KIEREN D’SOUZA- The fittest man of India
Kieren D’Souza is an Indian ultramarathon runner and endurance athlete. In 2016, he became the first and, as of October 2016, the only Indian to qualify for and finish the Spartathlon, a 246-kilometre footrace from Athens to Sparta held annually in Greece. Kieren, then aged 23, completed the race in 33 hours, 2 minutes and 25 seconds, standing 85th among 370 participants. Till 2016, only 29 athletes under the age of 25 had completed the race that has been held annually since 1983.
Here is Kieren D’Souza in a conversation with GOGO Magazine.
1) When did your journey as an athlete begin?
Technically it started as an amateur in 2010, that’s when I was introduced to the sport of ‘running’, that’s when I actually started running. Before that, I used to play outdoors but was nothing serious. I started running in college just because running I could do it on my own without any other people being involved and with very minimal gear. I started running seriously just because of the possibilities there were. I started running with 10km, did a half marathon and then a 100km race and just when I was getting in the scene, I realized the possibilities I could do on my two feet, being able to run for 100-160 km. This excited me a lot and I wanted to do this for myself. IT started out this way and then I read about racing a lot and got myself into it. While I was into a lot of adventure sport so running was also a grand adventure I was into. Out of college, left my job and then I finally gave all my time to run.
2) Which was your first race?
The first race was in 2014 when I ran the 111 kilometre La Ultra ultramarathon in Ladakh. Not definitely big in numbers but it is considered as one of the cruellest races of the country and it carried a great reputation as an event for itself. Bigger numbers came when I participated in the major race I did in Greece named Sparthlon, a 246 kilometre footrace from Athens to Sparta held annually in Greece. Kieren, then aged 23, completed the race in 33 hours, 2 minutes and 25 seconds, standing 85th among 370 participants.
3) Which has been your life-changing moment?
So, I came across a lot of moments that changed my life and made me what I am today. The first one would be probably the fact that I started running because that has led me the way I am today but I have had a lot of other moments as well generally like one thing leading to another and I have had a lot of glimpses in the past 11 years, soon after I started running, I decided to run 100km races, then I quit my job in 2015, then the Spartathlon in 2016, then I represented India in a World Championship in 2017, then I started the trail running and mountain running in 2020 as well and there has been a lot of glimpses. I have always been fascinated by adventure sports and it was my childhood dream as well to involve in adventures.
4) Not having a full-time coach, is that an advantage or disadvantage for you?
I’d say it is a disadvantage because it is always good to have more hands to help around you and people that are more professional and more aware of the game. Eventually, what I am doing is a competition so the more people that can support you, the better it is. But it is not been that difficult, living in India it is a bit difficult to find a coach that stays with you all the time other than some online coaching, so it’s a bit tough.
5) Which has been your most memorable run?
So many, La Ultra was the first one is right up there, I still remember looking at the photo somewhere. Spartathlon, Courmayeur Champex Chamonix (UTMB-CCC), World Championships first year especially and subsequently in 2019. A lot of them have been memorable, it’s really hard to choose one because they all had played a role in making me what I am today.
6) Tell us about Spartathlon.
So, it is a very interesting race not only from the running perspective but from a story perspective. It had a rich history and that goes into Greek History. Naturally, when history is that rich and a race that has been 45 years old I was very fascinated. When I read about it, I definitely ended up marking this in my checklist. In 2016, I got the chance to compete in Spartathlon, in fact, I was the first Indian to compete in the race and finish it. So, the experience at the event was very great. I ran a 246km race starting in Athens and ending at Sparta, a non-stop race, I did that in 33 hours. I ran 33 hours without hardly any stoppage and I was only 23 and very few people have completed the race below 25 years of age. So, that was truly special for me as a guy coming from India to Greece and finishing that race in about 33 hours. Truly Special!
7) Share your achievements.
- In 2014, I ran the 111 kilometre La Ultra and won that in 2016.
- In 2015, I won the Salomon Bhatti Lakes 160 kilometre ultramarathon in Faridabad with a time of 20 hours and 32 minutes, over nine hours ahead of the second place finisher. At the time, this was the fastest time recorded by an Indian over a 100 mile race.
- In 2015, Did the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc — Courmayeur Champex Chamonix (UTMB-CCC) — a 100 kilometre race at along the base of Mont Blanc in the Alps. I was the only Indian competitor at the race held in August. I finished with a time of 18 hours 46 minutes and 2 seconds, placing 224th out of 1900 runners.
- In 2016, I qualified for the Spartathlon and completed the race in 33 hours, 2 minutes and 25 seconds, standing 85th among 370 participants. Till 2016, only 29 athletes under the age of 25 had completed the race that has been held annually since 1983.
- On 14 January 2017, I competed in the Vibram Hong Kong 100 km Ultra Trail Race. I finished in 13 hours 28 minutes, placing 78th among 1576 finishers.
- In the same year Ullas Narayana and I had an honour in taking the Indian Flag for the first time to the Ultra Running World Championships at Bradia Pratalia, Italy Later in July the team were joined by Aparna Choudhary and Meenal Kotak to represent India at the 24 Hour World Championships at Belfast.
- On 12 May 2018, I along with a six member team from India participated at the 2018 Trail World Championships and ranked 98th overall and was the first Indian to move into the top 100 at the World event.
- In June 2020, I did a ‘Fastest known time’ ascent of 5,290m Friendship Peak in the Kullu Valley in 11 hours, 35 minutes.
- On 1 October 2020, I climbed Deo Tibba 6,001m peak in 19 hours, 38 minutes on a round trip from Allain Duhangan hydroelectric power plant in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh.
8) How was life in quarantine?
I was Manali during the lockdown so I couldn’t complain much about that. The only thing was I couldn’t go for long trail runs but I am still happy that I had an alright experience and I had a chance to run around the hills of Manali, also that was a nice experience.
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