An ultimate journey from being an overweight non-runner to finishing 90 km Comrades race

This is more than just a story of weight loss. 26-year-old Gautam Pothineni speaks about his journey from being a 115 kg man unable to ascend the stairs to 90 km in the Ultimate Human Race, Comrades.
This plant-based endurance runner, a Chartered Accountant – Manager of the International Tax Domain for Ernst & Young, is currently preparing for a sub-3 marathon.

This is the story of Gautam.
“Back in 2015, I was a 115 Kg guy unable to climb a floor of stairs. This was when something clicked, and I took up CrossFit as a way to lose weight and get back to my old self. Around the same time, a bike store opened up near the cross-fit studio, and I met a couple of other people who were into running. This introduced me to the previously unknown world of endurance sports.
Over the past five years, I have run multiple 10K’s and Half Marathons, completed three marathons, a couple of trail 50Ks, Comrades Marathon, and attempted a 100K mountain trail race in Hong Kong. During the same time, I have also done a series of brevets and a couple of multi-day tours on the bike. I have managed to come down from an obese 115 kg guy to a reasonably fit 78 kg guy throughout this journey.
I am currently training to improve my marathon timing and run a sub 2:45-2:50 marathon by the end of 2021/22. I am also a precision nutrition level 1 certified nutritionist and transitioning into being a 100% plant-based athlete.

I frankly don’t remember how this idea came to my mind. I wish I wrote a blog immediately after the race now! But I remember the entire training phase, nutrition and race strategies, and the actual race like yesterday. Once I registered for the race in September, I immediately started training for the qualifying marathon. As luck would have this, there were three other like-minded runners from Hyderabad who registered for Comrades as well, and we were able to train together once in a while. I chose Mumbai as my qualifying marathon and ran an underwhelming 03:37:58. Once I recovered from Mumbai, the actual training for Comrades began.

The significant challenges for training towards Comrades were the Indian summer heat, lack of hills and elevation to train for a hilly race such as Comrades and the amount of time it took out your personal life to prepare and recover. There was no way around the heat. It is what it is; you just have to accept and get on with it. Concerning the hills, I would do multiple repeats of a 1K hill in Hyderabad. Also, we made monthly trips over the weekend to a place called Srisailam (200K from Hyderabad), which had an impressive 30K loop with quite some elevation which was good training for Comrades.

Coming to personal life, I am thankful to have had amazing parents and a girlfriend who understood what I was training for and helped and enabled me to concentrate on my training without worrying about any personal stuff. So it was just training, office, sleep, and back to training. The specific training block lasted for 129 days, where I ran 1,472K.
Race Day
The entire race experience was just surreal. The way the locals are passionate about this race throughout the 90k from Pietermaritzburg gets to you. Imagine people cheering for you by your name or your country throughout the 90K. The race organization was simply world-class, and I would go back somewhere down the line. I had my ups and downs, was on target pace through midway but slowed down drastically on the downhills towards the end and finished at 10:08:54.

I believe my biggest achievement is getting out of a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle to a fully fit, functional, and improving athlete. I have some audacious running goals, including running a sub 2:45 marathon and racing mountain trail ultras shortly. I have listed down my current bests below:
5K – 00:19:10
10K – 00:40:30
Half Marathon – 01:31:03
Marathon – 03:38:57
Comrades (2018) – 10:08:54

I have been a vegetarian for over three years now. I had just lost my appetite for eating any meat, and I thought this would be a passing phase. But as soon as I turned vegetarian, I was surprised by how well my body felt, how well my sleep was, how easily I recovered from workouts! This made me intrigued, and I got into reading a lot about the plant-based diet. I was amazed by not only the advantages it has for your body as well as your mind but also the environment. I slowly and steadily worked towards being a 100% plant-based athlete since then, and I am about 95% there. The only weakness being homemade Indian sweets which may not be plant-based all the time! But yea, without trying to sound like a preacher, you would be amazed how good your body feels and recovers on a plant-based diet. Plus, how sustainable it is from an environmental perspective is just a bonus.

Inspired to participate in a race? RUN IN WATERLOO. Details HERE

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