The Solo Miles Seeker – A Champion In True Sense

Dear Manipal Aunt:  Three months ago, my boyfriend went back to Malaysia. When he left, we decided to get engaged this Christmas and get married next June.

Gangadhar Devadiga spoke with no intent to impress.

There was an air of simplicity in his talks. He is not new to the running world, but still his approach to running and fitness is way too simple. Modest and humble as ever, he is a massive inspiration to hundreds of students, faculty and elderly people. He is fit as ever despite his age, and despite his busy schedule has never found an excuse not to run.
As we searched for a new profile, we came across our mess staff, Mr. Gangadhar Devadiga, who is an employee in BQ mess, known for its delicious economical food. Having seen him in many races organised in Manipal like the Atharva Tapmi Race, I was bitten with curiosity to know about the secret behind his dedication and passion. Gangadhar anna started working in the Sodexo mess in Manipal in 2005 at the age of 22 as a steward, and now is a supervisor. He started running in 2006, and what’s surprising is that this first race was not a matter of personal choice, but infact, he was sent to represent Sodexo in a local race.
The Beginning
Running was never a personal choice for Gangadhar anna. There was a 4km race in 2006. The staff head of Sodexo called him and said to go and represent Sodexo in the race. He described it as a huge race. People from nearby universities had also come. The trained and extremely good athletes from Alva’s college had also come. He just went unprepared for it, and came fourth in the race. And this was the turning point in his life. A man who had never run before wondered how his body managed to take him so fast. And the secret lay in the simple healthy diet that he consumed besides his daily physical labour. He only eats a staple diet, mainly consisting of green vegetables.
Apart from his job, this is what he wanted to do. That’s when he thought of running more often. He started running regularly from then, every morning. He did a couple more 5k races, before directly jumping to half marathons. His first half marathon race was also to represent Sodexo. His staff manager called him and told to run the Udupi Half marathon. The experience of running a 21km motivated him to participate. And after that, it’s just history. He came 16th in his first HM. That was a major motivation for him. He loved the distance, and especially liked how his mind stayed calm and steered clear of all thoughts during the 90 odd minutes. A regular passionate and impressive runner had emerged.
Do you know his best Half Marathon timing? Well it is 1hrs 35mins. This timing is incredible.
Running Schedule
His work schedule doesn’t allow him to fit in long runs. His work starts from 6 in the morning, and finishes by 9 in the evening. Trust me friends, this will definitely encourage you to give up excuses and start staying fit. Such is his perseverance, that he wakes up at 5 am, and does a fast 5km run before reporting at work. That’s been his running schedule since the past 10 years.
While interviewing him, we were really surprised how he manages such impressive race timings and such long distances , with such short runs. But to it he says, “Main ussi 5km run me poori mehnat kar leta hoon. Main fast shuru karta hoon, fir end point ki hill pe jaata hoon. Mujhe hills bahut pasand hai.” (I put in everything in that 5km of training run. I go as fast as I can, and then do the hill of End Point. I like hills very much). To this, I wondered, that running and fitness is not all about costly gym memberships or sophisticated equipment. It is all in the mind and the desire to excel physically and mentally.
He describes his job as tough, but he is satisfied. He loves Manipal a lot, and doesn’t want to leave the place. He loves running in Manipal, and especially in morning. End point is his realm as the chirping birds, surreal greenery, the secluded trails, the mesmerising view of Swarna river and the chirping of crickets as the sun rays slowly filter through the blanket of darkness, prove to be a runner’s paradise.
His running schedule includes running a 5km daily, every day, without any break, yes every day. That sets his mood for the day which is otherwise all dull and morose if he is unable to pursue this passion. Anna also loves running uphill very much. He says uphill running makes his legs stronger.
The Motivation
His motivation to continue running is ‘to stay fit’. He says, “10 saal pehele bhi main 50kgs tha, aur abb bhi 50kgs hoon. Daudne se mann ko bahut shanti milti hai. Isliye daudta hoon” (10 years ago I was 50kgs, and even now I am 50kgs. And running gives me peace of mind. That’s why I run). For him running is more important than racing. Even if he doesn’t participate in any event, he still keeps his daily runs coming in. He says there no other joy than finding some time just for yourelf.
Gangadhar anna is super fit slim, healthy and strong. After listening to his story, he has definitely become my role model. Running can happen at any age. You start once and you will never be able to give it up. In his words, running just happens for a person. It is as important as your daily meals. He says, “Jab aap din me 4 baar khaana khaate ho, toh 1 baar daudne ke liye time kyun nahi nikal paate?” (When you eat 4 times a day, why can’t you find time to run even once a day?) . Spend those 30 free minutes you have in your day into doing something for yourself, something that will make you smile.
So what’s the trick behind his success in races and professional competitions? He says he just starts on a comfortable pace, and when settled, keeps the next person on target and overtakes him. He keeps doing this till he no longer can speed up and then maintains the pace and position till he completes the race. Timing is secondary. Pacing and keeping up with a fellow competitor is the secret behind his success story.
Asked what makes him going through a race, and he said the crowd. The crowd is what makes him going. That is his inspiration. He says the crowd always shouts, “Bhaago! Bhaago! Aapka position 10 hai” and that makes him speed up more. This is why he loves races and running competitions. Not the prizes or the joy of victory but for the inner happiness of running with fellow passionate runners and the constant cheers of the crowd.
Future Plans & Goals
His future plans include running greater distances and finding out how far can his body go. He now wants to run beyond 21kms. He wants to run a Full Marathon soon. But says the nearest full marathon happens in Bangalore, and taking a leave from work is tough. Plus his work schedule doesn’t allow the time to train for a FM. He just runs the Udupi and Mangalore events. He wishes someday Manipal will have a full marathon. And we hope to fulfil his dream.
Thank you Gangadhar Anna. We hope to see you spread your message of fitness and happiness with as many people as possible.

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