Published in The Hindu. 20 September 2012

A brow gleaming with perspiration from the sultry Delhi weather, knees and arms bending and stretching effortlessly and an agile body which looks raring to sprint off at any moment - Arun Bhardwaj appears every inch an athlete. He is busy preparing for the audacious task of being the first person to run solo from Kargil to Kanyakumari, as he works out in the green environs of Nehru Park.

‘Run Arun Run’

Arun will clock 4,000 kms over a course of 60 days beginning October 1. His route will include Leh, Kullu, Chandigarh, Delhi, Agra, Jhansi, Nagpur, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Madurai. The message of the run is ‘Kargil to Kanyakumari; India is one’ according to his Facebook page aptly titled ‘Run Arun Run’.

The ruddy glow on his face belies his 43 years. One is struck with further wonder as he narrates the metamorphosis from the ailing child weighing 26 kilos in Class IX to an athlete in the prime of health and physical fitness. “I have repeatedly suffered from malaria since Class II till 19 years of age. I was a sickly child. Even if I played football, I would always be placed at the back of the team. I also underwent four major surgeries of the parotid tumour between 14 and 17 years of age,” says Arun.

Towards his third year of college, Arun started reading Swami Vivekananda, The Bhagavad Gita and doing yoga. “Perhaps that is when it all started,” muses Arun, who graduated from Delhi University and now works for the Planning Commission.

The main trigger for Arun to become an ultra distance runner was his daughter’s birth. “I wanted to inspire her to run for the country.” He has another daughter and son whom he also encourages to run. Arun began running seriously at the age of 31 and has since participated in and won ultra marathons and endurance races across the world. He has also been touted as India’s first internationally recognised ultra distance runner.

Toughest race

He describes his toughest race till date as the South Africa six-day race in 2010. “It was continuously raining and the ground was muddy. Since the race kitchens were non-vegetarian, I survived on apples, bananas and oranges.” Victory was thus sweeter when Arun clinched the top position in the race, clocking over 90 kms daily.

Arun, whose body has to accomplish extraordinary feats, follows no ordinary diet. He consumes half a kilo of honey, 10 litres of juice and dry fruits everyday and food with very little oil and spices. Arun claims he does not go to the gym. “Our body already has all it requires. Nothing external is needed.”

But it is Arun’s exercise regimen which is inspiring and even jaw-dropping. “I work for the Planning Commission in Central Delhi and live in Dwarka. I sometimes run from home to office in the morning which is a distance of 25 kilometres.”

Preferring to gloss over the politics dogging the treatment of various sports in India, Arun concentrates instead on drumming up excitement for his upcoming run which will doubtlessly be an opportunity of a lifetime, even for him.

Cover photo for representation

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