Vishak Krishnaswamy: Dombivali's barefoot runner

He has also created a world record in attempting a barefoot half-marathon for 21 consecutive days in May-June this year.

Abhitash SinghUpdated: Sunday, June 19, 2022, 11:23 AM IST
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Barefoot marathon runner Vishak Krishnaswamy |

After hearing about the inspiring story of Terry Fox, the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon, Vishak Krishnaswamy also took to the roads. Since starting to run in 2017, at the age of 24, Vishak has made many records – among them being the second place in the 72-hour, 300-km Endurance Run in Bangalore, second place in the Hennur Bamboo Ultra 220-km run, and third place in 161-km Pune Ultra Marathon.

He has also created a world record in attempting a barefoot half-marathon for 21 consecutive days in May-June this year. The upcoming goals constitute 1,000 km in 10 days, 10,000 km in 120 days and 42km every day for 110 days. The Free Press Journal spoke to him during a breather.

How did barefoot running start?

I have been undertaking endurance marathons for the past five years and wanted to do something new in life, so I searched for world records in the Guinness book and found that one person ran barefoot half marathons for most consecutive days. I got down to it and applied with the Harvard world records for this category and completed it in 21 days. As evidence, I submitted accounts of two witnesses and my GPS and Strava data. My experience on the first day of barefoot running – May 23, 2022, was amazing as I ran for two hours and 20 minutes without shoes at the KDMC ground in Dombivli. The rest of the days it wasn’t easy with stones and pebbles hurting my feet. When people asked me why I was running without shoes, I said it can help me stay grounded. It is a lost science, I feel. My dream is now to represent India in the Ultra Barefoot Run.

What are the benefits of this activity?

Studies have shown that barefoot runners automatically shorten their strides. It reduces stress on the legs and generates more power in each stride. It can help you save money on shoes, on a lighter note. To begin with, one can run on soft surfaces such as dirt or grass. Being part of nature, I think helps boost immunity.

How can one earn a living only by walking?

It is very difficult to earn by walking/running. There is also a dearth of sponsors. It costs me Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 every month with a special diet as I burn around 1400 calories a day. I am currently working with ACKO General Insurance Company, so I could afford it without depending on anyone.

In what ways can walking/ running be introduced in schools?

These activities can be introduced in schools via theory sessions and practical training while explaining the benefits. Competitions should also be part of regular physical classes, with runners being invited to explain the benefits of staying fit.

What is the younger generation losing out on?

The younger generation is being lost to the 24/7 use of mobile phones. Owing to Covid -19, people have faced many health problems and should realise that they can surmount them by staying fit. We need to first reach out to parents, so they can further condition their children. My parents always taught me to stay fit and do the right thing, and whatever I have achieved is because of them.

Walking and running are becoming trendy activities. What can the government do to make it safe for them to be on the roads?

Like Sunday streets, the authorities can introduce weekend marathons. Even on normal days, the roads can be safer if we don’t plug in earphones. Guidelines and infrastructure tweaks can go a long way in inspiring a whole generation. Recently, the KDMC blocked one side of 90ft road for running and cycling in Dombivali from 5 am to 8 am.

What kind of shoes do you like?

I like them to be just comfortable. I keep two to three pairs for long 80-100-km runs. I don’t buy expensive shoes, as I feel brands don’t increase performance. Also, new shoes shouldn’t be worn while running as they can cause injuries. For mountain running, I use trail running pairs that can protect my feet from small stones; these, though, are more expensive than other running shoes.

What is the connection between feet and Earth?

Numerous reports indicate that barefoot walking and running have several physiological benefits, besides enhancing general well-being and health and fitness. It also improves sleep and promotes deeper sleep. There are other ways to make the connection – walking in a park or going out trekking with people. Sleeping on the grass while camping can do it, too. I recommend at least 30 minutes of walking or running every day, sometimes with your family. Let us not forget that once upon a time, we only walked.

What is it like walking on potholed roads and rains?

Just avoid, feet are not tyres that can manoeuvre potholes, though running when it rains can be fun. In mountainous terrains, with greenery around, it is exciting to walk and soak in waterfalls, but people should remember that they need to heed the warnings of authorities and stay away from areas that can become dangerous during rains.

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