MRC Admin Sandeep introduces Ravi: On an early morning in February this year, me and two of my friends set out on our bicycles on a ride to Agumbe from Manipal. On the way we were joined by a tall, lanky guy who i’d only talked to once before, on the phone, and whose face I couldn’t even make out under his biking helmet until we were at least an hour from Manipal. We got to the base of the Agumbe hill, had breakfast and started out for the climb. Within the first 500 metres of the twisty, snake-like road rising up the mountain, me and my friends disembarked, blown away by the grade and the sun. But this new guy just takes off and leaves us biting the dust. I only saw him once before getting to the top, at the halfway point. And when we did crest the hill, he’d already been there for a good half hour. Since then, I’ve been on many rides and runs with him, most notably on a bicycle trip from Coimbatore to Ooty and back. Even then, by the time I and Jesu got to the top, shivering, wet, numb from the 10 degree cold and the full day’s exertion, Ravi had already checked into the hotel, had had a nice hot shower and had been cooling his heels in front of the TV. To this day I believe Ravi Shankar never got off his saddle once during the 10km ride up the Agumbe hill, nor the 50km ride up the Ooty hill.
Ravi’s endurance and single-minded focus on his goals, and the lengths he’ll go to to achieve them, never ceases to amaze me. He’s one of the few people I’ve met who are absolutely dedicated to what they want to become and where they want to be, never getting sidetracked or discouraged. He was a part of the championship-winning university squash team, the university cross country team which participated in the national championships, the college athletics team, and is a decorated half marathon and ultra marathon runner. He also recently claimed the coveted International title of a Super Randonneur, which is given to people who have successfully completed bicycle rides of 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometers in one season (which lasts about 8 months in a year). Despite all this, he remains a warm, friendly, humble and down-to-earth person, always on the lookout for the next bit of adventure. Here’s a bit of an insight into this guy’s story who I am honored to count as a friend.
How did you take up running? What motivated you?
We had cross-country runs everyday when i was studying in Ooty so i decided to try out for the MIT athletics team. It was here that i realized that i liked to push myself over longer distances rather than race shorter distances. I completed my first 10k in my second year of college and haven’t stopped running since. The love for running and the feeling of satisfaction after a intense workout/race has kept me hooked ever since.
How important was sport in your schooling? How has it contributed to shaping you as a person today?
I was lucky to grow up in a boarding school surrounded by 150 acres of forest in Ketti valley, Ooty. We played everyday(there was nothing else to do outside of class hours) and i played every sport our school had to offer from cricket and football to TT and chess. This was probably why i never quite excelled at any particular sport.
Our school had this routine where all students in 5th grade and above had to run 1.5kms at 5:30 in the morning and 2 or 4 kms in the evening depending on your age group. I wasn’t the fastest but i used to jog the entire route while others walked or bunked halfway back to hostel. It was here that i fell in love with running and haven’t stopped since.
What turned into you a dedicated runner?
My desire to challenge myself over longer distances
What has been your best achievement so far?
Completing the Bengaluru half marathon 2016 in 1h 39m.
How’s it running in your hometown or the place you’re currently staying at?
Bengaluru has a very vibrant running community but it’s very difficult to find good spaces to train here and history of dogs chasing me has kept me off the roads of Bengaluru. For shorter distances i use the treadmill and longer runs are on a cricket ground close to my office. At home i train on a 400m athletic track in a nearby school.
How do you train?
I run three times a week with alternate days of recovery by cross-training on my cycle. Longer runs are usually reserved for the weekends.
How do your experiences in running and cycling feed back into each other? What can you learn from one that you can apply to the other?
Endurance cycling and running, while mostly similar in terms of preparation and fitness, have their unique challenges. Running puts more pressure on the body while cycling is less stressful and with so many advancements in cycling technology it is becoming easier to cover larger distances. However, running events under 50kms are usually in a controlled environment( usually morning runs with fixed route and ample refreshment points), whereas endurance cycling events(brevets) require a lot more planning and adaptation(sleep is a issue for rides above 300km and riding through varied weather conditions).
One thing common to both is that it helps to break your ride or run into smaller segments. Let me get to the next town or the next 3 kms and lets take it from there. This helps you from getting overwhelmed and focus on task at hand. The last you need while nearing the 100km point with the sun beating down on you and battling headwinds is to think about the 500kms left to cover.
When you’re at your most fatigued physically and/or mentally during one of your long distance runs or rides, what keeps you going?
What you do when you’re down and out both mentally and physically to the point of total exhaustion defines you as an endurance athlete. It’s very important to stay positive during these situations. You need to find that little bit more to push yourself at that point. Personally, i hate quitting more than i love to win. The feeling that i would have to live with after quitting is what spurs me on. Visualizations help too. Some people visualize themselves completing the race, some think of their loved ones and some draw strength from their past experiences. Its important to identify what works for each person and that comes from experience.
What are you future goals?
Completing a 100 mile run and doing a sub three hour marathon.
What sort of people have you met through running?
You get to meet different kinds of people each with a story to share. One humbling experience was when a 65 year old overtook me during the 2016 Bengaluru marathon(one i did my PB in). Another was witnessing a person with a walking disability complete a midnight half marathon. Both these gentleman personify what distance running is about – willpower and dedication.
What are some quotes that inspire you?
If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do.
– Michael Phelps
Run for 20 minutes and you’ll feel better. Run another 20 and you might tire. Add on 3 hours and you’ll hurt, but keep going and you’ll see—and hear and smell and taste—the world with a vividness that will make your former life pale.