A young turk from Powai, Sanket Ganesh Battu is a 19-year-old Mumbaiker who is a triathlete and marathon runner with over 100 races under his belt and multiple podium finishes to his name. This teenage runner has covered over 1200 kilometers during his races. To put things into perspective, he’s covered more than a third of India’s length.
Battu is one of the youngest ever to successfully finished the International IRONMAN 70.3 Goa Triathlon which comprises 1.9km Swim + 90km Cycle + 21.1km Run, which must be completed in a cut-off time. He placed tenth in the 10 km in 2018 edition amongst 1600+ runners during the Tata Mumbai Marathon. He also completed the 42.2km in 2019 and 2020 editions of the same. He’s also represented Mumbai at the Maharashtra State Junior Athletic Championship in 2000m Steeplechase.
We spoke to this prodigy in an exclusive interview. Excerpts…
What’s your ‘running’ story?
I’ve been into sports since I was a toddler. I’ve also had a passion for playing sports and have enjoyed the thrill of competing. Any sport I could lay my hand on as a kid, I wanted to play. My friends and family took notice of my sporting abilities after I began winning events in school. With time collecting medals and trophies became a hobby. This hobby was later channelled into competitive distance running.
I ran my first distance race on the 4th of January in 2015. It was a 4 km run and I finished quite strong. Since then I’ve never looked back, well apart from the times I looked back to check where the other runners were. After my first race, I was hooked. I ran a few 10km races then half marathons and now I’ve completed a number of full marathons. I’ve also managed to up the ante for myself with triathlons now. I’m sure people often wonder why you chose marathons over sprints, any particular reason why?
Like most people I started running to increase my stamina to perform well in other sports. Distance running is an altogether different beast when compared to sprints. People usually prefer sprints over running a marathon but both sports have their own advantages and challenges. I feel distance running suits my body type, my interests. Also I like the aura that goes around marathons.
What drove you to running/triathlons?
After participating in team sports, I thought of sticking to a particular sport and then thought of giving a shot to individual sports wherein I only have myself to blame if I lose. So, I chose distance running, trained on my own and won a few of times. But there was something missing for me. Running is its own ecstasy but I needed something more. And so, I moved towards Triathlons (a multisport event wherein you compete in three disciplines i.e. swimming, cycling and running). Training for it is very much fun because you train for 3 different disciplines along with proper strength training.
There is no dull moment when it comes to training because there are so many different forms of training. It is also known to be the most perfect blend of natural forms of exercises. That is because cross-training shapes the body in complementary ways: running develops long, lean muscles; cycling builds strength and tones your lower body; and swimming increases your flexibility and sculpts your upper body.
What are the challenges you’ve had to face?
Most people from the fraternity have had terrible experiences convincing friends and family about the scope of the sport and its viability. I on the other hand had no such troubles. My family and friends have been extremely supportive of me and my career in the sport. There are certainly some issues that daunt most triathletes in Mumbai, including me. For example, cycling on roads of Mumbai is always a big challenge.
It’s a matter of life and death. People on roads are reckless when it comes to their approach with cyclists. Finding a big sized swimming pools nearby in Mumbai is difficult. Triathlons are a little heftier with the respect to the monetary aspect of the sport. When compared to other sports it has a high amount of investment required considering the number of gears that go around, the memberships (pools, gym), the maintenance of the cycle, nutrition and more.
What are your plans for the future?
There’s a list of milestones that I want to achieve but the three major ones would be to compete at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, run all the major marathons across the globe and to rep my tricolour and represent India on an international platform. Some say this is going to be a very long and hard journey, but then again, I am a marathon runner, so I guess that’s my forte.
What’s it like being a runner in Powai?
Powai is one of the best places to run for runners. We have wide footpaths, three big spacious parks and a lush green forest park. There are all kinds of roads – flat, inclined and declined. We also have a hill like elevated path which runners crave for during training.
Any words of advice for those who want to build career in your sport?
Even though these sports don’t get the same love as cricket in our nation, there are still dedicated runners out there and there are also a lot of people who are willing to train, equip and sponsor athletes today. Distance running and Triathlon athletes are still learning the ropes of the trade in India and there’s immense opportunity for growth.
For those who are seriously considering this as a career, the first thing to do is to learn the proper techniques be it running, swimming or cycling. It’s also very crucial to maintain a training log to track your progress. Make sure that you cross train. Give due importance to nutrition. Dispel your fears, focus more on improvising yourself rather than comparing with others. And lastly, when you’re out there running your course, trust your training and just rock the race!
You can follow Sanket's journey on: https://www.instagram.com/sanket.battu/