While we all see in the Gruelling Marathon in 2 hours in Rio , I cannot but remember the great Shivnath Sahab. (Best wishes to the 3 Indians in the fray today, hope they can better Sahab’s Record !) The fastest barefoot marathon in the world is by Shivnath Singh, faster than Abebe Bikila’s marathon, on cobbled streets of Rome in 1960.
Sahab, ran a scorching pace and was with leading top 3 till 30 km
(see him behind Viren, in blue vest)
He started as 5,000m and 10,000 m runner, however was denied golds at Asian level, and Hari Chand was defeating him too, as Hari Chand had a punishing kick. So, he moved to running marathons and qualified for Olympics with a time of 2:12 in Jullundar trials.
Born in Buxar from Bihar Regiment, when he ran, there was poetry with his feet. If you observed him from the side, he was epitome of efficiency of motion, feet would glide and arms were moving very minimally. Trained by the famous Mohd Ilyas Babbar, he could work really hard, and set a scorching pace for others to follow. (Babbar Sahab, would tell his trainees to go for time trials, set by AFI for Indian Athletes to go for Asian/World levels, so they were good front runners, all of them.). Once, Shivnath Sahab was describing that, he decided to change tactics with 2 Japanese runners, and was running in wind tunnel.
The Japs got confused and said to him - Go, Go. He replied in Bhojpuri - “ Arrey Saala, hum kahe Go, you (Unmentionable) Go!” (He was describing this to us after the XL/Tisco Execs X-country run in 1988..and Chats,Pratik etc could appreciate this earthy Great.) 2 days Before the Montreal Olympics, he was warming up in a golf course, barefoot, and twisted his foot to have funny pain in shin.
The local doctor applied some balm and which would have effect for 90 min (but the race is for 130 min..). He was leading the race till 30 km, and asked for bucket of water (to throw over his head, like runners do in India). He was given Ice cold water, due to lack of communication, and his body shrivelled up, and also the shin had started paining. His time was the best in Asia for almost 25 years, and no Indian can possibly reach his levels. He must be 45 our so in 1988, and after our XLRI - Tisco Execs race , he complimented me with statements like ‘Bhaiji ki Body dekh kar hum to darr gaye they’ - Of course in 3 km race, he beat me by almost 400 m. He was humble, and he was an entertainer, and a Running Legend.
We need runners like him to be brand ambassadors, not Farhan Akhtars (who are actors of runners), and definitely not the Bipasha Basu types for Airtel Marathon, and other local sporting events..