For some of us, the idea of a birthday celebration is to either grab dinner or a couple of drinks with our friends or throw a little celebration with our loved ones to make the day special. For Ashish Kasodekar, however, to mark his 50th birthday, a little celebration is not enough.
He wanted to do something grand. Something like setting a Guinness World Record of most consecutive days to run a marathon distance. It was on November 28 in 2021 that Pune’s Kasodekar undertook the challenge to participate in the longest multi-distance foot race that involved running 60 full marathons in as many days.
On January 26, he successfully finished his effort and he will be enlisted in the ultra-dynamo category of the forthcoming Guinness World Records.
He initially planned to run for 50 days in tandem with his age but on finding out that there is a Guinness record of 59 marathons in as many days, he simply ‘figured that he’d add 10 more [days] and make it a record.’
Running a distance event like the Ultra Dynamo marathon or the 555-km La Ultra The High, as Kasodekar has accomplished, requires tremendous physical fitness and the resolve to accomplish something previously unimaginable.
For instance, this event in particular, involved him adopting a disciplined 60-day regimen that required having meals on time, getting quality eight-hour sleep and taking ice baths to aid his recovery for running five and a half hours everyday.
But no matter how hard they train their body, an athlete’s mental endurance is crucial to their success.
In a conversation with Scroll.in, Kasodekar delved into the mindset which drives endurance athletes to take on challenges and help us explore a crucial question: why set a world record?
“According to me, every person in life should do something... wherein if someone asks, ‘What do you get out of this?’ The answer should be, ‘Happiness’,” said Kasodekar.
Of course, we ought to acknowledge that it requires an unconventional thought process to set or break a Guinness World Record. Whether it is braving extreme conditions, risking physical well-being or finding glory in something that may not exactly assure you of celebrity status or a significant reward.
“Most of the time, we end up working for a medal, a certificate or money, or simply to get something out of it. And when we don’t get that, then there’s depression, there’s sadness.
“I knew I was not going to get anything from anybody. So, when I set out to do an activity, the aim is to get happiness, that gives a sort of motivation to do better,” he said.
The ultimate celebration
What sets Kasodekar’s mentality apart is his ability to remain undeterred in the toughest of times. As if setting this new record was not a hard enough feat in itself, he also managed to pull it off in a time when the Omicron variant caused Covid-19 cases to surge all across the globe.
“When we are aiming for a record, it helps us to get more people involved. If it was 50 marathons in 50 days [as he originally planned], it would’ve just been about my personal goal and happiness. While that is important, I thought about getting more people involved and have a festival of running, where we invite people to achieve different milestones.
“Getting people who were not already into running involved was the key. I thought of building a community where they can start something new,” he added.
The community that Kasodekar refers to involved fellow athletes, running and cycling enthusiasts, and people from his various social circles from his school and college days. There was an enthusiasm in his voice as he spoke about creating memories that sometimes involved mother-daughter pairs, or families celebrating anniversaries and birthdays together, by running alongside him.
“There were so many people that did their first marathon there. People took up running because of this activity. And, that is the beauty of this particular event. I feel so happy when people tell me that my dream can be a reason for other people to take up an activity,” he said.
And for him, that was the ultimate celebration.
He also reminisced the La Ultra marathon in 2019 where he observed an individual effort becoming the dream of his supporters and crew members. He said, “It became a dream of so many people. They were following me, they were cheering me, so when one personal dream can get others happiness, it’s a big thing.”
The mental endurance and positivity connection
You can expect to find Kasodekar handling his travel business or taking on a new challenge but he’s also likely to make an excellent motivational speaker and one can credit that to the positive outlook he adopts in life. It is probably why you are unlikely to hear in much detail about the swelling in his veins or the shin and calf pain he struggled with during the course of the event.
“A lot of things happened but those are small things. When you are focused on things and are genuinely happy about doing what you’re doing, the small things remain small. But the moment your focus goes haywire, then these small things become big and you land up doing nothing,” he said.
“I never looked at it as a 60-day event. For me, it was an everyday event. Every day, when I used to get up, I used to think, ‘Aaj kya dekhne waala hoon? (What am I going to see today?), Which athlete am I going to meet? And, what will be his story?’ I met so many people and everybody had a story and those stories inspired me throughout.”
A limitless mind
It hasn’t even been a week since his 60-day marathon effort to try and displace Italy’s Enzo Capororaso in the Guinness Records listings, but he’s already thinking about the next frontier to conquer. Termed the world’s toughest and most demanding footrace, The Badwater 135 is Kasodekar’s next dream. Covering a 217-km non-stop journey from the Badwater Basin to the Whitney Portal, he plans to take the challenge head on, in the scorching July-heat this year.
For the Pune-based entrepreneur, a life spent worrying about getting the electricity and telephone bills paid is a confining idea. And, while one would think that breaking a record is what contentment truly feels like, in wanting to pursue the Badwater 135, Kasodekar is showing the world that if the mind is limitless, even the unimaginable can be achieved.