Meet Ashish Kasodekar, The Man Who Ran 60 Marathons In 60 Days
Ashish Kasodekar talks about running marathons and celebrating his 50th birthday
Hypothetical situation: where would we find you on the morning after you have run 60 marathon-distance runs in as many consecutive days? Exactly. But look at what Ashish Kasodekar did. On the morning of January 27th this year, the day after he wrapped up the staggering feat, Kasodekar stepped out of his home in Pune, and went for another run. “I felt that I should celebrate my achievement with a fast run, which is something I usually don’t do. So, I set a personal record that day by doing a 3:45 (the 42km marathon in 3 hours and 45 minutes).” Kasodekar is one of the country’s toughest men, famed for his ability to run ultra-long marathons. He became the first Indian to finish the La Ultra-Marathon in Ladakh five years ago.
Run at the forbidding altitude of 18,000 feet, where oxygen levels are 50 percent of those at sea level, and where some sections run in snowy conditions, La Ultra is appropriately billed as the ‘world’s cruellest race’. The superhuman endurance needed to finish this marathon means that only around 70 runners from around the world (and no Indian) had finished the race in its decade-long history when Kasodekar decided to run in 2017 in the 111 km race category. Next year, despite advice to the contrary from the organisers, he ran and finished the 333 km race. And in August 2019, Ashish Kasodekar did the impossible by competing and finishing the gruelling 555km category race in 126 hours. He was 47 at that time, not the prime age for a long-distance runner.
Having conquered La Ultra, there is hardly a race in the world that is beyond Kasodekar’s endurance. So, in September 2021, when he decided to bring in his 50th birth year in style by doing something not many ultra-marathoners in the world have attempted before — running 60 marathons in 60 days — a total distance of close to 2,500km, there were no raised eyebrows. He and his crew, which included his immediate family and close friends, charted out a 5.3km loop around the Savitribai Phule Pune University grounds for the run. After waiting for the worst of Covid to subside, he started running on November 26th. Kasodekar wore out three pairs of shoes, and used six to seven pairs of socks over two months. He mostly ate home-cooked meals, and food recommended by a dietician. His typical mornings started with dried gooseberries, and his day would end with “some chicken soup at 7 pm, a chicken leg piece, two boiled potatoes, and some rice and sabji”. Before he started running at 6 am every day, he would have some dates and a small portion of peanuts soaked in water and some fruits. “Post-run, I would have four boiled eggs — three egg whites, one whole egg — to get some protein immediately after running, a fruit plate at the university canteen, and a drink made of sattu powder (made from chana),” says Kasodekar.
Over the course of the day, which included consultations with his physio, he would have chocolate milk and an ‘energy laddoo’. Lunch, at 1:30 pm, would start with buttermilk and usually involve bhakri, mixed sprouts or usal, moth beans, and beetroot. “In the evenings, after some chai at the local tea stall with friends, I’d have an egg half-fry.”
What did his body feel like on the 10th, 15th, or the 45th day, I ask Kasodekar. “It’s not as if I didn’t have injuries. There was a particularly nasty shin injury that cropped up around December 11th. There was a huge swelling around my right ankle, and it felt like a small animal was gnawing at me from the inside each time I moved my foot. But you learn to recover while running, and ice baths helped a lot,” says the runner. “On the whole, though, I simply sailed through. I never used an alarm to wake up — I was always eager to get out and go running. Our bodies are so beautiful, mine, I think, I got used to running a marathon every single day.” The real secret to his achievement, besides discipline, was the community around him, he says. Every day for 60 days, Kasodekar would run with many people. “I ran with over 2,000 people over two months. Some were my friends; others have become friends.
These included the people I played basketball with or bicycled with. Some ran 5K, others 10K. According to Guinness requirements, at least two people had to finish the full distance with me daily — and each of these people kept me company and helped me go the distance.”
Ashish Kasodekar’s next goal is the Badwater 135, the world’s toughest foot race, which will see him attempt to cover about 217km non-stop from Death Valley to Mount Whitney, in California, in July. “I haven’t really been doing much since January 27, but I will start priming myself up any time now. It is going to be fun.”