Published: 09th August 2018
At 42, Deepa Bhat, mother of two, has already participated in more than 50 timed races, 10K runs to Ultra Marathons
Deepa Bhat works as the Assocaite Vice-President of a start-up, is a mother of two and has participated in more than 50 races
Every year, each of us ends up making new resolutions, but hardly ever follow them. But 42-year-old Deepa Bhat is unlike most; she takes up a new adventure every year and this time, she has won herself the privilege of being the first Indian woman to complete the Mount Everest Extreme Ultramarathon. Starting the circuit on May 29 at 6 am and finishing it on May 30 at 1 am, Deepa completed the 60 km circuit in 19 hours 50 minutes with a coffee break in between. Meanwhile, Taher Merchant, a friend of hers who also participated in the same category, completed the marathon in 19 hours 57 minutes.
Sharing her experience of completing the ultra marathon on the high altitude Himalayan mountain range, Deepa says, "Unlike other ultramarathons, one has to first trek for 11 days to reach the starting line. And what makes it more interesting and challenging is the extreme cold and the fact that the food is not the same as what you get at home. To get through these initial 11 days, one needs to be physically and mentally strong. And unless you are a person who loves the mountains and hear them calling out to you, you cannot complete the race."
Deepa was awarded the 'Runner of the Quarter' Award from TomTom Sports, the world leaders in fitness watches. She is also a running coach at cure.fit
Listening to her, we became more curious about some of the other challenges that she and the other marathoners faced while trekking uphill. "The last three to four days of trekking became quite difficult. There is no vegetation and no trace of animals at such high altitudes. And coming from Bengaluru, I am not someone who can easily manage severe cold conditions. We finally reached the Everest Base Camp after 11 days of trekking. That night, I still remember the biting cold, sub-zero temperature. We were sleeping on glacier at the Everest Base Camp," narrates this mother of two teenagers.
But just a day before beginning the marathon, Deepa suffered from hypothermia. Her oxygen saturation level had dropped to 37 per cent and her blood pressure dropped too low. "I thought that my marathon experience would end there and that I would be air-lifted. But thankfully, one of the advantages was that there were many doctors who accompanied us on the trek, so I was looked after very well. On the same day, there was a mock run for which I wore a saree to bring in that 'Indian' feeling. The mock run set an example for how prepared we should be for the race," she says.
A Joyful Run: Deepa Bhat at the 60-km Mount Everest Extreme Ultramarathon
So, who was Deepa's trainer and what was her regime like? To our surprise, Deepa never employed a trainer nor is she the kind of person who likes to set a target for herself and try to do better every day, she claims, "I run for the joy of running. It is to keep myself happy. This is the reason that I never had a trainer. I have participated in more than 50 races of both 50 km and 75 km distances. But one cannot become an ultra-marathoner overnight. I have trained myself for almost three years," she says.
She further opines that apart from training, a diet too plays an important role in training. "To lose my weight, I stopped consuming rice, wheat, bread, and cake. I started treating myself with a variety of millets like ragi and navane. This became a practice and I used to munch on all kinds of fruits and dry fruits too. Training is only 40 percent of the journey. The rest is diet, hydration, rest and rest is ofcourse, conditioning the mind. Anything I do, I ask myself first, "Why I am doing this?"As I grow older, I realise how important it is to be at peace with myself. I include a few minutes of medidation each day," Deepa says.
And this is not the first time that Deepa had taken up a tough challenge like this one. In 2013, she climbed an active volcano, Mount Bromo in Indonesia. Her passion for trekking has taken her on other adventures too, like the Khardung La Challenge in 2017. This challenge is a 72 km trek at 18,500 feet and is deemed one of the toughest and highest ultramarathons in the world. And Deepa didn't just complete the marathon, she was the second runner-up. "I have never wanted to 'win' any race. In 2017, I participated in the 75 km Jawadhu Ultra Marathon as a way to prepare for Khardung La, but I ended up winning it!" she exclaims.
Being the first Indian woman to complete the Everest Extreme Marathon, this came as a complete surprise to me. Such an honour to hold the tricolour, this has been my proudest moment in my life. Races can never happen to conquer mountains. I learn so much when I came back from ultra marathons. It just teaches us to remain humble and I feel happy to be back home safe and sound with my family. This will lead me to think which challenge I can take up next
Deepa Bhat, Ultra Marathoner
Saree factor: Deepa wore a saree for a mock run to bring in that 'Indian' feeling
Now, we hate to be stereotypical, but we had to ask Deepa, who is the Associate Vice-President of PrepMySkills, a programme that imparts life skills education like embracing diversity, digital literacy and developing sensitivity in young minds, how she manages to work, run a home and run marathons."I first work on the five priorities set for the day and also allot time for myself. Finding 'Me Time' is important. Its over eight years, we do not have a television at home and this helps focus on what is really important. Most women do not have time for themselves in the act of making everyone else happy and doing things for others," says Deepa, who is also a professional diver, including several wreck dives too. Now that sounds like a perfectly balanced woman!