Passionate triathletes push boundaries

Aug 08,2018

The duo hopes that the government will give this sport a priority and they hope to promote fitness across the globe.

Gurgaon-based Pankkaj Dhiman, a former cricketer,  and Arun Malik, a retired army man, recently took part in Ironman 70.3 Danang in Vietnam, where 1,600 participants from 55 countries participated.

Their passion for triathlons grew as they were both inclined towards adventure and a challenging life. But it is not too easy to live one’s dream, especially when India is just beginning to recognise the importance and challenges of a sport like this.

Talking about how their triathlon journey began, Pankkaj says, “We were running a lot of marathons in India — like Delhi, Mumbai, Ladakh... We were participating in all those events and looking for something more exhilarating.”

Triathlons turned out to be their answer. “We decided to go ahead with the plan and execute it from 2018. I had an injury in 2017 and there were lot of work commitments, which were stopping us from going ahead with this plan.”

But their passion helped them finish their previous commitments and they soon took to full-time training for triathlons.

Arun took a premature retirement as a colonel and Pankkaj was working as a trainer with a company, which he left as well. “It’s when I was participating in the Ladakh marathon that I decided to leave my job and pursue this full-time,” says Pankkaj.

Arun adds, “I was doing very well in the army and my career was taking an upward turn but I was at a point where I needed to serve for a long period of time before my next on-field challenge would come. I felt like time was slipping from my hands. So I thought there is no more pursuing this career, I will pursue my passion. I wanted to travel the world and get connected to a lot of outdoor activities. I came in contact with Pankkaj and that was a time when I was also thinking of taking this up.”

The Ironman is one of the toughest single day events on this planet, says Arun. “I thought if we could partner, this could work. The event is such that if you have a lot of people working together then you can draw a lot of strength from each other.” Fortunately for them, they have a group in Delhi training together.

Talking about the challenges and the price of this passion, Arun says, “It is a rich person’s sport and it completely drains you out. Your nutrition takes away the entire finances of the month. We don’t shop for anything but nutrition now — protein shakes and supplements is all we buy.”

But it is not just their shopping habits that have been affected. Arun says, “There is a lot of pressure from all sides. My family is very worried about what I am doing with my life. You have to give up a lot of your family life as well. For example, I might wake up at 1 am and then start training at 3 am. Then you have to get ready for a run at 5 am. It takes a lot of time. You have to make all the arrangements before you sleep.”

Their interpersonal relationships have also been affected because of their training. Pankkaj shares, “Finances are definitely one of the major challenges. We are looking for sponsors to help us out. Your social life also goes for a toss. All my friends have stopped calling me because all our productive hours go into training and we don’t miss a single day unless you are sick.”

Apart from these challenges, they also have physical limitations while training. Pankkaj shares, “Training in Delhi means we miss out on opportunities to swim in the open ocean or train in a less polluted environment. We can’t ride outdoors as people are very rash in Delhi, so imagine spending five hours in an indoor training room, just cycling.”

The duo hopes that the government will give this sport a priority and they hope to promote fitness across the globe.


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