For Dhiraj Dedhia, 51 is the new 15
Dhiraj Dedhia never played any sport growing up but that did not stop him from undertaking mega marathons later in life.
At the corner of a busy street of westside Dadar sits a 12-year old boy minding his father’s hardware business. He sees kids his age playing on the other side of the road, but he has never experienced the thrill and exertion of sport; he is simply too shy to go join them.
Fast forward forty years and the same ‘kid’ is now a well-toned, slender man full of youth and virility that defies his age. And he is on the run, literally.
That’s the story of Dhiraj Dedhia who originally belongs to Kutch district in Gujarat. Dhiraj who is known as ‘DD’ by all who hold him, dear, a 51-year old stockbroker is having the time of his life running the gamut of endurance events all over the world.
All work and no play
“Since I was in the seventh standard, I would sit at my father’s retail shop. I didn’t have a friend circle during my childhood either,” recounts Dhiraj, with a tinge of regret in his voice but that is soon forgotten once he starts regaling us with stories of his life’s newfound passion.
That passion kicked off in 2011 when Dhiraj ran the Standard Chartered Marathon. On that day, he exceeded his own expectations and has been hooked since! “I had resolved that whatever happens, I will complete twenty-one km. Back then, there was a three-hour cut off time. I decided even if it takes four hours, I will complete it, but I managed it under two hours and thirty minutes!”
“My family was very happy. I finally did ‘something’ in my life! When I crossed that finish line at CST station, it was a memory for life! After that, I did 55 more events and counting but that first triumph was the most special,” says Dhiraj with pride.
Since that promising start, Dhiraj has gone on an absolute tear, running 30 half marathons, six full and nine ultras! He’s run ultras like KharDungla, FarEast Ultra, and Comrades, the latter being the toughest challenge yet, according to him, “It’s a tough ultramarathon of around 89 km in South Africa, which I did this past June.”
Method to the madness
When asked about sacrifices made considering his gritty endeavour, Dhiraj is quick to put to rest any suggestions of radical revisions to his lifestyle, “Now I sleep at ten instead of one. That’s the biggest difference. My diet is same as it was twenty years ago. I’m a pure vegetarian Jain. I don’t go to the gym either.”
But he does train. After joining ‘Run India Run’ in his second year, he came under the tutelage of Suchita Varadkar a little over a year ago, which encompasses three days’ exercise and a day’s long run. “After I joined up to train under Suchita, my fitness level improved a lot and that's why I am able to finish all these events injuries free,” says Dhiraj who recently added the prestigious half ironman held in Hyderabad to his long list of accomplishments.
A balancing act
Dhiraj feels he is at a happy spot in his life where he can pursue his running without sacrificing family time. “My daughter is away pursuing her studies while my wife works the same hours as me. During working days, I run a couple of hours in the morning and then go to work. Sometimes I swim during the evenings.”
“If I can do all this at 51, the youngsters can definitely do much better than me! Once you actually like something, you’ll do it on your own. No one’s forcing me. I was not affected by negativity because once I decided I would do it, I simply had to do it,” says Dhiraj, whose strong motivation has clearly withstood dissonance from the doubters and naysayers.