Nitendra Singh Rawat calls it a ‘pehelwaanon wali injury’ before smiling to himself. He can afford to smile now in hindsight, but the ‘wrestler’s injury’ that Rawat is talking about left him in a painful place as he tried to resuscitate his career after the downer at Rio Olympics, brought about by a separate hamstring problem.
Navel dislocation is not the sort of injury that you would associate with a long-distance runner. As Rawat points out, it’s the kind of thing that only wrestlers and weightlifters identify with. It’s also the kind of injury that doctors don’t even recognise.
“If you went to a doctor to get treated for navel displacement, they’ll look at you like you’re crazy. ‘How can your navel be displaced?’ they will ask you,” he says before adding that the injury was self-inflicted after a vigourous session with weights.
For the 32-year-old marathoner, though, injuries and fitness issues are in the past.
Three years ago, on a muggy Sunday morning Rawat announced himself to the world by smashing the Mumbai Marathon course record. It was not just his pace that caught the eye. The Army man also grabbed headlines for the designer sunglasses and the ponytail he sported during the run.
Three years from that high, Rawat is back in Mumbai, hoping to resurrect his career after many false starts.
“After a few injury-marred months, my body is back to the same shape which helped me win the Mumbai Marathon in 2016. My conditioning is the same as well. In the middle, there were many ups and downs,” Rawat tells Firstpost before admitting that he’s lost one or two kilograms. For any other athlete, this will not be a big deal, but for a long-distance runner with low body mass to begin with, it’s a difficult shift.
Difficulty has been the theme of his career, ever since he hit the jackpot with victory at Mumbai Marathon in 2016. To add insult to the Rio Olympics injury, he was not called for the national camp before also missing out on participating at the Commonwealth Games and the Asiad last year.
“I wasn’t part of the national campers who travelled to Bhutan to train, so I returned to Ranikhet. I was training with runners from my regiment. I now feel that I shouldn’t have gone to Ranikhet in 2018,” he admits.
Finishing 12th among Indian men at the Delhi Half Marathon in October last year was a rude wake-up call which led Rawat to return to Bengaluru to train under Surender Singh Bhandari, who is the national long-distance running coach.
“I was training at Ranikhet with my regiment. But my result at the Delhi Half Marathon was pretty shoddy. That’s when I decided to move back to train under Surender Singh Bhandari in Bengaluru. I’ve been there for the last few months.”
Rawat says that ever since he’s moved back with Rawat, he’s added more elements to his training regimen, such as hurdle drills.
“I’ve think Surender sir will eventually convert me into a steeplechase runner before I retire,” he jokes.
On Sunday, for Indian male runners vying for the full marathon glory, the daunting task will simply be to break the course record. Or, at the very least, come within touching distance of it. The Indian male course record stands at 2:15.48 while the qualification cut-off for the Doha World Championships has been set at 2:16.00.
“The time there’s no other option than breaking the course record. If any Indian male runner wants to qualify for the World Championships, they will have to break the course record,” says Rawat.
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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2019 23:02:58 IST