Source: Runners for Life
From unfit teenager to ultrarunner: Inderpal Khalsa
The world of sports is filled with dramatic turnaround stories – people whose health and lives have been changed. But what’s not as common is this transformation happening in the life of a teenager!
Inderpal, at age 19, many potential elites are sharpening their skills at the half marathon. You have already run a 12-hour ultra. What drives you?
I wasn’t a sportsman to begin with. On the contrary, I avoided exercise throughout my childhood. The truth is till class 12 I weighed 92 kilos! ‘Eat, sleep, study. Repeat’ – that was my daily routine. I was so overweight, that I had only one pair of jeans, a waist size 42, which I washed every night so I could wear it the next day. My lifestyle was very unhealthy. My daily diet included 50 pani puris, french fries and other junk. There was a time when I would feel ashamed to go out on the road! On sports days, I would see athletes running on the track and the girls cheering them and I would cry. I had reached an all-time low!
But change slowly came. In November 2011, I decided to join the local football club in my colony in Rashtriya Chemical Fertilizers (Mumbai). Back then, wearing football shorts, a size XXL, was embarrassing. But I was inspired by the determination of the other boys, who would fully encourage and support me. The RCF coach, Balin Singh, started training me. A Manipuri, who had played football for the senior Indian team in the 1990s, my coach used to live in the forests and taught me many natural techniques of regaining health.
I learned a lot from my coach such as yoga, stretching and meditation. I learned how to eat neem leaves and identify what leaves are suitable for eating. I learned body weight exercises such as squats and frog jumps. To lose weight, I had to skip 3,000 times each day in my room. We would also trek in the forests in the Navi Mumbai area on Sundays.
With time, I qualified to join the RCF junior football team. Last year, during the monsoons, we started road running to build endurance. My coach encouraged me to switch to distance running. My first race was the ‘Run India Run 10-kilometer’ in Borivili and I finished it in 50 minutes. My first big race was a half marathon at the Varsha Marathon in Thane in 2013, which I completed in 1:55. I finished my first 42-kilometer at the Mumbai Marathon for 4:02 and then the Mumbai Ultra this August where I ran 85 kilometers approximately in 12 hours. Over the past year, I have run close to 20 races.
I have learned a lot in these three years. Apart from my coach, I also observe other people and try and learn new things from them. I also research a lot. Today, I love my daily workouts. In fact, the more challenging, the better. At 67 kilos, I am fitter than ever. But I believe I can still go a long way.
Inderpal before and now!
So what attracts you to running?
My research shows that runners have the best heart functioning among anyone. And then, running has drastically changed my life. It has changed the way I look at and relate to the world and has given me patience and a calm mind, along with fitness. And then, I enjoy the camaraderie I enjoy from the running community. But having played football, I have learned that every sport is important and can change your life for the better. It’s just that running is my ‘source of happiness and satisfaction’. Finally, sports has helped me find fitness and I believe, ‘No wealth is bigger than fitness’.
Your training has been key to you turning around your life and making you a stronger runner. How do you train?
I run almost every day and also incorporate yoga, functional training and strength building in my daily routine. I do a long run of 30 kilometers or more on Sundays, followed by a five-kilometer recovery run or walk on Monday along with core exercises. Tuesdays are for two-hour long hill runs and Wednesdays for sand running on the Juhu beach. Thursdays again are for hill runs and Fridays for speed training. Saturdays are for endurance testing and I perform a variety of exercises including 1,000 skips, an assortment of core exercises, duck walk lunges, squats and stretches. In the evenings, I strength train at the gym. I run about 100 kilometers a week. My daily training also includes complete stretching with yoga asanas, five minutes of meditation, 500 skips, core strengthening with planks, frog jumps and others, and endurance building. At times, I run at nights from 11 pm to 1 am in my colony.
On nutrition, I learned a lot from my coach and do my own research as well. My breakfast comprises oats, an apple and a banana. At college I eat carrots, beetroots and a half litre of milk with a handful of dry fruits. Before training, I prefer water in which channa (chickpea) has been soaked overnight, alternatively, a raw egg yolk. In the evening, I again eat oats and apple with eight boiled eggs. At dinner, I prefer salad with rotis made of palak (spinach) or methi (fenugreek leaves). I avoid oily and junk food as it reminds me of the pain and effort I had to make to get fit.
How do you balance your studies with training?
Well I used to be a top ranker till my 12th standard so study seems to be quite an easy task for me. I manage by studying at night and regularly attending college.
You are fascinated by ultra running? Why is that?
I feel ultra running is the real deal. It’s going mad about running and going on for days and nights or even months together. I like each and every thing about it, the environment and camaraderie among the runners, and best of all, running along routes where nature is visible in all its glory. Ultra runners often get to see what most people don’t, despite having everything in the world.
You were one of the youngest participants to finish the Mumbai Ultra – 12 Hour Run. What was the experience like?
What I liked the most was the spirit of the Mumbai Ultra, as runners would cheer each other each time we crossed each other. I really liked that. And then, meeting with runners such as Arun Bhardwaj and Piyush Shah, the running engine of Ahmedabad, was a great experience. These veterans are true stars and are at the heart of running. I see them running and struggling for the pure joy of it. And I believe that if they can do it at their age, so can we being younger. I can’t imagine the world of running without them. Their stories of their awesome life experiences and adventures evokes a sense of India’s running history in me.
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently training for the Nilgiris Ultra 100 kilometers in December for which I have also applied for the Limca Book of Records as I will be the youngest to attempt this distance. I have big ambitions which include running Bhatti Lakes, Badwater, Ironman challenges, Skyrunning, Boston Marathon, Ladakh Khardung La Challenge… basically I want to represent India in some of the biggest races and run the whole world the way Raj Vadgama is running the whole of India.
I have a serious dream that when I have run all the races of my life and achieved the level of fitness I want to, I will one day leave my home and cover as much of the country as I can without stopping. I will stop where I die. This may sound exaggerated, but I really want to achieve this. It is my biggest dream!