On a regular morning, Ranjana Deopa wakes up her two kids, puts them in the car and drives 14 km to Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium, where they take their swimming classes. She then does her own 40 laps in the 50-metre pool, before heading to work. Over the weekends, it’s long bike rides, with runs thrown in through the week. Ranjana, like many people in India today, is training for her first Ironman (3.8 km swim, 180.2 km cycle, 42.2 km run) in South Korea, after having done a half-Ironman (1.8 km swim, 90 km cycle, 21 km run) in Bahrain. She is a part of the 5000-odd people who are triathletes in India.
“It’s the variety that drives people, the challenge of it as well,” says Deepak Raj, an Australia-based triathlete and coach, who offers personalised training in India through the online Yoska platform. Just running or cycling has a certain monotony to it, and can strain certain muscle groups. Swimming adds to the mix and helps you relax. Also, the sport is a great platform for socialisation because you visit new places and meet new people, he says.
“Training in all three disciplines in India requires imagination – one has to be able to imagine success before struggling with huge doses of inconvenient reality,” says Anu Vaidyanathan, in her book Anywhere But Home: Adventures in Endurance. Vaidyanathan is Asia’s first Ultraman (10 km swim, 421 km cycle, 84 km run), who followed it on with an Ironman within three weeks. In her book, she describes situations of dogs chasing her as she ran, private pools that she had to sneak into, and being mowed down when cycling. But she persisted, with determination.
“All this is par for the course,” says Raghvendra Jhala, who organises the race in Baroda. “We aren’t going to get dedicated cycling tracks and pools aren’t going to open up overnight,” he says. That’s no excuse to sit at home and watch TV, seems to be the chorus! Especially since there are about 15 triathlons of varying lengths in India today, each attended by as many as anywhere from 140 to 1300 people. So let’s head out.