'Life is like a long distance race'

Rajiv Trivedi, Additional Director General (ADG) of Police is one of the highest ranked officers running the 42-km course at the Mumbai marathon tomorrow

Rajiv Trivedi, Additional Director General (ADG) of Police and Special Director of the Andhra Pradesh Police Academy is ready to break the stereotype of, "unfit, pot-bellied cops" in the Mumbai marathon on Sunday. The top police official from Hyderabad would  run the 42-km course (full marathon) for the third year in a row.

Eating up those miles: Rajiv Trivedi on course in the Mumbai marathon

This 51-year-old officer has run the Mumbai marathon twice before in timings that elicit a sharp intake of breath and a wow! exclamation. Trivedi clocked 3:37 in 2010 and in 2011, he shaved off an incredible 10 minutes off that time with a very easy-breezy 3:27.

Honour: Uma Ghadge, wife of swimmer Vinod Ghadge; Balasaheb
Ghadge (r) brother of Vinod and Rajiv Trivedi's friend and Minister A
Ahmed at the Ghadge home

"This time, I am one year older, so I just hope to may be match the previous time. I do not have any particular time goal," said Trivedi over the phone from Hyderabad. In fact, the man for whom fitness is a mantra warily added, "Anything can happen in a marathon really. You may have prepared hard for the race. Yet, one may pull a hamstring at the 2-km mark itself and that's it, you are out of the race, so there are many factors that can bring disappointment. Like other runners, I am going to be there for the fun of running and a personal challenge to conquer the 42-km course."

Sport of fame: A squash tournament in progress in Mumbai. The tourney
was named after Ashok Kamte.
The slain police officer was a keen

Since Trivedi is running for fun, he will surely carry a lighter burden than when he ran in 2010. Two years ago, Trivedi ran his debut Mumbai Marathon in order to pay homage to top cop and friend Ashok Kamte who was killed in the 26/11 terror attacks. He also paid a tribute to Vinod Ghadge. Trivedi had both their pictures pinned on to his running vest and finished with the Indian flag in his hand.

Man of action:  Ashok Kamte firing tear gas to disperse a mob

Ghadge was a swimmer who attempted a long-distance swim post the 26/11 terror attacks in order to pay homage to the slain police trio (Vijay Salaskar, Hemant Karkare and Ashok Kamte). Ironically and tragically, Ghadge himself died in that swim, he was caught up in a fishing net and was unable to extricate himself. He died eventually.

Immortal: The spot near St Xavier's College in front of Rang Bhavan
where three police officers Ashok Kamte, Hemant Karkare and Vijay
Salaskar were shot dead during the terror attacks in Mumbai

Recalled Trivedi, "I was supposed to join Vinod Ghadge and his brother Balasaheb Ghadge on that swim. I, too, was going to swim along with them. But I could not make it as I had some urgent work and they swam without me. I remember getting a call from a crying Balasaheb early in the morning, informing me about the tragedy.

I was shocked." Trivedi is an accomplished long distance swimmer, and, has swum the Palk Strait from Sri Lanka to India starting from Thalaimannar on the Sri Lankan side and landing at Dhanushkodi on the Indian side in March 2011.  He said, "There was wilderness on both sides. It was a distance of 30-km.

I have always been into swimming, a swimmer from my school days, in fact. One of the big lures of the Palk Strait adventure was that very few people ever had done this swim -- it was practically virgin territory."  About Vinod Ghadge's death Trivedi says, "Like every adventure sport, long distance swimming too has its perils.

There is usually a lot of debris in the sea, there are fishing nets sometimes, discarded, sometimes put there by fishermen looking for a catch. If your limb gets entangled in the mesh, it is difficult to extricate oneself, there is panic and sometimes you may die like it happened in Ghadge's case.

There are also a lot of wooden crates floating about. You can hit your head against one and it can result in serious injury." The sea can make the innocuous spaghetti pasta weed into a killer. Says Trivedi, "There is a unique weed that is found in these waters, it is thick, and they call it sea spaghetti. Swimmers can get enmeshed in these weeds and it is very difficult to get out."

Trivedi also remembers hero Ashok Kamte, "I led a team of 100 police officers for the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission to war-torn Sarajevo, capital of Bosnia, some years ago. Ashok Kamte was in that contingent. We were together for one year. Kamte was vivacious, not one of those morose types and a keen sportsman too. A very handsome man, he also had very positive body language and was well dressed. The rest of us, were, well a little shabby (laughs). The Westerners would ask me whether this man (Kamte) was really in my contingent because he looked so sharp. I remember my family, wife and sons, I, and Kamte's family had some good times together. We were really sad when he heard he had died."

A little philosophically, while on the subject of death, Trivedi says that life is like a long-distance race, not a sprint. "To be reasonably successful, you have to be patient, determined and pace yourself," says the officer who adds that, "I have always led a very disciplined life. I have a very regular schedule, waking up at 4.30 to 5 am and putting in two hours of exercise before my work day begins. Sometimes, at least once a week, I run from my home to my workplace. I live in Jubilee Hills and my office is near the airport. It is exactly

21-km so I do that distance --half-marathon, maybe once a week. It is a beautiful course full of undulations, very fresh and refreshing. In all, I see that I log 200-km a month." Trivedi swims and gyms too and, "Every time the marathon comes near, I ramp it up a bit, strengthen my body and up the exercise ante. Having said that, I can say that I am ready to run a 42-km on any day, such is my training level."

Fitness, says the officer, "Has tremendous mental benefits too. In 2009, when YSR Reddy's (then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh) chopper went missing over the Nallamalla forest, I volunteered to go look for it in the dense jungle teeming with Naxalites. I was the first there, with the help of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and it was thick, very difficult terrain with a number of rivulets flowing through, including the Krishna river."

Trivedi says the anecdote is an example of how making fitness a priority, absolutely non-negotiable in fact, is great for the mind too. "I am sure every police person wants to be fit. It is just that work hours are very erratic. I must say though that, there has been tremendous awareness and police personnel are adopting increasing healthier lifestyles, compared to the past. I have the opportunities since I am with a police academy and have made use of them. I also have a family atmosphere conducive to my lifestyle.

My wife is a good swimmer and my sons are good swimmers and footballers too. Not everybody has those opportunities, though I do see small gyms for police mushrooming everywhere and this is a good trend," said the cop, who will arrive in the city only on Saturday (today) evening for the marathon.
He said, "While some out-of-station runners arrive early in order to acclimatize themselves, I come in late in order to 'cheat' the body. The body does not know that these are conditions different from the every day ones in Hyderabad. I arrive in the city in the evening, have a meal and go to sleep. On race day, I wake up early, go to the venue and run just like as if it is any other day," signs off Trivedi. What can one do except click those heels together and snap a salute to that logic.

Some good places to be on Sunday, January 15...
* Do come in to cheer for the marathon runners. It is a huge boost and exemplifies the spirit of this city.
* Leave your cars behind and use the train to commute.
* If in South Mumbai, the Peddar Rd or Marine Drive stretch is a good place to be with the cheering people.
* If further North, offer runners water or lime juice at Mahim or near Bandra. Bountiful blessings will be yours.
* Walk on the footpath, up the unforgiving gradient leading on to Peddar Rd, you will appreciate how difficult
it is.
* If you want to watch the formidable elite athletes � the Kenyans and Ethiopians especially, you can watch them on television as their 42-km race starts at 7.25 am from CST. If you can, be there near Wilson College (in 10 minutes) from start time to watch them or even Worli Seaface to see them take the Sea Link. The African locomotive is in town.
* Cheer the Indian front runners, the elite athletes in the 42-km. Most of these will be from the defence, services. Your shouting may make the big difference. They have to run the 42-km, in 2 hours 18 mins to make the London marathon.  
* Do not try to cross the roads while the runners are on the course � many of them are faster than you think and may crash into you.
* Do not hurl abuse or disparaging remarks at struggling amateurs. It takes courage to come to the start line of a marathon and endeavour to finish it.
* Do not mock or mimic the runners on the course. Do not pass sexually charged  remarks and innuendos at women on the course.
* Uphold Mumbai's reputation as one of the best place in which to run a marathon, built on the edifice of its cheering citizens.
* Amateur runners do not try to cheat and take short cuts. Your timings will not be recorded by the champion chip and you are fooling nobody but yourself.

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