Anurag Saini a banker and a member of Dehradun Runners Club is now World Record Holder of 200 Half Marathons.
Dehradun: (In His own words) I am Anurag Saini from Dehradun working with State Bank of India as a wealth Relationship Manager and today I will share the story of a banker cum ultra runner. For the uninitiated, an Ultra Marathon is a run of above 42 kms at a stretch.
The story began in early 2017 when in a moment of epiphany, I realized that I had to do something about my weight which had been consistently increasing due to my sedentary lifestyle & irresponsible eating habits. The weighing scale screamed 86 kg and I was determined not to ignore it anymore. I had reached an embarrassing stage when even walking for more than 100 m felt tiring and climbing up the stairs made me gasping for breath. I decided to take some action on an immediate basis and on the recommendation of my younger brother, I visited a local dietician in Haridwar City and started following his prescription No Oil, No Sugar, Low-calorie Diet, and 6-8 Km walk the evening after the last meal. I followed the prescribed diet and the exercise regimen to a tee and when I measured my weight after a month, I was elated to see the 74 Kg mark on the weighing machine. The dieting was really working and I was glad that within a month I had achieved the desired result. This made me complacent and a bit careless and there came the ‘cheat days’ in my diet plan. I had a sweet tooth and also craved the oily snacks and slowly the frequency of my cheat days started increasing and the diet plan went haywire. Within no time I was back from where I had started. My worried dietician then gave me a new diet chart which I started to follow and managed to bring the weight down. But it was like a see-saw where the weight again went up due to my ‘cheat days’ and then the next month on following up the diet it came down. I was fed up with this weight gain & loss cycle and I really wanted to come out of this impasse. Around the same time, I switched my job from HDFC Bank to State Bank of India and they posted me in Dehradun. One day while checking some messages in the official Whatsapp group of the office my eyes stuck on one message in which one of the seniors was asking names for the upcoming Half Marathon organized by the State Bank of India and I don’t know who I wanted to impress in the bank that I immediately gave my name for Half Marathon i.e. 21 km of running in a single go. For someone who was barely running, I mean walking, 5 km a day, to give consent for a 21 km run was nothing short of madness. I used to run during my school and college days but that running journey ended in 2004 almost 15 years back and now I had started again to regain the past endurance and stamina. The next day after huffing and puffing during my 2 km run, I realized my mistake but I had decided not to give up. I am the kind of person who loves challenges so I kept running for the next 10 days and to my surprise, I was able to run 10 km and the confidence was building up again that I could do it. When I was almost ready for the event, I got to know that due to Pollution and bad air quality the event got postponed. By that time, I had already made up my mind that I will run a half marathon so I started searching for running events on Google and came to know that on Dec 1, 2019, a half marathon is scheduled in Dehradun. I immediately registered for the same and increased the intensity of the training as the time was less and my only target was to run the entire 21 km without any break or stop. Finally on 1 Dec’019, I ran the First Half Marathon of my life and that too without any walking in between. I finished it in 2 hrs 20 minutes but I was not satisfied as I saw many runners in their 40s and 60s who had finished well before me and I realized that there was a lot more to do.
I was inspired by the sporting spirit of my fellow runners and wanted to learn from them. I joined Dehradun Runners Club and started taking tips from experienced runners and also started applying them. Just 22 days later, I got another chance to run a half marathon this time I finished better in 2 hr 5 minutes and I was quite satisfied with my performance. As a beginner, it was an achievement to run 2 half marathons in a short span of 2 months. In 2020, during lockdown, when I couldn’t go outside I ran in the corridor and parking of my society even I ran my first Full Marathon in an 80 Meter long Corridor in 4 hours and 45 Minutes. In 2020 I continued running by consistently taking some virtual challenges like 100 days of running, run to the moon and back, 100 km Flag Challenge, and many others.
By the end of 2020, I had run many long runs but I wanted to achieve something that I would be proud of. I came to know about a runner who had a world record of running 100 half marathons in 180 days and another runner with a world record of 76 consecutive half marathons. I found it breakable and decided to go for it. Initially, I targeted to run 100 half marathons in 120 days but later I decided to do it consecutively for 100 days. On the 10th of Jan 2021, I started on my mission of going for 100 Half Marathons which meant to run 21 km every single day for 100 consecutive days.
Running a Half Marathon daily for 100 days is not easy for a person with a regular job and family. This was not only a test of my physical endurance but also my time management. I ran whenever I got time sometimes in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening and at night. Many times the GPS failed to record the run, I had to return & record the half marathon later on the same day. Many times app couldn’t record a part of the run, so I had to run some extra kilometers to complete the 21 km in app.
On 26th Jan 2021 I ran a 72 km run and the next day I was not able to stand properly. In spite of it, somehow I started to walk I kept trying I had to this run otherwise all the efforts to date would have gone in vain and I had to restart this from the beginning. After a few minutes, I was able to run and to my surprise, I had completed the last 10 km in 1 hour and overall a half marathon in 2 hr 25 minutes.
Once I was on an official trip to Khatima which is about 320 km from Dehradun. I worked the whole day and while driving back to Dehradun I saw some kids running on the ground. I parked my car, put on my running attire and completed my half marathon, and then drove back to Dehradun.
Once I was on a Family trip to Himachal Pradesh and my family asked me to skip my run for a day as they wanted to spend time with me. I promised them that I will not cut their time and the next day morning I woke up early and completed the run before they even woke up. On 14 March 2021 I had done a 12 Hours stadium run in Chandigarh and ran 90 kms, I was fully exhausted after it but still somehow managed to run a half marathon the next day.
‘Have to do it’ attitude and the fear of starting it all over again if I missed a single day acted as a catalyst to take me towards my goal. On 22nd April 2021, I achieved my goal and set a new International book of records for running 103 consecutive half marathons in 103 days.
and On 23rd Aug completed 200Half Marathons in 2021.
I will share a few learning from my experience.
Listen to your body. Our body has unlimited potential and we can reach the potential by practicing and continuous efforts.
Training and practice are paramount to achieve anything in your life.
Be Focused. The greatest life learning that running has taught me is to be focused and disciplined. If you are focused, you can concentrate more and nothing can distract you.
Nothing is impossible. If you are determined and disciplined, anything is possible. One you break the mental block that stops you, you can do anything.
Be around the people who motivate and inspire you. Keep distance from the naysayers and have confidence in yourself.
I will conclude the story with a powerful quote by swami Vivekananda
“Arise Awake and do not stop till the goal is achieved.”