Naval officers Ram Ratan and Sanjay Kumar hope to set a new Guinness record with their Kanyakumari to Kashmir run

 Ultra runners Ram Ratan (left) and Sanjay Kumar

Ultra runners Ram Ratan (left) and Sanjay Kumar

The sun was relentless, yet ultra runners Ram Ratan and Sanjay Kumar made it on time to their pit stop on the Neelambur highway, on the outskirts of Coimbatore, to a grand welcome. The two naval officers are on the second leg of their K2K (Kanyakumari to Kashmir) run; the duo bids to cover the distance in a record time of 56 days.

From Kerala to Tamil Nadu

“We started the run at 4 am in Palakkad in order to reach Coimbatore by 2 pm,” says Sanjay Kumar, adding, “The winds blowing in a backward direction through the Palakkad Gap slowed us down a bit, but we just kept running. Our training in high altitude running from Manali to Leh has prepared us to take on challenging weather conditions.” They both look visibly exhausted but are determined to complete their mission. “We want to raise awareness on non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension that are caused because of an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle,” says Ram Ratan, adding, “We decided to run in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The best way to create awareness is leading by example.”

Ram and Sanjay started their run on January 12, on National Youth Day, and plan to end it on March 8, the International Women’s Day. The first leg of their run covered Kanyakumari to Thiruvananthapuram. In the upcoming phases, they will cover Thiruvananthapuram to Bengaluru, then onto Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi. The final leg is from Delhi to Srinagar. An SUV with a three-member team that includes a physiotherapist follows them. “We stick to a highway-to-highway route and try covering 80 kilometres a day, but we also ensure there is sufficient rest,” explains Sanjay.

Warm reception

The runners are thrilled with the reception they get at the pit stops. “Our seniors meet us and encourage us by running a few kilometres along with us. Several running groups like Fort Runners of Palakkad, Soles of Kochi and Soles of Kollam cheered us and ran along with us to keep us going,” says Sanjay. The duo hopes to set a Guinness world record with its run; the existing record for a K2K run is held by Sufiya Khan who did it in 87 days. “It was Sanjay who inspired me to take up this challenge. Though I have done short distance ultra-marathons covering 100 to 200 kilometres, I have done nothing of this scale before,” says Ratan, who has previously done a 111-kilometre run from Leh to Ladakh.

Sanjay has earlier completed a 480-kilometre run from Manali to Leh, crossing all the five Himalayan passes consecutively for five days and setting a new record. “We took part in cross-training like swimming and cycling to build endurance and stamina. We also did a 78-kilometre endurance run to equip ourselves,” Sanjay says.

The duo adds: “We underwent rigorous training for four months before we embarked on this mission of a lifetime.” The run is supported by Together We Can, a Kochi-based public charitable trust that works on issues related to child rights, disability, education and mental health.

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