BENGALURU: India’s marathoner Gopi Thonakal went through a lot early this year. He did secure World Championships qualification mark in Seoul Marathon with a timing of 2:13:39, his personal best (PB), in March, but not before facing extreme difficulties.
To start with, the Kerala man was not a part of the national camp at SAI in Bengaluru ahead of the event. He, though, was allowed to use the training facilities. He opted to live on rent nearby, preparing his own food. Also, Gopi travelled to Seoul on his own, without a coach, and defied all odds, including a cramp in the final 5 km stretch to achieve the landmark.
Gopi is now a part of the camp, and does not need to worry about food and accommodation, but the challenge is bigger at the Worlds in Doha, next month with Tokyo Olympics in sight.
The qualification timing stands at 2:11:30, meaning he has to improve his PB by almost two minutes. The magnitude of the task can be understood from the fact that he has to break Shivnath Singh’s long-standing national record of 2:12:00 set in 1978 to catch the Tokyo flight.
“I will have to improve my personal best at the worlds. Besides that, my major focus will be to qualify for the Olympics. I know it is going to be difficult to break the national record, but I have that confidence in me to do that and also qualify for the Olympics. Let us see how it goes,” Gopi said during ASICS’ promotional event.
The challenge does not end there for Gopi, who is heading to Doha knowing the marathon starts at midnight given the extreme temperatures. It has its pros and cons, but Gopi is not worried as his focus is solely on attaining Olympic qualification mark. He is preparing accordingly, spending decent time during the evening sessions.
“I will be competing at a midnight event for the first time but I think it might help me. It becomes quite easier in the evening, especially when it comes to carbo-loading compared to the races, which start in the morning,” said Gopi.
If one looks at Gopi’s progress in the last three years, his PB improved by nine seconds from his Rio Olympics 2016 timing of 2:15:25 to New Delhi Marathon of 2:15:16 last year.
However, it was a major breakthrough earlier this year with the Seoul timing, which was an improvement of over one minute 37 seconds.
Johnson to US
The middle-distance runner will head to the US next month and receive training at the High Altitude training center at Colorado Springs under coach Scott Simmons. He will be missing the inter-state senior athletics championships, scheduled from August 27 to 30 but will feature in an invitational competition in Germany on September 1.
“I took this decision so that I will be able to improve upon my timings. At the Asian level and India level, my timings are okay, but at the world level, I want to improve it further,” said Johnson, who has to break his own 1500m record (3:37.62) to qualify for Olympics.