India’s leading marathon runner Thonakal Gopi has started normal routine practice after overcoming a spate of injuries in the 2020 season. Based out of Bengaluru, the 33-year-old army runner was hopeful of increasing the intensity of the training sessions in the coming weeks.
The Army runner from Wayanad in Kerala said he plans to race over marathon distance early next year. He said:
“I have started normal practice. My first marathon race will be on Indian soil. Maybe the Mumbai marathon in January or February. If the Mumbai marathon is postponed or canceled then I will compete in the New Delhi national marathon in February/March.”
According to Thonakal Gopi, his focus in his first race early next year will be to test his general fitness and not push too hard.
“Since I am on the comeback trail, I don’t want to push hard in my first race. I will take it easy in the first race as my main goal will be to test my ability to stay steady over the marathon distance (42km app). But I will go full throttle in the second race,” he added.
The Army marathon runner's main goal next year is to qualify and compete at the Asian Games in China.
“I have to stay healthy and perform up to my potential at the Asian Games in Hangzhou,” Gopi said.
Thonakal Gopi’s personal best for marathon is 2:13:39 and was clocked in the freezing cold of South Korea during the Seoul marathon in March 2019.
His Seoul marathon performance enabled him to qualify for the 2019 Doha World Athletics Championships. However, he fell victim to hot and humid conditions in Doha. He eventually finished the race with a time of 2:15:58, which was nearly four minutes slower than the Tokyo Olympic Games qualification time of 2:11:30.
“It was disheartening to miss the Tokyo Olympic Games qualification time. What was more painful was the recurring of an old knee injury. I was out of action for long period,” Gopi recalled.
Thonakal Gopi's injury woes
Due to injury, the Army runner was out of practice for half of the 2020 season. Injury and the pandemic took its toll in 2020. Even the first half of the 2021 season was devoted to rehabilitation.
“Last weekend my longest weekly run was 22km. It was okay. I felt good. I am not pushing further in October. I plan to concentrate on 20 to 25km long runs on weekends before increasing the distance,” said the Army runner.
Thonakal Gopi is staying in a rented accommodation in Bengaluru. He is training at a local university campus with a group of runners. While he is preparing for marathon race, others in the group are practicing for upcoming distance track races.
“There is a group of six runners. We do easy runs and long weekends runs together. Other workouts are different. I am the only marathon runner in the group. Others in the group are focusing on longer track races like 5,000m and 10,000m,” Gopi said.
At the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the Army athlete finished 25th overall with a personal best of 2:15:25. The 2017 season also went on the expected line as he became the first Indian male runner to win an Asian marathon title.
Speaking of a spate of injuries ranging from hamstring muscles to knee injuries during the 2020 season, Thonakal Gopi said:
“It was difficult phase of my life as I wasn’t able to go out and run miles and miles. Rehab and recovery took a long time. Even after proper rehab there was always a fear of recurring injury. I’m moving forward in a cautious manner. Taking all measures to stay healthy.”