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"Running makes you happy and healthy": Bhasker Desai, 60-year-old private business owner

TimTim Sharma
Modified 25 Jun 2013, 00:43 IST

Bhasker Desai at the Pattaya Marathon 2012

Sportskeeda is proud to present a brand new series – Runspiration. In this series, we converse with runners from across the country who have found inspiration by taking up running and related activities, and have been successful in dealing with their problems, health or otherwise. These are people who lead truly inspirational lives.

Today, we converse with Bhasker Desai, a 60-year-old private business owner, whose unhealthy, hectic lifestyle led to extremely high cholesterol levels. Faced with a life-altering scenario, Desai decided to take matters into his own hand and began running, a habit that he now thoroughly enjoys partaking in.

When and how did you first start running?

It all started in 2005/2006 when my sedentary, corporate life style and erratic, unhealthy food habits showed up as high triglycerides of 940! Dying so early was not a great option, so, soon, under medical advice, I hit the gym to do cardio, mostly running 2 to 3 kms on a treadmill. That’s when a young gym buddy, Venu Gopalan suggested I try my hand in the half marathon at SCMM 2006. That’s how I graduated from 2 km to 21.1 km within 40 days of registering for SCMM. I ran in a decent time of 1:45 and knew I had found a new passion in my life. But it was not until 2010 that I ran my maiden full marathon. A Canadian friend, Ken Skea, ran the full marathon and I the half marathon at Leh, 2009. He told me to graduate to the full marathon and reach the holy grail of all marathons – Boston.

Recall your first marathon.

So with a goal to go to the mecca of all marathons – Boston – I registered for SCMM 2010. Injuries can be a way of life for a runner and I too got stuck with a painful, left heel spur. With no worthwhile training runs logged, I ended with a disastrous 5:05 at my maiden marathon attempt. I soon set out to avenge the defeat. Come the SunTrust DC Marathon on 26 March 2011, I got my BQ with 3:41 (BQ then for 54-59 age was 3:45, now even more challenging at 3:40). The blues of the first marathon were already a thing of past by now.

How do you go about preparing for a marathon?

I am a mindless runner, there is no method to my madness. I ran some 15 marathons between 2011 and 2012, not to forget as many half marathons – everything your running guru would disapprove of! I know it’s not right, it may have worked for me, so far, but that’s perhaps not what a serious focused runner should be following. So this year, I hope to put some semblance of systematic training to my running, and it should hopefully make me a faster, stronger runner than yesterday. In India, I can think of people like Ash Nath, Kothandapani Sir and Raj Vadagama who can guide and lead a bunch of us to a systematic, scientific way of training for marathons.

Do you follow a diet in preparation for a marathon? If yes, describe it.


None. And again, I don’t ascribe any one should follow my lack of loyalty to an ideal runner’s diet. But if there is a pasta party on the night before the race day, I do try to go with the flow and load up on carbs. I also get to catch up with buddies and make new friends.

Do take us through your running kit. Eg: Shoes, Outfit, Drinks, Supplements etc.

I am an impulsive buyer and keep collecting new shoes from expos and trips abroad. But I soon realised I did not train enough and so they do remain pretty virgin! So I decided to give them away to some of my lesser privileged but good runners; small things we do that make us happy. I also buy dri-fit, colourful, jazzy running tops and bottoms; some old people stay vain and fanciful. Gels have not gone down well with me, I start feeling uneasy. Water and a few doses of mineral drinks work fine for me on a race day.

How often have you participated in the TCS 10k run? Any highlights?

None till date. I live in Mumbai, so a small distance race of 10 km is not that inviting an idea to fly into Bangalore.

What are the other runs you participate in?

I run most marathon and half marathon events in India, and also overseas. I also participate at State and National level Masters Athletic Meets, here I am mostly in for the 5 km and 10 km races.

What other sport do you play or follow?

Soccer is the most played game but I am now more of a cautious, kick-the-ball guy – my old, fragile bones are not so co-operative. I will soon buy a bicycle and hope it does not stay unused. Also, it’s time to renew my swimming membership at the local club. These are all the ways I am thinking of to keep doctors away as I enter the 60+ phase.

Your favourite sportsman?

Haile Gebrselassie. His humble life story, from the poorest of African families to the all-time legendary hero runner, inspires me all the time! But my favourite memorable moments have been with Bill Rodgers, another gem of the running world.

Any message to our readers who wish to start running?

I would like to quote what Bill autographed me, something that touched my core: ‘Desai, let’s run forever’. So guys, if running makes you happy and healthy, like it does to me, go enjoy your journey!

To read the rest of the Runspiration series, click here.

Published 25 Jun 2013, 00:43 IST
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