It was surprising to hear a good number of people asking the same question after completing the Men's Full Marathon on Sunday, “Where is Rahul?”. Rahul wasn't someone who was lost, he was right there. He just had too many people to meet. And why shouldn't he, Rahul Verghese was the pacemaker of the 05:30:00 mark, everyone wanted to tell him their finishing time.
But Verghese is more than just a pacemaker. Sunday's marathon was the 53-year old's 49th since the Delhi resident took to long distance running, the Chicago marathon in 2001 being his first. Fast forward 13 years and he's ran in six continents. He's deeply rooted to running, so much so that the name of his company is called Running and Living. He promotes lesser known marathons across the country with the aim being to convey the message of how one can keep himself healthy and fit by running. It all started in 2000 when Verghese bought a treadmill in his Chicago home since he wanted to keep himself fit but couldn't go out due to the cold. There was no looking back after that day and over the course of time, Verghese is now a popular name on the marathon circuit.
Running for the 9th straight year, Verghese is one of the many who feels that the city's marathon is like no other. “It's a fact. The people of Mumbai make this marathon so special. You can complain about the heat and the humidity, but no one can even think of complaining that they didn't have the crowd cheering them on for every single step that they took. I've been across the world, I've never seen anything like this and with each passing year, I doubt I ever will. These people don't run for results, they run for a memory and that's what counts the most.”
Being a pacemaker surely is a task in itself, Verghese reiterates the same saying it's no mean feat. “Your communication has to be top notch for your strategy is completely different from the runners behind you. One also has to take into account the runners participating for the first time.
You need an absolute 100% assurance that you will complete the race. You just have to, there is no choice. There's no better test of my mental strength.” says Verghese who was pacemaker for the 05:30:00 mark for the third year running.
The 53-year-old has a unique way of preparing for these marathons. “One day per hour difference in time zone compared to India is how I calculate and reach the city in advance. It helps me get used to the altitude and terrain.”
Having hit the mark of 49 marathons, Verghese couldn't have chosen a better place to reach the half-century mark. And following a strict calendar that sees the Delhi resident run not more than 8 marathons a year, he's chosen the date to perfection as well. Verghese shall be running at the Everest Base Camp, Nepal at an altitude of 17,400 feet on the 29th of May, the same day where Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norway first scaled earth's highest mountain. “This and the Boston Marathon are the two places I haven't visited. Antarctica will happen next year. Hopefully, I will get a sponsor to make it seven continents out of seven.”