On December 30 this year, Abhishek Mishra, Vipin Sharma, and Naresh Bhati will start a 120 km run from Tokyo to Mt Fuji. They’ll finish on New Year’s Eve, and celebrate with the group they’re going with. Organised by Abhishek and Milind Soman, nine people will make it to the event. “We did our first New Year’s Eve run in December 2014,” says Abhishek, when they ran from Mumbai to Pune, about 150 km.
Thereafter, every year the duo has been doing an ultra run (anything above 42 km, the distance of a full marathon). “We did Bengaluru-Mysuru the next year, then Goa to Gokarna (Karnataka), Una to Dharamshala,” says Abhishek. Last year they did Colombo to Unawatuna, their first international celebration.
This isn’t competitive, it’s meant to enjoy the route and bring in the new year without a hangover from alcohol. They organise a crew car, a support team, refreshment stations along the way, and stay with all meals.
Abhishek, 36, who started running in his 20s, graduated as an engineer and went on to do an MBA. After working for a few years, he started a company Tabono Sports that organises races across North India, concentrating on small cities. He says he began running ultras in 2013, because after a few years of participating in competitive races, the charm wears out, and it’s the experience that counts. He documents his journey in book run to realise.
Vipin, 35, who now heads community building and engagement, works for Supplecent, a start-up in the nutrition supplement space. He began running to lose weight, and took up ultra running in 2013. Naresh, 35, an engineer who works with an automobile parts company too started for health reasons. He read about Abhishek taking part in the Ultraman (10 km open ocean swim, 421 km cross-country bike ride, 84 km ultra marathon run), and enrolled for the Millennium City Marathon that Tabono organises.
There are four stages to an ultra, says Vipin, who has done about 18 of them so far: “The first is of physical pain, at between 40 and 50 km. You want to quit, but you tell yourself you’re not going to. The second stage is when your mind gives you a lot of chatter, telling you everyone has a bad day, and it’s okay to quit sometimes.”
He says the third phase is of emotional pain: “It’s why you see many ultra runner crying and running. Your body becomes so weak and you become extremely humble.” The final phase is when “suddenly running becomes easy and you’re in a zone when you’re just cruising along. You know the blood and blisters are real but it doesn’t affect you. It feels like you’ve transcended over the body.”