Nehal and Ashish during Run of Kutch
Nehal and Ashish during Run of Kutch

“How can someone run so comfortably and look so relaxed?” This was my first thought when I saw Dr. Nehal Patel taping his blisters while attempting the grueling Run of Kutch  on the extremely challenging 100 km trail on the salt plains bordering  India-Pakistan.  Exactly 6 months later, Nehal has taken up another challenge, a 100 Miler in Berlin!

Those who know Nehal, see him as an avid reader; a motivational figure to Surti Runners- the group he trains with; an amazing triathlete and runner who trains with great precision and focus, keeping every detail of his upcoming run in mind. As his friends say, if you don’t find Nehal running, you will find him in the OT busy in a surgery. Dr. Nehal is a Maxillofacial Surgeon working for a German charity in India dedicated to bringing smiles to children.

Nehal with Avinash and Kavitha at RoK bib distribution
Nehal with Avinash and Kavitha at RoK bib distribution. Photo by Rashmi

Here are the excerpts from the conversation I recently had with Dr. Nehal, when  I caught up with him at the hospital.

Avi: How did you get into running?

Nehal: It was in 2011 that I decided I had to do something about my weighing scale tipping at 92 kg and cholesterol being on the higher side as I started running with Surat’s only running group ‘Surti Runners’. Things changed after I ran my first half marathon in Goa and till date I’ve done 100 km in the Run of Kutch; Half Ironman in Austria; and many other HMs and Marathons.

Avi: What about training? Do you think cross training is important?

Nehal:  I think one should learn to enjoy the training. It really is the journey which gives real pleasure rather than the destination.  I train 7 days a week.  When it comes to running, I clock 500 odd km a month, with long runs of 50-60 km.

As for cross training, if you think of running being like “Khamman” then cross training is like “Mirchi”. Cross training and core exercises are an integral part of any training. I swim, cycle and do core exercises  and low aerobics for recovery at least 3 days a week as it  keeps my muscles happy and injury free.

Avi: What are your views on Ultra Running? It is believed there is a difference in training for Marathons and training for Ultra distances, especially on trails.

Nehal:  Of course, it’s different.  In Ultra Marathons, you might have to run in the middle of the day, or all through the night, or sometimes carry loads of stuff depending on the type of event. So, you have to train in real situations and I sometimes don’t sleep and start my run at midnight. At other times, I start running at 11 and continue all through the day. It depends on the type of event I am training for.

Avi: I have heard that you love planning and create training plans for everyone in your group. What is that about?

Nehal: When I started running, it was hard to get advice so I started reading books on running. Till now I have read at least 25 different books on running and there is still a lot to learn. I follow the Base-Built- Peak- Taper formula and usually increase my mileage by 10-15% every week while training for a race.

Avi: I have been in Surat for a while now and I’m seeing a lot of people wanting to take up ultra running after you and Ashish ran the 100 Km in the Run of Kutch. What’s your advice for them?

Nehal:  I have read somewhere, and believe, Ultra running is 80% mental and 20% in your head, (laughing). So don’t take it easy and focus on training to make your mind believe that you can do this.

(His phone rang and realising that he would have to leave, I shot my last question.)

Avi: What are your future plans Nehal Bhai?

Nehal: I am looking forward to doing a (Full) Iron Man and ultimately the Globeracers’ Himalayan Crossing (338 Km) in the next couple of years!

Nehal is running 160 Km in the historic Berlin Wall Marathon on 15th August to raise awareness and funds for children born with a cleft. Join us in wishing him luck to conquer this challenge…here’s to you Nehal. Cheers and good luck buddy!


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