Note from the Editor: There are very few people in India who have completed the world’s toughest endurance challenges Ironman and Ultraman. Anshul Agarwal is one of them. However, Anshul has not only done it ones, he has completed the endurance challenges several times. Anshu, who took to running as a destressing exercise, subsequently became a marathon runner followed by an ultramarathon runner, Ironman and Ultraman. Here is a firsthand account of this accidental superman’s journey.
By Anshul Agrawal
Before 2014, I wasn’t into running. Running even a half marathon was a distant dream; forget about Ultraman or Ironman.
I had never heard of those terms before 2014.
I am a software engineer by profession. I quit my job in the US and came to India to start this company. I make mobile applications in education Domain.
I had never been a sports person in my life earlier. During my school days, I never got a chance to get into sports much because there was lots of social pressure. That helped me a lot. I was able to secure a good rank in IIT. From my heart, I always wanted to get into sports but somehow I couldn’t. Once I got into college, I could spread my wings. Within a month, I joined Karate classes.
It all started in the year 2014. I was married and I had two kids. Suddenly something happened and we got separated in the mid-2014. It was devastating for me. To cope up with that, I started running. Gradually, I found it quite soothing and hence was able to cope up with the stress that I was facing.
So, I continued my running and I ended up running my first Marathon in December 2014 – the same year.
After a couple of more half marathons, I participated in a full marathon the next year – December 2015. Slowly, I realised that running was giving me peace. It was like meditation to me.
I thought of taking it to the next level and started running for Ultra Marathons starting from distances of 60 Kilometers to 100 Kilometers, or even 160 Kilometers.
Running changed my life. I became more disciplined, I was more focused. I used to smoke 10 cigarettes a day. I quit smoking in 2016.
Then in 2017, somehow I came to know about the Ironman challenge. But I didn’t know swimming at that time. Despite that, I applied for Ironman.
Within 4 to 5 months of heavy practice and continuous effort, I was able to complete the Ironman challenge in 14 hours 38 minutes.
That gave me a lot of morale boost. What I realised was if you think of something and go after it with full determination, you can move mountains.
After the Ironman event, I thought: what’s next? Then I came to know about the Ultraman challenge. I said to myself: let’s give it a try.
Ultraman is another trithone event but the distances are crazy. It’s 10 Kilometer of open-water swimming, 84 Kilometer of running and 421 Kilometer of cycling. You have to complete it in 36 hours within 3 days.
I had never swum for more than 4 kilometres before that. In Ultraman challenge, it was 10 kilometre of swimming in the sea. There was again the fear of open water. The only time I was into open water swimming was during the earlier Ironman challenge. I wasn’t that pro for swimming – that’s too open water swimming.
With so much physical activities like cycling, running and swimming, the body needs recovery. Nutrition plays a huge role.
I start my day with soaked dry fruits like almonds and figs. After that, I take germinated seeds. It builds up your immune system.
Besides this, I also take limewater, coconut water, boiled vegetables like broccoli, beetroots and sweet potato. The whole idea is to make breakfast as healthy as possible.
From 6 in the morning to noon, I take around 7 to 8 small portions of meal in a gap of 30 to 45 minutes.
A well-disciplined life plays a big role. I can recall, before I started preparing for the Ironman challenge, I threw the TV out of my home.
Nutrition, Stretching, recovery after any event and mental health – these things should be well taken care of.
People often think that to compete for races like the Ironman and Ultraman, one needs to have superhuman qualities. I did this; and I realise that if a normal person like me can do it, there is no need for someone to have superhuman qualities. But one should have qualities like consistent practice, perseverance and patience which play very important roles. You have to keep yourself motivated.
I think that’s the key to get through challenges like the Ultraman and Ironman.
The way I look at my life is: I should continue with all these till I turn 70 or 80.