Extended version of Run&Bee column in Hindustan Times:

Week 52: Fitness a way of life but not the only thing in life

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I write this note from our Army hospital. Today is my 20th day in Hospital as my adventure of 24 hour run on 15-16 December turned out to be a misadventure.
— Lt Col Inderjit Singh
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Amongst runners ‘Death Before DNF (Did Not Finish) is a very jazzy thing to say but when death comes calling, the bravest of us are humbled. Even more importantly, we need to realise that living on the edge is all good but there is more to life.

This is the message that I got from one of my favourite finishers of 111 kms of La Ultra - The High in the 2018 edition. Lt Col Inderjit Singh, who rightly likes to call himself Coolest Jeet, reminds me of Iceman in Top-Gun, a movie that I have been a big fan of. He doesn’t go about beating his chest for his accomplishments. He is very calm and approaches each challenge methodically. 

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But something had gone awfully wrong. Coolest Jeet admits that this happened because he took things very casually. There was no proper training, lack of hydration and proper diet. There was runner’s greed to achieve more mileage. He had consumed just two gels while covering 170 kms plus distance during this race. 

I didn’t face much problems immediately after the run except for the fatigue which everyone had. 48h after reaching my base in Himalayas, problems started with mild fever, cough and chest congestion for which I was given antibiotics from hospital. Suddenly things took a turn for the worst. I was in ICU for three days with oxygen mask. But then God was very kind to me and I recovered well.
— Coolest Jeet
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Jeet now recognises his previous blunders in life, which at the time seemed like super-human efforts but now appreciates that he simply got lucky. In 2017 he ran 72 kms at Khardung La Challenge with just 3 days of acclimatisation, when minimum should be a week. This simply could have been fatal. 

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Last year he ran 74 kms at Garhwal Runs on 18th February, followed a week later  by IDBI full marathon with his personal best time of 3 hours 30 minutes, a total recipe for disaster as you need to be giving your body ample rest to recover. As if this wasn’t enough, he ran a half marathons (21 kms) for next three Sundays with an average time of 1h and 35 minutes. 

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We all fall for this when even the most humble of us get an ego boost by being made brand ambassadors for running brands and events. We try to prove our mettle by pushing beyond our limits as by now we have a huge fan following. We need to live up to the expectations and keep adding to the credibility. 

As much as runners and fence-sitter fitness enthusiasts are making these mistakes, I have always been of the opinion that it is the responsibility of running brands and running event organisers to first look out for safety of the participants that help their brands become what they are. You might legally get away because you have got a disclaimer signed or have expensive lawyers backing you up, but morally you are failing people who blindly follow you. 

Jeet has gone back to the basics.

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I am more focused, with one baby step at a time,  concentrating more on technique, well balanced diet, focus on hydration, paying attention to heart rate, working well within limits, knowing my limitations and strong points, not going into the rate race with all that bravado that I earlier did. My dear wife is allowing me to run but the moment I touch 6 kms, her weapon emerges out from nowhere even though she is 1000 miles away from me. I know I have a family, the bigger family, the Indian Army and I have responsibilities to them. Running is a passion but not a profession. Fitness is a way of life but not the only thing in life. I would advise that you need to balance it out, which is a key word now, which was missing earlier.
— Coolest Jeet

This column came on the day when Hindustan Times was reporting about how Nadal beat Fed-Errr-Errr. It was also about the upcoming new champions in the ladies circuit. Sadly this society only talks about the winners. If Nadal loses in the final, it’ll all be about the new champion. It is important for you to realise that living on the edge and winning is all good but there is more to life.

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