A couple from Powai has become the country’s first to finish a 100km race. Sangeeta and Sunil Shetty were on the podium at the Bangalore Ultra last weekend, an ultra-marathon where runners attempt distances of 50, 75 and 100km, and even a 24-hour run.
Sunil (51), who runs a learning development firm, finished the race in 13 hours and 37 minutes to come second in the men’s veteran’s section while Sangeeta (46) clocked 16 hours and 47 minutes and was the only woman to finish the 100km within the cut-off time of 17 hours.
Their way to the milestone started in 2006, when Sunil, who was an avid runner in his college days, wanted to lose the pounds he had piled on due to his sedentary job. Within 18 months since he resumed running, he had lost 24kg to weigh a healthy 64. A few months later, he was clocking 12km in 90 minutes. His first marathon was the 2009 Mumbai Marathon, where he ran the half marathon (21km) in 3 hours. “I was so drained out that I promised myself I will never run that distance again,” said Sunil. “I have kept my promise. Only, I run four times that distance now.”
Sangeeta played basketball, badminton and table tennis in her college days, but did not pursue a sport thereafter. Also, she had gained a lot of weight after childbirth. Seeing Sunil’s progress, she joined him in his long runs. When she ran her first full marathon in 2012, she clocked 5 hours and 40 minutes, 20 minutes faster than her husband’s 2011 run.
A meeting with an athletics coach motivated the two to run longer distances. “We ran 75km in the 2012 Ultra and did well. So we decided to go for the 100km. We knew no Indian couple had accomplished the feat,” said Sunil.
The Shettys’ accomplishments have come very early in their running life. “The reason we are successful is because we do not run for pace, we run for time,” said Sunil. “We do this by building on patience.”
TARGET 2014: 24-HOUR RUN
Runs a learning development firm. Previously held a sales job with an M&C
Bangalore Ultra, 100km | 13 hours, 37 minutes. Second in men’s veteran’s section
Homemaker. Was a pharmacist. Quit before the birth of daughter Rhea
Bangalore Ultra, 100km | 16 hours, 47 minutes. Only woman in senior category to finish 100km within cut-off time of 17 hours
2006 | Sunil, overweight at 88kg, starts running. In 18 months, can run 8km at a go
Loses 24kg to weigh 64kg Dec 2008 | Does 12km in 90 minutes Jan 2009 | 21km in 3 hours (Mumbai Marathon, Half) Jan 2010 | 42km in over 5 hours (Mumbai Marathon, Full) Sep 2013 | 50km in under 6 hours
Oct | 60km in about 7 hours
Nov | 100km in under 14 hours
Sangeeta’s training was similar
For the Bangalore run, the couple trained intensely for 4 months
They would go to bed by 10.30pm, wake up at 2am and start running by 3.30am. Their strategy was to run for 8 minutes and walk for 2 minutes, repeating the loop
SETTING AN EXAMPLE Amit and Neepa Sheth were the first Indian couple to finish an ultra-marathon: In 2010, they ran in the 89km Comrade marathon in South Africa, where participants get a 12-hour window to finish the race