Soldier Sandeep Q & A

 

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Q. I looked up the Indian Military Academy - its very impressive. Did either of their mottos have an effects on your running?
A. I do not recall the mottos specifically having any effects but the academy is setup to motivate you on an ongoing basis. They have different quotes inscribed through out the place ( when the going gets tough the tough get going, shoot to kill etc) and it is filled with so much history of sacrifice and valor that is hard not be motivated.


Q. What was the weather during the Golden Marathon?
A. know it rained the night before as I spent the night in a trench and did not get much sleep. I would guess it was in the 70's when we started and warmed up a little after that. I do not recall weather being a big factor as a lot of the run was in the shade.

 

Q. About how many participants?

A Some background before I answer this. The academy back then was structured for 18 months of instructions split into three 6 month terms. In the first term, we only had cadets who had joined the academy directly after college. In the second term, graduates from the National Defense Academy (NDA)and from another academy for junior commissioned officers also joined. The NDA academy is for officer trainees who join after high school and get their college degree in NDA and the other academy is for officer trainees who joined directly as soliders and have now completed the requirements to train as officers.

Back then, during each of the 3 terms, there was one signature long competitive run and it used to be after a 3-4 day field exercise. The objective was to simulate war conditions, so we would dig up trenches and set up security parameters and do other field exercises and sleep in tents etc. During first term, it is called Silver Belt and is only for first termers. The distance for that one was less than 30km. The run during second term is the marathon distance run and is called Golden Belt. The run during the third and final term is called the Diamond Belt and it is close to 75km long so similar to an ultramarathon.I ran the Silver Belt and the Golden Belt only as I left the academy during my second term.

They have recently changed the academy format to a 2 six-month terms so I am not sure what the format is these days. Now to the question, I think the number of participants was close to 500.

Q. Did your unit win?
A No my unit did not win, we had bunch of slackers in the group. I being the big guy, ended up with most of the rifles on my shoulders in the end. As cadets start getting tired, carrying a rifle becomes harder and harder and each section ( group of 11 cadets) also carries one Light Machine Gun (LMG) and a Radio. The LMG is very hard to carry so the only effective way is to carry it in your hand by its handle. The Radio was like a slab of metal and you carried it on your back and it hit your back every step you took. I think during the last few miles, I was carrying six rifles, a LMG in each hand and the Radio on my back, no wonder we crawled to the finish line. I have heard it gets very messy during the Diamond Belt run as that one takes you on top of a mountain and back, I can only imagine how crazy that must be. It normally takes them the whole night to complete that.

 

Q.Was it purely a military event? This was purely a military event for Cadets in the second term. If I recall correctly, the academy was split up in to 4 battalions with each battalion having 2 companies. So the competition is between the 8 companies. Within the academy, it was one of the key events of the term with huge bragging rights for the winner. The time for the company was the time it took the slowest cadet in the company to complete. It reinforced team spirit in that way as you had to carry the slackers along.

Q What advice do you have for first-timers ?

A.This event requires an equal amount of mental and physical preparation. It requires a lot of commitment, focus and fortitude. You need to take a holistic approach to do well, eat well, get adequate rest and most important is to train well. The long runs are the key to simulating your race day experience. Have a plan for the race and stick to the plan. Have your objective clearly defined in your mind and do not change it during the race. So for my second marathon, my objective was to complete the race without injuring myself. The miles between 14-20 were the hardest for me, once I crossed the 20 mile mark, the goal seemed achievable.

Q. What is your occupation?
A. I am a Senior Vice President for Bank of America working on Technology Strategy, Quality and Productivity initiatives.

Q. What would you do different?

I will run my long runs closer to my race day pace. I took too many walking breaks during my training and it all showed up during the race.

Q.Why did you pick running for exercise? What is the best part of running? Anything else you want to add?

The best part I like about running is that in order to become a decent runner you need to take the holistic approach. You have to watch what you eat, what you drink and give your body enough rest. It is an activity you can do by yourself though I highly recommend having one or more running partners and you can run most anywhere these days.
The best part of running is that it is a great stress reliever and the Runner's High exists. I have gone to the running class after highly stressful and hectic days of work with so much on my mind but my mind clears up soon as I am out there running with the class trying to stay with the group.

Q How many long runs and what was your weekly mileage going into the Long Island?

I think my weekly mileage was less than 25 miles and I probably did 3 long runs. I just had to go out there and run the marathon again because my mind feels a lot younger than my body actually is.

It has been fun answering these questions and it has brought back a lot of good memories. I am sure some of the information I am providing you about the events at the academy may not be totally accurate as it was 22 years back. I do recall sitting in the cafeteria after the event for 2-3 hours with some of my fellow cadets, our legs stretched, our minds totally empty and a lot of good food in front of us. It is truly a unique experience.
Sandeep


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Running Coach Shelly Glover has a master's degree in exercise physiology from Columbia University. She co-authored The Runner's Handbook and The Competitive Runner’s Handbook. Coach Glover is a veteran road runner and marathoner. She coaches The Greater New York Racing Team is available for private coaching. Coaching Services