On The Run | Sandeep Sachdev

Sandeep Sachdev was just another obese guy working a sedentary job at a bank. In 2007, his life turned upside down. He went on a weight-loss reality show called Biggest Loser Jeetega and won it. Sachdev was so hooked to the feeling of being fit that he soon began to train to be a fitness expert. But the thing that moved him most was running. Nothing felt as good as a long morning run. By 2010, he was running his first marathon. Last month, Sachdev, 31, ran his third Mumbai Marathon, bringing his tally to three full and four half marathons in three years. He shares his running story. Edited excerpts:

You went from being overweight to being a fitness trainer. How did running come into the picture?

I developed my passion for running while I was on the show. Initially it was tough, but then I started challenging myself in terms of improving my timing per kilometre, running longer distances, and I started dedicating a kilometre for everyone in my life. Running was and is like meditation for me. The credit goes to my trainers on the show. In just 60 days, I started running a full marathon and my biggest high was when Deepika (one of the show’s trainers) and I did a 7km run on the treadmill and I won by a difference of 1 minute. My fellow contestants gave me a name: “The machine". In 2011, I gave myself a goal of running 1,800km through the year, and I did it. In 2012, I increased the goal to 2,400km and completed 2,428km.

What do you like and dislike about running in Mumbai?

I love running outdoors in the morning, whether it’s Mumbai or Delhi. I love jogging on Marine Drive and Juhu Beach. One of my most memorable runs in Mumbai has been from Malad to Churchgate, when I started at 4.30am, reached there by 7.30am, had a good breakfast at the Taj (The Taj Mahal Palace), and took a train to work.

What’s your favourite running gear?

My Nike Dry Fit T-shirt, black shorts, amazing music on my phone.

What’s your running soundtrack?

My all-time favourite is Eye of the Tiger from RockyIII. I always start my marathons to that. Progressive trance like Armin van Buuren, Hardwell and Swedish House Mafia set the pace for the rest of the run. If there isn’t music, running becomes boring for me.

What’s your training routine for a marathon like?

Running on different speed levels is the key rather than being on one speed level because that’s how one paces himself/herself in a marathon. So I do a ratio of 60% high-intensity training, 30% medium-intensity training and 10% at a low intensity. A big run of 21km would be a part of every weekend, in addition to at least four runs worth 10-12km each in the week, plus functional-strength training like kettlebell and some sessions of yoga.

What’s the most challenging race you’ve run?

Undoubtedly the 2010 Mumbai Marathon, which is the first time I ran a full one. Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), the starting point, has never looked as fantastic as it did that day. My friend and I ran together. It was such a high, there were people everywhere cheering and clapping. By the time we reached Chowpatty, children were screaming out the bib numbers whenever a runner passed and I could clearly hear mine called out: 3915. The unbelievable part for a new runner like me was that I was only on my seventh kilometre when I saw the elite runners crossing their 16km mark. The Kenyans were fast. They ran in a group, like a flock of birds. I was in awe. By the time I had reached the 32km mark, my feet started to hurt. My left foot had blisters and the right one had some cuts on it. I had to start walking. I knew I couldn’t run any farther, so I decided to complete the marathon by walking the last 10km. It totally messed up my timing, but completing the run mattered more. I ran the last 100m, and I love everyone who was still waiting at the finishing line for me.

What is the dream marathon that you’d like to run?

My dream is to run all the major marathons across the world, including the New York City Marathon and the Great Wall Marathon (China). If my partner ever happens to be into running like me, then I would love to run the Auroville Marathon with her on Valentine’s Day, which is usually when this marathon takes place.

On the Run is a monthly series that profiles India’s most enthusiastic marathon runners.

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