Leap Athletes

During her school days in Ahmedabad, Priyanka Bhatt played all kinds of games with her friends. But it was dancing that she enjoyed the most, whether she had company or otherwise. The early days were spent in front of the television, shaking a leg like her favourite movie stars. She soon become a student of dance after joining an academy run by renowned choreographer, Shiamak Davar.

For five years, dance became an integral part of her life, until her work commitments took her to Mumbai. Long hours at the office gave her little time for anything else and before she realised it, she had quite unknowingly taken to an unhealthy lifestyle. One fine day, Bhatt decided to bring an end to it all and went out to buy a pair of running shoes. She graduated from her walks to a run, though the first 5km was a laboured effort. But it was hardly a deterrent and just a month later, she had worked her way towards finishing her first half marathon.

Through running, she rediscovered the joy of being in her own company that she had once experienced while dancing. The longer she ran, the more satisfied she was with the effort. Ultra marathons were a natural progression and at the Bengaluru 24-hour stadium run, she ran 170km to make the cut for the Indian team that competed at the IAU 24-hour World Championships in France. That race was special for Bhatt as she logged a mammoth 192.8km - the second-highest distance for an Indian woman as of 2020. With the Badwater Ultramarathon on her to-do list before 2021, the distances are only set to increase for Bhatt in the months ahead.

- First position at 24-hour Stadium Run in Mumbai in 2019
- First position at 24-hour Stadium Run in Bengaluru in 2019
- Finisher at Khardung La Challenge (72km) in 2017 

While still in his teens, circumstances led Adil Nargolwala to work towards earning a living in order to support his family. For the next two decades or so, he remained neck deep in work and had little time for any kind of indulgences. Things took a turn around 10 year ago when he decided to sign up for a gym membership in his office complex. While the initial satisfaction came from simply beating the peak hour rush, it soon transformed his life for the better.

As his wife had already taken to running, Nargolwala too decided to sign up for his first run and was soon hooked onto the sport. The couple soon started taking ‘run-cations’, where they would travel the world and participate in some of the most testing marathons as part of the holiday. When Nargolwala first heard of a triathlon, he knew he had to give it a go and started adding extra hours to the training routine while mixing up the three disciplines.

Today, he has knocked off an Ironman and an Ultraman, has run a marathon in all seven continents and is a world marathon major finisher (New York, Boston, Chicago, London, Berlin and Tokyo). He is a Triple Super Randonneur of the Audax Club Parisien, having cycled the distances of 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km on three occasions. He has also done the Kili double - summiting Africa’s highest mountain, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and running the Kilimanjaro Marathon. Nargolwala lives by two mantras, discipline and dedication, and while he continues to rise early to avoid traffic even today, going to the gym has a whole new meaning for him these days.

- Current national record holder in Limca Book of Records for finishing 60 long-distance events (ultra marathons, marathons, half marathons and triathlons) in a year
- Winner at Ironman 70.3 Goa (age group 50-54) in 2019
- Winner at Delhi International Triathlon (Sprint category) in 2019

A dynamic professional career saw Shashwat Rao employed with every industry from Information Technology to the automobile and media sector. His his last stint in 2017 was as a cricket analyst. Then one fine day, he put all the luxuries of a city life behind him to chase his calling.

While cricket was a constant during his school days, running was something that he discovered like anyone else, starting off with 10km runs and graduating to his first marathon in 2012. Three years later, he ran his first ultra marathon at the Javadhu Hills Ultra. The initial draw was the solitude and vivid scenery that nature had to offer during these runs. Soon, he was formulating a plan for each race and thriving on the unparalleled joy that he experienced, each time it all fell into place.

The fascination for the outdoors was overwhelming, enough reason for him to switch base from Bengaluru to Solang in Himachal Pradesh. Ever since, he’s focussed on training in the mountains to compete in some testing ultra races around the world and in India. Over the last few years, he’s aced daunting challenges such as the Tor des Geants (330km), the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (171km) and the Tailwind Penang Eco 100 (166km). These days, he continues to thrive on racing fast runners and enduring life threatening situations, while living the sustainable life of a monk in the high mountains when out of competition.

- Winner at Solang Sky Ultra 100km in 2019
- Fastest single attempt at Hardrock 100 Virtual Challenge (sub 25 hours)
- Second position at Vagabond ULtrail (90km) in 2020


During his days as a PhD student, Amit Gulia spent endless hours holed up in a laboratory, tirelessly working on experiments in the hope of arriving at some results. Once home, he had just about enough energy to hit the sack and ready for another rigorous day at work. On a few occasions, he tried the odd game of badminton, but fitness was never a priority back then given his workload.

It was a local run in Chandigarh around six years ago that got things started for him. Though it was a short distance, it showed Gulia the independent nature of running. He soon started doing laps inside his campus when he had time away from his tight schedule and found distance running to be effortless. Two half marathon followed and on a practice run with aspiring marathoners, he pulled off the 38-km distance with ease. When a friend suggested he sign up for his first ultra marathon, Gulia had his doubts given his inexperience, but decided to join him nonetheless.

While most started out tentatively on the 80km run, Gulia was off the blocks at a pace that had the organisers in awe. A few thought he would burn out soon after, but by the end of his first ultra marathon, he had taken top spot and there’s been no looking back ever since. Till date, Gulia has never run an official, timed marathon, making ultra distances his forte. He has represented India at the IAU 24-hour World Championships and WMA 24-hour World Championships held at Belfast, Ireland in 2017, besides qualifying for Spartathlon on two occasions. In addition to competing, Gulia also raises funds for various charities each year through running.

- Winner at Khardung La Challenge (72km) in Leh in the non-Ladakhi category in 2019
- Winner at Border 100 miler from Jaisalmer to Longewala in 2018 with new course record
- Winner at Shimla Ultra (80km) in 2018 with new course record


Once fate brought Deepak Bandbe and running together, there was no looking back. It was in search of employment that he first arrived in Mumbai from the coastal town of Rajapur. But even before he found a job, he discovered the joy of running. There was little in terms of technique during those early days, but the pace was evident, irrespective of the distance. And once he settled in, it took him little time to find his stride.

Coming from a family of farmers, resources have often been hard to come by for Bandbe. What he has in abundance though is the fire in his belly that allows him to chase his newfound love with a vengeance. His day starts before the sun is out and after a gruelling training routine, he spends long hours on his feet at an automobile showroom where he is employed as a salesman.

By the time his day ends, Bandbe has just about enough energy to tuck into a light dinner and gear up for another early morning. In just five years since he took to running, he has found a place on the Indian team and in 2019, he set a new mark for the fastest Indian over the 100km distance at the Asia and Oceania Championships in Jordan.  

- Third position at IAU 100km Asia and Oceania Championships in Jordan, in 2019
- Winner at Tata Mumbai Marathon in 2019 in the men’s (25-29 years) category
- Fastest Indian at the Comrades Marathon (up run) in 2019


For over a decade, Prabhakaran M was married to basketball. Then one day, the affair came to an abrupt end when he picked up a knee injury. The work life took over in the next few years and time came at a premium, even as he longed to get back to the outdoors someday.

The first opportunity arrived on a hike with the Chennai Trekking Club with the dodgy knee at the back of his mind. When he heard that the same gang also organised two triathlons each year, he decided to give it a go. The first one came in 2011, and though Prabhakaran doggie paddled his way through the swimming leg, the joy of making the finish line was unmatched. He soon became a student of the sport, reading material written by experts, experimenting with them during training and along the way, learning from his own mistakes. Even after he moved based to Gurugram, he continued training in all three disciplines and start getting better in triathlons held across the country.

The first international stint took him to the Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya in 2016; the following year, he survived a crash on the cycling leg to make the finish of Ironman Malaysia. While choosing to focus on the shorter distances there on, Prabhakaran also decided to infect others with the same fervour that drives him on. He co-founded the Performance Tri Club and also started a YouTube channel, Triathlon India Network, to create awareness around the sport and help it grow in India.

- Winner of duathlon (Olympic distance) at New Delhi Triathlon Championship in 2018
- Finisher at Ironman Malaysia in 2017 and Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya in 2016
- Third position at Delhi International Triathlon (Sprint distance) in 2015


It comes as a shocker for Gunjan Khurana’s childhood buddies to see her running these days. The initial goal was simply to shed the postpartum weight. Her progress was gradual on a 3km track near her home in Surat, but as the distances increased with time, she soon realised that she had a deep connection with running.

Things were simple at first while she tackled the shorter distances. But once she joined the ultra marathon bandwagon, she had to first see to the comfort of her young family back home, before setting out for training. While gearing up for the Comrades Marathon, she would hit the road for a night run after putting her two girls to sleep, returning just in time to see them wake up. There were other days when the body begged for rest, but that had to wait until the household chores were taken care of.

The sacrifices during those early days have paid off today. Since her first marathon in 2014, she has gone on to finish six others, besides another 17 half marathons, which she has to pick and choose from given her full-time job back home. Yet, by 2019, she had transformed into a strong runner to find a place on the Indian team. The tables have turned over the years and these days, it’s the girls who push her on, well aware that running completes their mother.

- Second position as part of women’s team of three at the IAU 100km Asia and Oceania Championships in Jordan in 2019
- Finisher at Comrades Marathon (up run) in 2019
- First position at Summit Saputara in 100km (2017 & 2018) and 50km (2019)



Long distance running started out for Apoorva Chaudhary back in school. But somewhere along the way, education and a corporate career took over as a priority. Then, from out of the blue, her world turned upside down when she was diagnosed with asthma.

It was a sheer stroke of luck that took her back to running. While working in Bengaluru, a friend requested her to play the body double of another runner for a documentary. Chaudhary was pleasantly surprised to realise that she had little trouble negotiating the slopes of Nandi Hills during the shoot. Soon, she was volunteering at ultra marathon events across the country. The runners she saw there were enough motivation for her to don shoes, but at the back of her mind, there was always the health concern to consider.

One fine day in 2016, she decided to drop all medicines, packing just an inhaler as backup. She signed up for a 10km run and the disappointment of not finishing on the podium drove her on to get better. The distances increased there on, alongside her aspirations. At the first 24-hour run, she broke the national record by logging 176.8km and was soon living her dream of donning the India jersey after making it to the national team. These days, the marketing professional is taking lessons in time management to balance a successful career alongside running.

- Current national record holder after logging 202.212km at the IAU 24-hour World Championships in France
- First Indian woman to smash the 200km barrier in 24 hours
- First position at 24-hour Stadium Run in Bengaluru in 2018

While growing up in the hilly climes of Dwarahat in Uttarakhand, Binay Sah indulged in the odd game of cricket or football for fun. Even when he signed up for his first Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in 2011, it was mostly to spend time with his friends and enjoy the freebies at the end of the run. Before he realised it, he had settled into an unhealthy routine around his day job.

All that changed one day when his baby, quite unintentionally, had him realise his flabby paunch. It was enough reason for him to set out on his running journey, while hoping to set a good example for his kids. After getting the feel of a few half marathons, Sah ran the Tuffman Shimla Ultra Mashobra and followed it up with two 50km races in 2016. He soon realised that endurance was his calling and started chasing new targets with each race.

Since starting out in 2015, he has run over 60 races across various distances, including ultra marathons and obstacle runs. He has also represented India on two occasions at the IAU 100km World Championships in Croatia and the 24-hour World Championships in France, and firmly believes that running has the power to change lives, just like it has for him.

- Finisher at Comrades Marathon (both up and down run)
- Logged the second-best 100km timing by an Indian at Medanta Gurugram Stadium Run
- Winner of Tuffman Series in 2016


Sandhya Thakur

For a few months of the year, the alpine slopes around Manali transform into a skier’s paradise. Like most kids in the area, Sandhya Thakur enjoyed her first slide in the frozen fields around her home in Palchan. It took her little time to graduate to the slopes and she soon realised the sheer thrill of storming down the mountain at breakneck speeds. A journey that started with domestic events soon graduated to international competitions in Iran and Japan, the latter at the 8th Winter Asian Games. The performance she holds close to heart is the ‘Best Athlete’ award that she was handed at the Senior Nationals in Solang in 2019. Through most of the year, she trains as a track and field athlete to put on another stellar performance come winter.

Raj Kaushal Chettri

Around six years ago, Raj Kaushal Chettri was invited on a road trip from Manali to Leh. From the comfort of his car, he saw a few cyclists take on the rugged terrain en route, and once back home, cycling had a whole new meaning for the teenager. He soon started mingling with the other cyclists and found his place in the downhill and enduro events. The first specialised bicycle was procured on loan, but with the training in place, it took him little time to finish on the podium at many events across the country. He even showcased his skills in the film, ‘Bawli Booch’, which went on to win many awards. While working on his own abilities these days, he is also grooming the next generation of daredevils like him.

Roshni Rai

A lawyer by profession and a runner at heart, Roshni Rai’s mission is to instil the same zeal for running in others that she initially experienced in 2007. Though that first stint ended in an injury, she bounced back the following year after joining a structured training program and took to running across India and around the world. She has gone on to run over 50 races that include the Comrades Marathon in South Africa and the Everest Marathon in Nepal. Hailing from Darjeeling, it has become her mission since 2012 to help fellow Gorkha runners from the hill town excel through the Run with Roshni Foundation and her dream is to see an Olympic marathon champion from the country some day.

Shreyans Gupta

It was the drive to stay fit that got Shreyans Gupta into running at first. However, once he added structure to his training, he started excelling at the sport and decided to give it some serious thought. In 2019, he took on a regimented routine that included strength training, physio and mobility workouts, in addition to the mileage that he had planned each week. The impact was evident as he started knocking off his timings consistently. His marathon timing of 3.46 was bettered to a sub-3.10 mark, besides pulling off a half marathon in under 90 minutes. Once he saw the training plan work for him, he decided to help others achieve their goals and is today a running coach based out of Indore.

Shun A

It all started out with randonneuring for Shun A in 2014. As he gained the experience of tackling extended distances, he started focussing on the art of racing and all that it took to keep bettering his abilities. Despite holding a corporate job, he took out time to compete in multiple endurance races, starting with the Deccan Cliffhanger that runs from Pune to Goa in 2016. And there’s been no looking back ever since. Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, he continued racing, logging 4,650km at the Virtual Race Across Europe to finish seventh, besides a runners-up spot during the National Virtual 12-hour Time Trial where he rode 404.5km.

Chatrapati Aryan Tandon

They say triathlon is an old man’s sport, but Chatrapati Aryan Tandon would beg to differ. While other teenagers around him were busy chasing the latest distraction that came their way, he had managed to get on the Delhi state team by the time he was just 17. The following year, he clinched his first win at the New Delhi Triathlon Championship. It was enough reason for him to chase his newfound passion with a vengeance and with targets in sight, his training took a whole new meaning. By the time he hit 19, he was a two-time winner at the Delhi International Triathlon and the youngest to win the Delhi State Championship, even as he hopes to attain new highs in the time ahead.

Vidyanand Yadav

As a teenager growing up in Sant Kabir Nagar in Uttar Pradesh, Vidyanand Yadav aspired to join the Indian Army and first started running to meet their stringent fitness norms. While he eventually failed to make the cut for the armed forces, it helped him discover the runner in him and he now trained his eyes on a new target. Since picking up his first silver medal in 2016, he has gone on to register over 50 podium finishes and is today a full-time runner based out of Navi Mumbai, taking on everything from 10km runs to marathons. He is always on the lookout for new challenges and hopes to inspire others through his achievements.

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