This is no ordinary story. This is an epic. Keshav Manik Tahla from a small town called Yamunanagar did what had never been done before in the history of the event*. He ran 5,300 km in a 100 days in the 2018 edition of 100 Days of Running, through thick and thin, come hell or high water. Here is his story.
(*verified and confirmed, there have been other records by other runners in previous editions of HDOR but doubts persist on their genuineness)
The Coke Runner
A small-towner from Yamunanagar, Keshav Manik Tahla has been into the sport of running for a long time, with many half marathons, full marathons, ultras, and trail running under his belt. As a rule, Keshav does not participate in any event other than the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, as he ran his life’s first half marathon in the same event in 2011 (though he does participate in stadium runs for the sheer love of ultra running and the great support system provided to sustain the ultra distances). However, he made an exception to this rule by deciding to participate in the 2018 edition of 100 Days of Running (HDOR) .
“ While most are dreaming of success, winners wake up and work hard to achieve it. ” – Anonymous
Keshav’s dreams are many, and he wrote his own success story in the 100 Days of Running event. At No. 1, Keshav occupied this coveted position on the leaderboard since the beginning of the event and never let it slip—even once.
HDOR: The Journey
The event this year was tougher than in all the previous years, and Keshav had to run during various hours of the day (and night) to meet his pre-decided targets. As he burned the midnight oil to kill the targeted number of miles, he rarely tasted the joy of running during the early hours of the day. Starting late also meant slogging throughout the afternoon under the scorching sun at temperatures as high as 46 degrees right until midnight because his daily target was as huge as 70-80 km for the entire month of July.
Shuttling between family and work, Keshav made many sacrifices during the course of the event. His greatest regret would have been to miss the Amarnath Yatra this year, even after booking tickets for the pilgrimage, but he somehow made it because of his eccentricity and stubbornness. He booked fresh tickets in the last week of July, successfully completed his yatra in one go, and even managed another half marathon on the same day without compromising on his mileage. He clocked a mighty 500 km that particular week !
Not only this, he covered an astounding 200 km in Sonmarg, at the altitude of 10,000 ft , with thin air, steep inclines, and three back-to-back half marathons !!!
“This crazy runner never failed to surprise us…”
- Just into the first 40 days of the event, I asked Keshav (hesitatingly, mind you) if he could run 50 km per day during the last 50 days of the event. By Jove! He did. 60 km x 50 days !!!!
- How he managed to cover such gigantic/humongous distances?
- Bohot sari zid and sheer consistency
- Poorn Brahmcharyaya for complete 100 Days (Physical, mental and virtual)
- Just after HDOR started, Keshav took up another self-created challenge —doing a minimum of 50 squats and pushups every day. Little did he know then that he would have to stay on the running track for seven to eight hours every day! But in all this chaos and pressure, he didn’t miss his workout for even a single day; instead, the number of squats and pushups went up to 100 per day. By the end of this challenge, he had done 10,000 squats and 10,000 pushups in 100 days , without missing a single day. A superhuman feat!
- An extraterrestrial intelligent being, this sportsperson believes “Knowledge is Power“, having been the district topper in his Class 12 board exams. He had also cleared the IAS prelims. And wait, there’s more! His CAT score was 99.68 percentile and he had four calls from IIM. For leisure, he has his own, personal library with a collection of more than 1,000 books.
- He runs for numbers and his obsession with numbers is well-known by now. For instance, he did 111.11 km on both the Global and the Indian running days . He did 50 km on the 50th day of the challenge, 60 km on the 60th day , and so on and finished the event with a bang by clocking a single, straight run of 100 km on the 100th day . He has two phone numbers, both ending with 00000 ! How he managed that figure from the service providers is beyond my imagination.
- Just like his love for ultra running, he has an immense love for ultra drives too. He has driven from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Chandigarh to Tawang – 3000Kms each (all self-driven). However, quite to the contrary during this challenge, he couldn’t even drive half the kilometers he ran. In 100 days, he drove merely 2,389 km by car, less than half of what he ran (5,300 km)—perhaps he didn’t really need the car, as he made his feet his primary mode of transportation!
It hasn’t been easy to get him to write this article on himself. First, because he was reluctant to do so and, second, due to a lack of time. He has hardly any left after running seven to eight hours every day, rushing off to his workplace (he had abandoned his office completely during the last 50 days of HDOR), returning home, and repeating this routine day in and day out. However, this runner, who is also an avid reader, finally managed to pen down his thoughts, and here they are.
– As reported by HDOR participant and avid runner, Irina Hazarika Barua
Q&A With Keshav
Why I Run?
“I’ve had smarter people around me all my life, but I haven’t run into one yet that can outwork me. And if they can’t outwork you, then smarts aren’t going to do them much good ” – Woody Hayes, American footballer and coach
I live by these words, “I know I’m not the fastest, not the strongest for sure, and definitely not the most talented, but I’m blessed with a grit to outwork anyone! This is who I truly am.”
Most often, people start running to shed a few kilos or make it a mechanism to find their lost souls. My reason for embarking on the running journey was to do what I love doing the most—to run—only for my soul, to keep going—come what may, test my limits, for the ever-beautiful numbers, and so much more. Running to me has always been an individual sport; it’s been my way of uniting with Mother Nature and with my soul within. At least, that’s how it all started.
In a few months, I realized that running was going to last for a longer time than I had thought! I had certain moments of truth—I had inherited the sport’s genes from my father who was a state-level sprinter during his college days, and so, giving up was not in my blood! Also, I had the flames of extremism burning inside me during my routine runs—whether long or short, on the hills or flats, in boiling summers or grueling winters! I had the courage to run my solo 100 km just after two months of running. Sounds crazy right? That’s what I’m built to be—unapologetically crazy!
I have never lived my life by the rulebook! Never, ever!
I don’t sleep early, but yes, I do wake up in the wee hours and give my soul a few miles. I don’t eat healthy (at least not by any dietician’s standards). I eat everything and at any given hour. I live on Coke and bacon (certainly not terming this as advisable). Yes, I run in the morning, in the afternoon, evening, and at night as well (knowing well enough that I inhale CO2 during my evening and night runs). But, these are a few things that work for me. And my body has identified them as a catalyst for satisfied running. It may or may not work for others!
I have not achieved much that is worthwhile, but here are a few milestones:
- 24-Hour Stadium Run: 1
- 12-Hour Stadium Run: 4
- Yamunanagar to Chandigarh self-supported 100K : 3
- 50 km: A dozen or two
- Covered 13000 Lifetime Kilometres so far
- Covered 3 countries, 18 States, and 23 Cities on foot to date
- Highest Temperature: 50 degrees
- Lowest Temperature: -5 degrees
- Maximum Altitude: 18,380 ft
- Lowest Altitude: -40 ft
- 300 Half Marathons
- 30 Ultra Marathons
- Maximum Distance for a Particular Day: 133 km
- Maximum Distance for a Particular Month: 1959 km
- Fastest Full Marathon: 3:52:39
- Fastest Half Marathon: 1:39:28
- Fastest 10 Kilometers: 46:46
- Fastest 5 Kilometers: 21:21
- Fastest Mile: 5:55
- Toughest attempted run: From Leh to Khardungla Pass , which is at an altitude of 18000+ feet with oxygen levels depleting to 40% and an altitude gain (gradient) of more than 8,000 feet in just 30 km.
My Bucket List
- Running from Delhi to Chandigarh : 250 km
- Chandigarh to Indore : 1500 km
- Running a Full/Half Marathon in all the 192 countries on this planet: Current Score (3/192)
- 1000 Consecutive Sunday Half Marathons: Current Score (128/1000)*
- 100 Consecutive 50 kms on the first of every quarter: Current Score (7/100)
- One Hundred 100 kms: Current Score (10/100)
- Spartathlon : 246 km
Finest of my dreams (maybe over-ambitious)
- To summit the mighty Everest
- To conquer the one of the world’s most difficult human race: Badwater Ultramarathon
*Yes, I just completed my 100th consecutive Sunday half marathon. And trust me, this self-supported challenge is one-thousand times more difficult than running regularly for 100 consecutive days because you get into sync when you run daily. But, running a Half Marathon every Sunday after a gap of six working days, including traveling, working, meeting deadlines, fulfilling work commitments, and many more challenges, is absolutely crazy.
100 Days of Running 2018 – A challenge overcome
I am a solo runner and love to finish races with my Signature Style Finishing Sprint . ” If you are running parallel to me during the second half of any race, you have already lost it because it is during this time that I get ferocious and give it all toward the end.”
The 100 Days of Running was no exception, and I was determined to end it with my Signature Style:
A Strong Negative Split:
- First 50 Days: 2300 km
- Last 50 Days: 3000 km
Despite heavy rains and humidity as high as 97%, I clocked 3000 km in the last 50 days of HDOR.
My Finishing Sprint in the Final 10 Days:
- First, 200 km in 75 hours in the Mighty Himalayas , at an altitude of 10,000 ft :
- And for the last 5 days, I clocked 5 Consecutive Ultra Marathons , covering 5 States and 1 Union Territory , clocking a massive 400 km during this period:
- Score: 5300 km
- Half Marathons: 128
- Full Marathons: 4
- Ultra Marathons: 18
- Total: 150
- Weight from 71 kg to 54.9 kg
- Fat percentage from 12% to 5%
- Resting heart rate from 52 to 41
- Size of my running T-Shirt from M to XS
Challenges Won in Parallel
While attempting HDOR, I participated in parallel in the Strava monthly challenges and tested my endurance against the finest of athletes from more than 100 countries, with the number of participants ranging between 150,000 and 200,000 for each challenge. I scored rank 01 in two of the monthly challenges and rank 02 for the second month.
List of challenges
- Strava May Challenge: Rank 01 (1,96,194 Participants)
- Strava June Challenge: Rank 02 (1,86,753 Participants)
- Strava July Challenge: Rank 01 (1,74,393 Participants)
- Indian Marathon May Challenge: Rank 01
- Indian Marathon July Challenge: Rank 01
- Global Running Day: Rank 01 ( 111.11 km)
- Indian Running Day: Rank 01 ( 111.11 km)
– Blessed with some wonderful moments during this challenge that I will cherish for life…
And So I Run…
Running has a different meaning for everyone. To me, it’s been my teacher and mentor in more ways than one! It has taught me to endure pain and to be indifferent to temporary exuberance; it has made me humble and made me a curious crow too! My struggle is to give it a more tangible meaning in my life so that balance strikes in some way, and it remains a continuous journey.
I conclude by quoting my Personal Self-Created Tagline:
“Daudte Hain Toh Zinda Hain!” (I run, so I live!)