Marathon is said to be all about endurance but for how long can a passionate marathoner endure a lockdown?
In Krishnan Nair Padmakumar's case, not more than five days. On March 31, the fifth day of the lockdown, Krishnan found a place to beat the lockdown and keep running. His furniture-heavy, wooden-floored apartment at Kowdiar in Thiruvananthapuram became his wide meandering highway.
He might have missed the rising sun, the refreshing morning racket of a thousand invisible birds, and the constantly changing sights, but the 47-year-old engineer still managed to run an unbroken full marathon, the whole of 42.2 kilometres, for just under four-and-a-half hours inside his white-walled curtained apartment.
He was off the mark by 4:20am and reached the finishing point at 8:40am.
It was a 35-metre 'hand fan' shaped path he took to run. He started from the entrance door.
From there, a straight run through a narrow corridor, keeping the straight line through the dining room and the living room, turning at the end of the living room just before where the 'divan' lies, taking a semi-circle around the living room chairs and the dining table, closing the semi-circle at the point where the corridor seeps into the dining room and then back to the starting point through the narrow corridor.
He must have taken his 'hand fan' loop hundreds of times (“possibly more than 1200 times,” he said) to cover the full marathon distance of 42.2 kms.
Starved man's crazy run
To ask Krishnan why he set out to do a full marathon along a maddeningly repetitive path inside a cramped domestic space would be like asking a starved man why he thought nothing of eating from a lunch packet retrieved from a waste dump.
This is a man whose feet had been bitten by the long distance bug since 2006. What began as something he had to do to get rid of accumulating cholesterol in his body quickly became a habit. And for over a decade he had been running 60 to 80 kms a week. Besides renowned sporting events like Berlin and Kochi marathons, Krishnan was part of even ultra-marathons like the Qatar East to West Ultra, a marathon of 90 kms that he took 14 hours to complete.
After he returned from Qatar seven months ago, where he worked as engineer for two decades, Krishnan joined the ITEN Runners Club and continued running. “Once the lockdown was announced, it was illegal to go out running. All of a sudden, I found there was no way for me to run,” Krishnan said.
It was his wife Sreedevi Gopalakrishnan, a spirited walker, who showed him the way. “I found her taking long walks inside the house. So I began running inside the house, five kilometres one day, ten the next day and then the thought just popped out. Why not a full marathon,” Krishnan said.
Infinite circles, slippery road
This was completely different from outdoor running but still was the closest approximation he could think of. “Unlike outdoors where the terrain has its gradients and slopes, this was a flat surface,” Krishnan said. Therefore, it was less tiring. Also, his wife was always at hand to keep him hydrated at regular intervals, a luxury not available outdoors.
But the polished-wood flat surface, and the walled-in interiors, came with certain challenges not felt along the highway. First of all, boredom. “You go on the same loop again and again and again unlike outside where sights keep changing every few metres. You feel slightly giddy at times,” Krishnan said. It required not just physical staying power but also a certain hardening of the mind to last the distance.
Then, the squeaky nature of the running floor. “It is slippery. So you have to be careful with speed. It is hard to even maintain a certain speed because at the curves you need to slow down lest you slip and fall down,” Krishnan said.
Even then he completed the distance, measured by his Garmin running watch, at 4.26 hours; the full marathon world record is 2.01 hours, set by Kenya's Eliud Kichoge.
“I was least bothered about the time. I just wanted to run,” Krishnan said. A video he has shared with Onmanorama shows his 11-year-old daughter Ambika Krishna clapping him on as he nears the milestone. It was around 8.40 am, and his son Adithya Krishna was still sleeping.
Ambika is also seen garlanding her father with a medal she herself had made using thick paper and a cloth string, and on which is written: “Stay at Home. Stay Safe”.
“I also wanted to say that even running can be done indoors,” Krishnan said. “Like work at home, you can also be active at home,” he added.