Rushing to the local bazaar for odds and ends, sprinting out with his siblings to spot the rare car turning into their lane, racing indoors and tracking mud across the floor, from the then-marshy land around their bungalow—running features prominently in Kushru Patel’s memories of his childhood. It is perhaps no wonder then that the Bandra resident grew up to have a passion for the sport, and sustained it despite an entirely different career as a flight purser at Air India. Patel went on to compete in 5km and 10km races, triathlons and duathlons as well as several half-marathons.
Today however, at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon, the now-75-year-old Patel gears up for an entirely new challenge. It will be the first time he runs the full marathon—a distance of 42.19km.
It’s a long way off from his first race at the age of 47, when an older friend persuaded him to participate in the veterans’ category at a monsoon-marathon event. It was a 10km race from the NCPA to the Governor’s bungalow, and Patel had never attempted such a long stretch before. “I thought of putting it off until the next year but my friend was adamant,” Patel recalls, laughing. “I finally thought, okay, why not? Let’s give it a shot.”
Training sessions, accompanied by aching joints and sore muscles, commenced. With work and travel getting in the way, Patel managed to notch up only four days of running. The fifth session was the actual event. It ended with him in the top ten, clocking 54 minutes and 54 seconds.The “runner’s high” has since kept him going strong. Patel’s achievements include winning a gold medal for a 20km walk in Delhi, bagging second place in the veterans’ category during the Mumbai Marathon’s 2004 edition, and clocking an hour and 37 minutes for the half-marathon only a couple of years after he first started running.The Bandra resident has been participating in the half-marathon during almost every edition of the Mumbai Marathon since it kicked off in 2004. “One year, my knees were in bad shape due to an injury and I thought I’d accompany my friends only until theBandra-Worli Sea Link. But then, I figured I’d finish since I had come that far already.” Patel still managed to complete the stretch in under three hours.But with his first attempt in the big league this year, the septuagenarian is taking no chances. Training has been amped up, with runs on Juhu beach, Bandstand, Kanheri Caves, and to south Mumbai and back. All his neighbourhood runner buddies are at least a decade younger. While sweet potato and boiled eggs feature prominently in his after-run meals, Patel says it’s the encouragement from his gang that keeps him going. “Running is both a stress-buster and an addiction for me,” says Patel. “I can’t even imagine not being able to do that.”
He is the dad of Dilshad Patel who says that “…. we are so proud of him. He has broken the Indian and the international record of completing the marathon in 6 hrs. 14 mins and 49 seconds, in his age group !!”