Mumbai’s Pushpa Bhatt has run more miles in her golden years than most people do in a lifetime. At 64, that count is still rising.
“I feel free and liberated when I run. I remember having missed my run one day. It kept on bothering me for the rest of the day. This is what running does to you, it becomes a part of your daily routine,” she explains, in a rather conversational tone.
Ready, Get Set, Go
Pushpa has had plenty to keep her busy, through a time in a person’s life when a pair of running shoes are often as important as eating healthy. That is evident from the room lined with medals and other keepsakes from decades of almost relentless athletic competition.
It hasn’t always been this way. Needless to say, she is not your typical runner. Once a trekking enthusiast, Pushpa didn’t start running competitively, or even casually, until her late 40s. She quickly found she was good at it, and with minimal training, she was soon placing herself in her age group in long-distance marathons.
Come rain, shine or snowfall, Pushpa now runs 75-85 km in a week on an average basis. For the 64-year-old mother, staying on her feet has been an essential part of her long life, and it has kept the loneliness of her later years at bay. Having run ten full marathons (including two World Majors), four ultra-marathons, and several half-marathons, her unbounded energy bears the consequence of her passion towards running.
Steady As She Goes
The competitive spirit that was whipped up in her 50s still continues to remain today. That is part of the reason things haven’t always been easy — though still at it, there are realities to be faced with running into your 60s.
But today, 64 is no longer a division, separating the vibrant and the young from the doddering and slobbering. To find a lot of sixty-somethings marathoning is somehow a rare sight to behold, but what’s noteworthy here is Pushpa’s overarching desire to not quit. And she makes no concessions to growing older.
“My age has never bothered me. All I can say is that my capability has improved with age. I am privileged to have met so many like-minded people, to have shared my emotions, and do what we all love. When you are caught up with a mid-life crisis but strive to do much better and more in life, that’s when most people take up running. I see young people too, it feels good to see the awareness among people today. Children are learning about the sport by watching their parents run,” Pushpa says with a laugh.
What she does possess is a slight build, besides an unwavering dedication to pit herself against the clock, both the internal one and the one at the finish line. She wants the world to know something, that she is not leaving anything behind. No regrets, no fear. Still pushing her body to the limit. Still running competitive races. Taking on new challenges. Why? More like, why not?
Inevitably though, training is key, you can’t wing a marathon. It is a mental phenomenon right from the start, and the training helps make you mentally strong too. That the power of the mind can get you through the most difficult situations. It’s inspiring. It’s invigorating. And it’s contagious.
Part of that has come with learning from running world’s highest and toughest ultra-marathon, Khardungla 72 km Ultra-Marathon, in September last year. “Even the best of ultra-runners give up on this adventure. It tests your limits and here I was foraying into the ultra world at the age of 63. In spite of a difficult 14-hours run, I overshot the official cut-off-time by four minutes due to avoidable and unavoidable circumstances. I had three painkillers for my aching back. I became more confident that I managed to finish the race and have only returned much stronger and better,” Pushpa says.
What’s even more impressive about her is that she keeps getting better at it. Asked why she keeps running, Pushpa candidly says she enjoys feeling joy and happiness in little things. Her approach remains pragmatic. She finds running brings as much apprehension as joy.
So, have you begun running yet?