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At 46, living it up the ultra-marathon way

Life throws challenges which we must overcome, says Calcutta’s marathoner Anjali Saraogi

By Madhumita Ganguly in Calcutta

  • Published 8.01.20, 3:13 AM
  • Updated 8.01.20, 3:35 AM
Anjali Sarogi
Anjali Sarogi Telegraph Picture

Ultra-marathoner Anjali Saraogi’s middle name is “grit”. How else does one describe a lady who, at 46, is doing 100km runs? That too, after overcoming several hurdles which life placed in her way?

Anjali took to serious marathon running only in 2015 — when she was already 40 — an age when most athletes have already retired.

“I was too plump for athletics when in school (La Martiniere for Girls),” Anjali told The Telegraph, “And hence I lacked confidence to compete in the school sports… I had obstacles in my mind.”

It was much later, after her daughter was born in 1998, that she took to running and developed an interest in marathons. Finally, in 2015, with much encouragement from daughter Mamta and husband Arvind, she took the first step towards competitive marathon and enrolled for the Airtel Run for Education half-marathon in the city in November 2015. She completed the 21km distance in 1 hour and 55 minutes to finish third. Thinking her success to be a fluke, shortly afterwards Anjali took part in the Goa River Marathon and did an encore.

Thereafter there was no looking back for the Calcutta-based Anjali, who runs a diagnostics centre on Theatre Road.

So what exactly is ultra-marathon? “A normal marathon is run over a distance of 42.2km,” explains Anjali. “Anything above that is an ultra marathon…it could be 50km or 100km and is the ultimate test of a person’s physical and mental endurance.”

And yes, Anjali has done the 100km — at the World Championship in Croatia in September 2018.

By the time she made the qualifying standards and started training in real earnest, it was already July. But tragedy struck. Anjali went down with dengue, had to be hospitalised and needed blood transfusion. However, not only was Anjali back on her feet in time, she went to Croatia as the only female participant in the six-member Indian team, ran the full distance and completed the race in 9 hours and 40 minutes.

“Life throws us challenges and it is up to us to overcome them,” says Anjali.

In November she needed surgery to remove lumps in her breast. But in January 2019, she ran the Mumbai marathon and was placed second in the amateur category and first in her age-group. The very next month in the Kolkata Marathon she clocked 3 hours 16 minutes and 54 seconds to win the race.

She then went on to fulfil her dream of doing the Boston Marathon in April, which she finished in three hours, 14 minutes and 33 seconds, a personal best across marathon races she has run so far.

Overcoming a stress fracture in her left quadriceps, Anjali took part in the 100km Asia & Oceania championships in Aquaba, Jordan, in November, which was in her own words “very tough. Hilly terrain, open barren land with hot blazing sun in the day and freezing cold after sundown….”

So what is the secret of this amazing capability of fighting back the odds, time and again?

“I never take anything for granted. You can’t always win and have to accept the lows with the highs. This is life’s lesson and I am receptive to it,” says the athlete who swears by sports nutrition brand Fast & Up, which caters to all the nutritional needs of athletes.

Anjali, who runs 90km weekly (130km if its prior to a 100km race), is self taught in all aspects of running and has never had a regular coach.

Come January 18 and the Mumbai Marathon, Anjali will be ready to prove once again that given determination, age cannot wither one.