I have a fetish of browsing through DPs of my contacts. I saw him standing with Sardar Fauja Singh, world’s oldest marathon runner in his DP. It was then I learnt that he was still heavily into running; he had indeed come a long way wherein his running that commenced as punishments in the National Defence Academy had graduated to passionate marathons in midlife with passage of time.
My association with him dates back to the training days where we bonded over punishments, running together on ‘periphery’; name given to the black top road on the outskirts of academy. The punishments awarded at NDA are designed to strengthen the cadets both physicaly and mentally. These punishments are in the form of a run in full battle order weighing some 10 - 15 kgs over a distance ranging from 5 to 10 km depending upon the severity of offence. The run has to be completed within a stipulated time failing which the entire exercise is repeated the next day.
I was not among those trouble creaters and would be on periphery once in a while. But everytime I did run I would invariably find him there for some offence or the other he had committed. ‘I never seek trouble, but the trouble invariably finds me’, was the justification he had for his regular presence at the periphery. With good stamina and flawless knowledge of the route, he didn’t require a watch to keep track of time. Keeping pace with him assured you that the run would be completed well in time. We remained ‘periphery buddies’ till he graduated from NDA three terms before me.
Our paths never crossed after that till I bumped into him three decades later; he was a marathoner now. From participating in events of 10 Km he slowly graduated to Half Marthons (21.1 Km), then Full Marathons (42.2 Km) and finally Ultramarathons (any distance more than a Full Marathon). He also ran the world’s oldest and largest ultramarathon race called Comrades Marathon in South africa. In the process he travelled across the country from Leh to Ooty, Shillong to Jaisalmer to participate in various events and running some crazy distances over 100 plus kms including a 100 miler in deserts.
This included a 777 Km Run over 10 days from Jabalpur to Secunderabad to commemorate Platinum Jubilee of famous Battle of Kangla Tongbi. A couple of months back he along with his team successfully completed a 550 Km long High Altitude Ultrarun Expedition from Khardung Village in Ladakh to Manali in Himachal Pradesh in 11 days crossing six formidable high altitude passes of heights ranging from 13 to 17600 feet. The expedition was named “LaTruk” (La in Tibetan language means a mountain pass and Truk means six).
Hats off to his perseverance, dedication, grit and determination in addition to the physical fitness and mental robustness. He has certainly had a long journey starting NDA’s periphery and culminating into the mountain passes. For Colonel Sandeep Madan, alias ‘Sandy sir’, runs may end but not running.
Col HP Singh is a Mohali based Prolific writer