Waiter, Daily Wage Labour, National Record holder - Ram Baboo's dreamy rise
From digging holes during lockdown to smashing NR at National Games 2022, Ram Baboo has a journey full of hard work and grit.
During the COVID lockdown, while her son was digging roads in the Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh, a mother would dream of everyone knowing her son. That day finally arrived when Ram Baboo broke the national record in 35km race walking at the ongoing National Games and everybody is talking about him.
"I called my mother just after the race and told her I broke the national record. She is happy. My dad will know when he is back from his daily work," Ram Baboo said while still catching his breath.
The new national record holder of 35km race walking was almost exhausted at the end of the race but supported by cheers and shouts of viewers, he pushed to win the gold.
Talking to The Bridge, he said "I was a little anxious when the race started. I said to myself to calm down and things will fall in place. Once the race started I was calm and just did my thing."
Ram Baboo is learning about the game every day and he focuses on his technical understanding to help him through the race. "Everyone has a strategy for long-distance running. My strategy is to go patiently for the first five km and observe how my body reacts. Then continue at your pace and follow the strategy," Ram explained his strategy.
Coming from the Bahura village of Sonbhadra district in UP, Ram started as a marathon runner but had to leave that discipline due to a lack of money. "I started in 2014 by running marathons. With time I realized that the marathon has fewer competitions and the amount of diet and training needed for it was tough for me to afford."
"I had no sponsorship. I worked to support my training and look for people who can help me in attaining my goals on Social media," Ram recalled.
Starting out as a waiter at a hotel in Banaras, Ram had to work more than ten hours a day to support his training.
"I barely had support from my home. It was tough to have two times meals also. I started as a waiter at hotels but the workload there was too much for me to recover from my training," remembered the athlete from UP.
The journey from that hotel of Banaras to the podium of the National games hasn't been any fairytale. "I switched multiple jobs. I used to stitch courier packages also. But the workload was so much that I couldn't recover and sustained an injury. I left that job also. During COVID I worked as a daily wage labourer also.," he said.
Ram changed from running to race walking at the suggestion of local athletics coach Pramod Yadav.
"Luckily I was selected for the athletics camp of Northern Coal Field Ltd. The coach there suggested changing my event and trying rack walking. Race walking was tough for me. I attempted 18km for the first time but it felt like 50km. I almost fainted after the first race but then I trained hard," he said.
Ram started training for the 50km race walking but soon World Athletics changed the event to 35km race walking which resulted in him changing the field. After winning gold at National Open Athletics Championship, Ram went to the World Cup to represent India.
"I performed badly at the World Cup. I had performed well in trials but it didn't work out at the top level and I suffered a hamstring injury there."
"Hamstring injury was tough for me. My coaches were not in favour of my training. At times I lied to my coaches to train. Eventually, I broke the national record in 35km race walking today," Ram chuckled.
Starting as a waiter and now standing as the National Record Holder, the journey of Ram Baboo is the story of grit and determination. The road to Asian Games in China and Olympics in Paris might be long but Ram is determined to make it there.