Kieren Dsouza is one of the wonder boys of ultra marathon. The 23-year-old Banglorean scripted history when he became the first Indian ever to complete the Spartathlon, the world’s toughest race. What was more impressive about Kieren’s feat was that he was participating in this race for the first time and had no coach to guide him.
Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Guardian, the impish faced Kieren said that finishing the Spartathlon was like a dream come true. “As a youngster, I had read a lot about the hardships faced by runners to complete this and when I crossed the finishing line, I had to pinch myself . It was one of the greatest feeling which I have ever experienced,” he said.
What was it that made the Sparathlon the toughest race in the world?
“The fact that only about 50% of the runners have managed to finish this race in the 34-year-old- history of the Spartathlon goes to show how demanding and tough it is for a runner to finish it. Apart from this, there are a couple of factors which makes finishing this race such a tough ask,” Kieren said.
“Well a runner has to cover 240 kms in about 36 hours. That is a near impossible feat and then the fact that most of the race is run on roads compounds the challenge. Running on roads and that too such a big distance can be extremely punishing,” he added.
The terrain to be covered in the last 150 km of the Spartathlon was also a big factor as to why runners found it so difficult to complete this, opined Kieren. “The fact that the final stretch of nearly 150 km is a mountainous one makes this race so difficult. Running such a long distance on mountains is almost impossible,” he said.
Moving away from his epoch making feat in the Spartathlon, Kieren said life as a ultramarathoner presented him a lot of challenges. ”I have been competing in ultramarathons for nearly six years and I must say that each day is a challenge in itself. In an ultra marathon where the distance can range from 50 to 200km, it›s very important that one has the proper diet and training schedule. And for someone like me who doesn’t have a coach or a nutritionist, the challenge is much bigger,” he added.
Kieren, whose father is in the Air Force, says he talks to a lot of runners during the ultra marathon events and try to imbibe their ways. “Since I don’t have a coach, I have to talk to other runners in order to understand the sort of diet they take and also to get an insight into their training methods. Mind you we have to eat protein rich food since you are burning out so much,” he said. He said that he took a lot of energy shakes and drinks to substantiate his diet.
Even training is very scientific. “You have to be used to long distance running but then the key is how to pace yourself before an event. One needs to strike the right balance between hardwork and rest,” he pointed out.
When asked who were his idols, this writer was in for a surprise. Normally one would hear the names of Federer, Djokovic, Sachin, Messi. So when Kieren mentioned a certain Australian named Cliff Young, he was asked who he was. It was then Kieren said that Cliff was a 60-year-old who ran and won a race all the way from Melbourne to Sydney. What made his feat all the more special was that he had never had any race in his life before and that he ran the race in gum boots as he didn’t have a pair of running shoes. I have never met him or spoken to him but then that shows the fortitude of the man,” he added.
Kieren also thanked Volini for their support. “I use Volini spray and cream during unwinding after the races,” he said.