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, an engineer by profession, a running coach & a motivational speaker. Sandeep is endorsed by international brands and recognised as a running evangelist. He continues to charm the running community with his talents and inspires many to take up running as a healthy hobby.
As a race director and ultramarathon runner, it was a privilege for me to talk to Sandeep and 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 quiet 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 live in Surat and work as an engineer at Larsen & Toubro. I grew up in a village and moved to the city to get a good education.
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 represented India in the 100K World Championship & Ultra Trail in Croatia, South Africa and China.
- Fastest Indian at Comrades Ultra Marathon (~90 km distance) South Africa. He completed the Comrades at 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
- He was felicitated by the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narender Modi, for his achievements and contribution to sports development.
[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 well for my back-to-back (2nd) Comrades 2018, down run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. I was aiming to finish a Sub at 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. 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 at 7.30 time.
In my mind, I had already won a silver medal, so I was not worried about missing it.
[Coach Kay] How were your childhood days?
[Sandeep] I was very active right from my childhood, and I used to play all kinds of sports throughout the day. Coming from a village environment, I used to swim in the rivers, run on the trails nearby, play in fruit farms, climb trees, and pluck fruits. Belonging to a Jat family, I loved to come back from town and grow crops 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 ultra-running athletes and do a sub 2:30 full marathon.
I also dream of training athletes in India for the Olympics & world championships. As of now, We are pretty successful on the state and national levels.
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 few performance events in a year and participated 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 regular diet?
[Sandeep] I don’t believe or like to eat fancy foods and rather eat locally grown food or the kind of food my body is accustomed to. I’m a vegan and have two large meals daily (breakfast & lunch), including various grains & vegetables.
Generally, ultrarunners require the right amount of carbs & healthy fat. I consume dry fruits and 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 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 & hills. Run on trails frequently. Get your health parameters checked and pay attention to the correct levels of body minerals and vitamins. Staying in shape and light brings better running efficiency and economy.
[Coach Kay] What is your next major event?
[Sandepe] In April, apart from the OOTYULTRA, I’ll be running my first Boston Marathon. I 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 plan to have some fun on trails outside 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 scenic mountains with a good elevation hike and drop seems 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 the 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