Rephica Becky Pde, the ultra runner from Shillong, will be the race ambassador for the 4th Kargil International Marathon on September 2.
Though an experienced runner with several feats to her credit, Pde says this marathon is close to her heart. “My father was an army man, my cousin too is in the army. And Captain Clifford (Clifford Nongrum) was close to our family. My dad was hardly home and my cousin also has to stay away from his family. So running in Kargil is the best way to show my respect to all these men who have to stay away from their loved ones or sacrifice their lives for the country. It will be an honour,” she says.
Pde is among a few women ultra runners in the country. An ultra-runner covers a distance of 50km and above. Pde has run 100km, her longest so far.
However, the 36-year-old working mother says she is “not a born athlete”.
“I played basketball in school. Exercise was always part of my routine since childhood as I come from a family of runners. I had health problems and was gaining weight. It was then that I participated in Sohra marathon, organised by my brother Gerald Pde,” she says.
Becky started running in 2016 and ran half-marathons till she started full marathon in Mumbai in January 2018 which was 42.195 km. Before that she had participated in Kolkata IDBi marathon. She also ran 100 km from Guwahati to Shillong for ‘clean money’ campaign of the Income Tax Department.
Sharing her experiences on the road, Pde recollects her time in Mumbai. “It was hot in Mumbai but people there were so encouraging and offered every runner food and drinks. We were exhausted but their constant cheering kept us going. I will never forget the marathon and would love to go to Mumbai every year.”
Pde says the Sohra marathon enthused her so much into running that she started training for stamina and endurance. She followed YouTube videos of runners and picked up instructions from ace runners.
“I wanted to test my limits,” she says.
And so she will at the 72-km Khardung La Challenge in Ladakh, which is considered the highest and toughest ultra marathon in the world, scheduled for September 7.
“I will start from Khardung village and then run to the Khardung La pass. Besides the tough terrain, temperature is a challenge. It is way below zero degree up there. Being at 18,390 ft above the sea level, the oxygen level is also 50 percent less,” says Pde.
The runner informs that she will be running only 21 km in Kargil “as I need adequate rest for the 72-km run”. She will run to Leh market via Nubra Valley. “People take 13-14 hours to reach the place. I am planning to complete it in 10 hours,” she says.
With a family to look after and a job to attend to, Pde has a strict routine. She wakes up at four every morning and runs for 15-20km before starting her household chores. Then she hits the gym before leaving for office. She goes on long runs (42km and above) every weekend. “Sometimes I run from Shillong to Cherrapunji or Nongpoh,” she says with an ease of an ace ultra runner.
But all these are possible because of her family, including her children, who supports her and encourages her to pursue her passion.
Pde says all her health problems have been cured after she started running regularly. “You can’t just keep complaining about your health. You have to do something about it and exercise is the best way to keep your body fit and have a healthy life.”
The runner wants to push herself further and go for the marathons outside the country. “Probably next year I will start travelling,” says Pde. Travelling is her other passion.
For Pde, running is also another way of looking at the world through a different lens. It is a way of interacting with people and nature and closely observing life. “When you travel by car, you miss so many things. But when you are running, you notice every small thing around you. The trees, the houses, the people, the good and the bad and the unnoticed, everything becomes so clear in front of your eyes,” she explains.
But there is another reason why Pde runs. She wants to prove that even a woman can be as tough as a man and even more. She believes in dedication and does not think any challenge, especially age, is big enough to stop one on his or her way to the top.
“I know runners who are 70 and 80 years of age but are faster than me. I also know runners who were once hardcore drug addicts or were victims of some kind of trauma. But running makes you a different person. You learn to accept the ways of life and move on. I have learnt to be patient and calm and realise what life can give me,” Pde says before rushing to a radio station for another interview.