Stylish army man Nitendra Rawat sets record at Mumbai Marathon

A tiny pony tail and designer sunglasses sets Nitendra Singh apart from his contemporaries as the fashion-conscious Army hawaldar finishes Mumbai Marathon with a new course record

When 29-year-old Army hawaldar Nitendra Singh Rawat announced a couple of days back that he was gunning for veteran distance-runner Ram Singh Yadav's course record of 2:16.59 at this edition of Mumbai Marathon, many would have considered it tall talk.

Nitendra Singh Rawat sprints as he nears the finish line of the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Nitendra Singh Rawat sprints as he nears the finish line of the Mumbai Marathon yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

After all, Yadav, a veteran of numerous marathons, took a lot of time to achieve the mark in the first place, and Rawat was not even a handful of marathons old.

Add to this the fact that this Uttarakhand jawan sports a cool pony-tail, carries an expensive pair of shades on his forehead and took to distance-running only to avoid being on the dangerous front near Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), and you'd think he's joking. But it was Rawat, who had the last laugh yesterday.

He broke off from the pack of Indian runners around the 36-km mark and cruised to the finish in a new course record time of 2:15:48, over a minute quicker than his idol Ram Singh.

'Like to look good'
Moments after the race, a smiling Rawat said, "I told you so." The soldier isn't cocky, but confident, and it's this flashy style that sets him apart from the pack of traditionally timid Indian long distance runners. He's not averse to discussing his love for fashion too.

"I've kept this (pony tail) only recently because I'm now part of the India training camp in Ooty. Had I been reporting to work at the army, I wouldn't be permitted to keep it. As for my shades (Oakley), they are of a much cheaper variety than what European distance-runners wear. Mine costs only around Rs 7000 to Rs 8000.

"The foreigners wear shades costing R15,000 to R20,000. I know that I'm probably the only Indian distance-runner who runs with shades, but that's my style. I like too look good even while running," Rawat told mid-day yesterday after his moment of glory.

His stylish outlook notwithstanding though, Rawat is a very hardworking athlete, and his coach Beijing Olympian Subhedar Surinder Singh Bhandari can vouch for his commitment.

Coach speaks
"Rawat is one of my favourite runners. When he was leaving for Mumbai, I told him that he will win this marathon and I had even predicted the time — 2:15:40 — he ran eight seconds slower. He is a very talented boy and gives his 100 per cent at training. We train seven hours a day (four in the morning and three in the evening), seven days a week and Rawat never skips a session.

"Yes, he's a little stylish and sometimes even likes to listen to music while training unlike the other boys, but as long as he's delivering results on the track that should not be a problem," Bhandari who was unable to be here given his coaching commitments in Ooty, told mid-day over the phone yesterday.

Rawat, who had already qualified for the Rio Olympics having run 2:18 at the World Military Games in South Korea, finished the Mumbai Marathon in a credible 10th position overall, pocketing a cool Rs 500,000.

The Oakley shades beg one question. What if they fall off during a race? Will he stop to pick them up? "No way," pat came the reply. "My race is my priority. If I win and do well, I can buy more sunglasses, and probably the expensive ones this time," he signed off with a smile, the sunglasses firmly planted on his head and that pony-tail curling across his broad shoulders.

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