Indian ultramarathoner stamps his mark in Brazil
Competing alongside some of the world’s best ultramarathoners, the only Indian in the fray timed 59 hours, 21 minutes and 55 seconds, well within the 60 hour cut-off required to successfully complete the race.
Sunil DeSouza reports on the Ahmedabad-based runner’s gruelling run
After two-and-a-half days of continuous moving, 40-year-old Vishwas Bhamburkar from Ahmedabad successfully crossed the finish line at the world famous Brazil217 Ultramarathon as the first Indian to do so, exhausted and fatigued, but with full of pride and a deep sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, Vishwas is among a few who completed the run at his first attempt.
The 217 km Ultramarathon footrace, which starts near Sao Paulo, Brazil, is run on the hardest segment of the Caminho da Fe (Path of Faith), the most difficult Brazilian pilgrimage path. The course boasts 30,000 feet of cumulative ascent and 28,000 feet of cumulative decent, which is analogous to climbing up and down Mt.Everest.
There was minimal support with water, food, medical supplies, etc. during the race, which meant his five-member international crew of Sunil DeSouza (US), Arvind Bijwe (India), Ben Sumague (US), Tom Chapman (UK) and Janna Asta (Holland) had to be prepared for every eventuality along the mountain trail.
Image: Vishwas Bhamburkar is pictured during the 217km Brazil Ultramarathon
Adverse conditions put Bhamburkar through several anxious moments
The only directions on the entire 217 km course were ‘yellow arrows’, making it especially challenging in the pitch darkness of the night to stay on course.
His official race time of 59 hours, 21 minutes, 55 seconds was within the 60 hour cut-off required to successfully complete the race, which featured some of the world’s best ultramarathoners.
As was the case with Vishwas and his crew, there were some anxious moments, which included severe leg cramps in the first 15 km of the race, a condition that lasted right through, many a time threatening to aggravate into something serious. This was the sword of Damocles hanging till the end.
Another misadventure was getting lost at night for 40 minutes. Add to it the 40C heat and very high humidity and it was a recipe for disaster. It led to heat exhaustion and hallucinations. The sleep deprivation, heavy rain, and very steep uphill and downhill stretches that were impossible to anticipate and train for were a given though their degree of severity was unknown.
Vishwas ploughed through these adverse conditions with the sole purpose of completing what he set out to do.
Image: Vishwas is encouraged by one of his crew members on an uphill stretch
It was a challenge on Bhamburkar's legs
After making the final climb at the last hill at 210 km, he saw the city of Paraisopolis, where the race was to finish. He knew he was close but still had seven km to complete in two hours. It was still a challenge on Vishwas's legs that had already carried him for 58 hours over unforgiving terrain.
Surely, it was not the time to slow down and, as expected, he crossed the finish line as the first Indian, proudly holding the tri-colour flag to a huge round of applause by hundreds of spectators, runners, supporters, organizers that were there to greet him.
After a brief congratulatory hug from his crew members and the organizing staff, and a television interview, he received his finishers’ medal.
Over the next few days he will have the privilege and time to let this huge achievement soak in.
There’s no doubt that there will be many smiles at what he has just accomplished, as he will also start planning his "next" big adventure.
Image: Vishwas ran for 58 hours in unforgiving terrain