I have never been the athletic kind earlier in my life. No sports in school or college. Never ran more than half a mile. But yes, I used to love the hikes and I loved the outdoors. That was probably most of my athletic abilities in my past life.
A few years ago, I was jolted by a sudden death of one of my dearest cousin – Kedar, in a road accident. It took me almost two years to get out of it. During those two years, I thought about him almost every day! Finally, I realized that perhaps the best way to remember him forever would be to inculcate some of his qualities in myself. Now he was a really a strong and athletic person. He was also preparing for a marathon the same year. Me being in a sedentary job for over more than a decade, all the sitting, late night work, beer, pizzas and soft drinks had taken a huge toll already on my body. Climbing just one flight of stairs would take me out of breath. So naturally, when I thought about inculcating his qualities in me, getting in shape and introducing movement in my day was the answer. So i started running. I followed some of his training timings and numbers. Within 2 months of getting up from the couch, I ran a 5k and then within next 3 months, I did my first half marathon in September 2012.
With that, I started looking into more healthy ways of eating and exercising. This eventually also led us to resolving my wife’s thyroid condition with our new diet and lifestyle. I was whipped up into shape with a dose of regular exercise and good nutrition. But something was missing now. Running just did not cut it for me anymore. It was monotonous. In 2013, I found something called as a Rebel Race. i registered for September race with my wife and loved it. That was my first obstacle course race. 5k or trail running along with climbing walls and cargo nets, running through the swamps, traversing ropes over water, crawling, balancing, hanging. This was it! I never was a fast runner. But the obstacles made up for my running. I was able to navigate the obstacles much more easily. This engaged the full body and not just my legs. I was hooked.
Next year, i did one more of these races – the BattleFrog race in NJ. Till this time, it was all fun. I never cared for the timing. For both my races, my wife participated with me and we had a fun time together merrily cruising with each other. Then in the fall of 2014, I realized that the OCR was on verge of becoming a recognized sport. With what I had experienced, I wanted to be a part of it. I analyzed my past OCR races, I realized that there were a few elements I needed to work on if I wanted to get better at this sport. The sport signified to me not just an athletic endeavor but a lesson in grit and perseverance. if I had to get a place for myself, I had to push my limits, be uncomfortable and have boat loads of determination. All this, after ensuring that my I had trained my whole body for the forth coming challenge. This was also the time I came to know about the OCR World Championship. 2014 was the first year such a worldwide event was organized for uniting the OCR world across the countries. I decided that I wanted to have a piece of this. I wanted to qualify for the world championships in 2015. That was a single minded goal.
This year, in March, I started training for the OCR season. I started with body weight exercises. The regular push-ups, pull-ups and burpees. But knowing what the races were like, I knew that the race would throw me curve balls. So my training had to prepare me for everything unexpected. The regular gym would not give me that. Without a dedicated facility, I decided to innovate my training. I got some keetlebells, weighted vests, steel clubs, ankle weights, climbing rope and doorway pull-up bars. All quite unconventional training equipment. The kids playground became my new gymnasium. The workouts had to be quick and effective since I had to have enough time for my family, my kid, my job and the social life of course. I could not afford to do long 4 hours workouts. So the workouts involved to be very intense bursts of unconventional movements spread across multiple times a day. 15 mins twice or thrice a day would work much better in the schedule rather than a continuous one hour workout.
Obstacle course racing to me now is a way of life. It has not just helped me whip my full body in shape, but it has taught me a lot more. No obstacle is unsurmountable if you have enough grit, determination and preparation. The human body is capable of achieving a lot more than what we usually give it credit for. Getting off the couch is the first step. After that, it is just one foot in front of the other. Last 3 years in my life, have made a remarkable difference to how me and my family now lives. We were able to pull my wife out of her chronic illness which the doctors thought was not possible. After being a diabetic and having cholesterol issues, I have been able to make a successful u-turn on those and in process also get a new found love for physical fitness. These years have been nothing less than transformative. They have also made me more than ready to face whatever is next in the life. I don’t worry about the curve balls now, I train for them – physically and mentally.
On 20th June 2011, I lost my cousin, my brother – perhaps the only person in this world after my wife with whom I felt more than comfortable sharing everything in my life. After a 4 year long journey, on 20th June 2015, I qualified for the OCR World Championships at the Battlefrog race in NJ. This is perhaps a mere coincidence for most. But for me, this is a culmination of my search for how I want to remember my brother for the rest of my life. To me this indicates a path that he gave me, a piece of himself that he left with me. 20th June is now more than just a date for me. It has marked a significant transformation in my life. I no longer feel a void now. Now I know that he is with me – in my mind, the dates are not a coincidence. I think my journey thus far in physical fitness has been led by Kedar and at this point, he has now given me the reins. For me, this is the start. One foot at a time and I am excited to see where the journey now takes me.