearing up for the second edition of his initiative—he plans to cover a distance of 450kms from Jhansi to Delhi in a span of eight days with the idea of spreading the message of harmony. “It was a lot of fun last year. A number of other athletes and runners joined me as well, so I decided that we should do it every year. Now, it is just a question of looking at different cities to run from and different cities to reach.”
Spreading the message of fitness
Soman will kick off his journey from Jhansi Fort in Uttar Pradesh on August 15. The Fort served as the stronghold of the army during the Indian Rebellion of 1857—one of the leading figures of this revolt was Rani Laxmibai. The former model’s run, consequently, celebrates the theme of women empowerment. Over the course of this run that covers four states and a union territory—Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Delhi. “It is a wonderful route with a number of historical places [Chitrakoot, Gwalior Fort, Vrindavan, Agra] on the way,” Soman shares, adding that he plans to stop at many important landmarks and meet fellow athletes and fitness enthusiasts on his way. His journey will conclude at the Red Fort in the capital on August 22.
The challenge posed amid this run, according to the actor, is the availability of nutrient-rich food as he would be running on the highway for over 50km every day. Soman, however, looks forward to relishing his favourite Dal Khichdi. “A staple dish I eat is the Dal Khichdi and every state has their version of this dish. I don’t have a particular diet. I love to eat local food so I am sure that will be fun,” he concludes, affirming that he also attempts to spread the importance of fitness through his initiative.