OOTYULTRA is proud to have Sandeep Kumar, an exceptionally talented ultramarathon runner & also the fastest Indian to have finished the Comrades Marathon in South Africa with a finish time of 7:30:17
He is a multi-skilled star personality, an inspiring athlete, engineer by profession, running coach & a motivational speaker. Sandeep is endorsed by international brands and recognised as a running evangelist. He continues to charm the running community by his talents and inspires many to take up running as a healthy hobby.
It was a privilege for me, as a race director and an ultramarathon runner, to talk to Sandeep and also invite him to be a star athlete for the second edition of Ootyultra. Sandeep was warm and composed in answering all my questions with a quite load of excitement.
Here is an excerpt from the interview.
Who is Sandeep?
I’m a 33 years athlete born in Khubru, a village near Sonipat, Haryana. I currently live in Surat and work as an engineer at the Larsen & Toubro. I grew up in a village environment and to get a good education moved to the city side.
When asked about his achievements, Sandeep sounded very modest and humble in sharing them. He has been a poster boy in many newspaper articles and for winning many accolades. The list is indeed long and here are a few for all of us to get an idea of what his achievements are
- International Athlete who represented India in the 100K World Championship & Ultra Trail at Croatia, South Africa and China.
- Fastest Indian at Comrades Ultra Marathon (~90 km distance) South Africa. He has completed the Comrades in 8:24:00 in 2017, and 7:30:17 in 2018 breaking the Fastest Indian at the Comrades record.
- BOSTON marathon 2019 qualifier, with his best Full Marathon time of 2:59
- Coach (running & fitness, ACSM certified & diet)
- Motivational Speaker
- Felicitated by Honorable Prime Minister of India Shri Narender Modi for his achievements and towards his contribution to the development of sports.
[Coach Kay] You narrowly (by 18 secs) missed the Silver medal at the Comrades 2018 (a sub 7.30 in Comrades is needed for a Silver Medal). What happened and how did you feel about it?
[Sandeep] I had trained really well for my back-to-back (2nd) Comrades 2018, down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. I was aiming to finish a Sub 7.30 and was pacing accordingly. There was an error in my judgement and combined with my GPS watch issue, cost me the Silver medal. In fact, I was not stressing out throughout my run from Pietermaritzburg. Only when I entered the stadium, I knew that something was going wrong with the time. It was too late for me to push harder to get to the sub 7.30 time.
In my mind, I had already won a silver medal, so I’m not worried about missing it.
[Coach Kay] How was your childhood days?
[Sandeep] I was very active right from my childhood. I used to play all kinds of sports, throughout the day. Coming from a village environment, I used to swimming in the rivers and running on the trails nearby, play in fruit farms, climbing trees and plucking fruits. Belonging to a Jat family, I loved to come back from town and grow crop even when I was doing higher studies.
[Coach Kay] What are your long-time goals?
[Sandeep] I would like to be in the top 10 athletes in the world of ultra running and also do a sub 2:30 full marathon.
It is also my dream to train athletes in India for the Olympics & world championships. As of now, We are quite successful on the state and national level.
Being a member of the IAU communication committee, I am finding ways & methods to uplift ultra running by guiding the event organisers and the runners.
[Coach Kay] What is your motivation for running?
[Sandeep] I always find it exciting to fill the gaps between my current achievements and my right calibre. I love to grind hard and enjoy the process.
[Coach Kay] How do you train and prepare for your events? What does your training focus on?
[Sandeep] I do a lot of Aerobic runs, sometimes every day but always make them interested in running in new terrain, a different distance & route. I also do interval runs, hill repeats & time trials regularly. I love running on trails, and I travel 250 km, twice a month to train on the nearby hills. I carefully chose a couple of performance events in a year and, participate in running events to prepare myself for my key events.
I also love cross training by cycling & swimming. Most of my strength building exercises are body-based, and I do yoga regularly.
[Coach Kay] What is your regualr diet?
[Sandeep] I don’t believe or like to eat fancy foods and rather eat locally grown or the kind of food my body is well accustomed to. I’m a vegan and have 2 large meals a day (breakfast & lunch) which include a variety of grains & vegetables.
Generally, ultrarunners require the right amount of carbs & healthy fat. I consume dry fruits, nuts & almost zero saturated fat in food. I like to keep my diet clean and free from too much oil or spices, and I do not eat any processed food.
[Coach Kay] What’s your advice for runners attempting their first ultramarathon?
[Sandeep] My first advice to runners in general, would be to have focused strength training. Run regularly in a disciplined manner on flats & on hills. Run on trails frequently. Get your health parameter checked frequently and, do pay attention to the correct levels of body minerals and vitamins. Staying in shape and light bring better running efficiency and economy.
[Coach Kay] Which is your next major event?
[Sandepe] In April, apart from the OOTYULTRA, I’ll be running my first Boston Marathon. I’ve still haven’t decided on going to the Comrades this year, and I’ll determine my participation during the Comrades Marathon substitution period. And during the summertime when the Indian continent gets hotter, I’m planning to have some fun on trails outside of India.
[Coach Kay] Why did you choose to run the #ultramalaivasi OOTYULTRA?
[Sandeep] I’ve read and heard from other runners about the OOTYULTRA. Running on the scenic mountains with a good elevation hike and drop, seems to be exciting. I’m sure this run also will help me gauge how I’m progressing.
[Coach Kay] Thank you Sandeep, we will be waiting to see you in Ooty soon.
[Sandeep] Thank you
Please join me in wishing Sandeep a best of luck for his journey in realising his dreams, and, during the process continue to inspire all of us.
Sandeep, our star runner will be there at the OOTYULTRA on the 7-Apr-2019. Haven’t you signed up yet?
Coach Kay, Founder & Race Director, OOTYULTRA
Photos credit: Sandeep Kumar for sharing them | kingphotography.in