First position Bangalore ultra 75K 2013, Winner Bangalore ultra 100K 2014, Finisher Hyderabad 70.3, Colombo 70.3, finisher at several half marathons, marathons and ultra runs, a fighter, giver and above all a survivor in all aspects of life, a flawless Garba dancer, mother and an excellent cook, here is 36-year-old Deepa Katrodia from Mumbai.
Girl child taboo to Gangotri trek
I was born in Indore in a joint Gujrati family. I am the youngest of the three sisters. My birth took away the hope of having a boy in the family and became a depressing factor. My mother tells me that once I was bought home from the hospital, I became the apple of the eye for everyone and my father who didn’t even come to see me in the hospital would always cuddle and cradle me. I was too young to understand the law of attraction then, but I experienced that later in life. Eventually, my younger brother was born, and my family was “complete” now.
In a Gujrati family food is emotion, and I was highly emotional too that led to piling on kilos. When the pleats of my skirt started widening, I understood that it’s time to work hard on myself. As girls were not allowed to move out alone, I accompanied a neighbour on the morning walks. I didn’t shed any weight, but I was happy walking as this was the only physical activity I had ever done.
I completed B.Com with no career goals at all. The only aim in life was to finish the necessary education and get married. Seeing the restrictions of a small town, my only condition to get married was that I needed a partner who is settled in “A” grade city. In 2005, I married Pradeep and shifted to Mumbai.
Pradeep loved the outdoors and was a regular trekker and hiker in the Sahyadri range around Mumbai. As a Gujrati once you get married, your world revolves around your partner; hence Pradeep’s friends suggested him either to dispose of his hiking boots or involve his wife too. He chose the latter.
Although I had a big family of eight members, and there were lots of house chores to be done, Pradeep was always very understanding and supportive. Out of my busy life, he managed to start taking me for shorter hikes.
Later we did Gangotri Trek together.
In 2006 I gave birth to Misri.
In between Misri and the first race
I had a normal pregnancy and a safe delivery. After a few months of birth, I started feeling that Misri’s growing pattern was different. Assuming that a few children grow slowly as compared to others, I continued to enjoy my new motherhood. Pradeep found his life in Misri. Once I took her to Indore, and she suffered an injury, Pradeep suggested to get her to Mumbai for better treatment. The doctors recommended a few tests and then told us that Misri is suffering from “some” syndrome which I didn’t understand.
We continued with lots of tests for almost three years to understand the disorder. All our efforts went in vain.
Misri was like an infant when she turned a year old. I used to cover and take her for the evening stroll lying to people about her age. People used to stare at us because we had a special child in our arms.
We took her to Delhi, allowing the laboratories to send her sample to Japan for intense research to identify the disorder.
I was also touted in a mall where a female saw us with Misri and assured us to give a herb that will cure her.
Desperation and that too for your child, makes your mind go numb and you’ll go to any measure for the cure.
We were no different, but once we followed her through the dark narrow lanes and entered the shabby and small jhuggi, Pradeep at once held my hand and left the place along with Misri.
The hit and trials kept on going with no results.
I started taking her to the physiotherapy centre. I came face to face with other children with different disorders. It was tough to absorb the fact, but it was high time we did it.
We then took a call to accept that Misri is a unique child, and she’ll need us lifelong. We were no longer hesitant in telling her real age or wrapping her at public places. The piercing eyes didn’t bother us anymore.
Days were getting more challenging as Misri wouldn’t sleep at all. I was awake 24*7 with significantly less sleep. Pradeep, I and my in-laws stood like a team and would take rounds to sleep, but it wasn’t sufficient. Pradeep would rock her the entire night. We were mentally exhausted, and there was a visible discord between us.
Both of us consciously took a call to devote time to ourselves and stay healthy to take care of Misri.
With the change in medication, Misri started sleeping for a while in the morning. Pradeep and I began our regular morning walks in Borivali National Park. My in-laws pitched in and offered to take care of Misri in our absence.
Our slow walks turned into jogs and finally into faster runs as we had just one hour for ourselves when Misri slept.
The caretaker of the physiotherapy centre suggested that I participate in the dream run. I was always fascinated by SCMM whenever I watched the race on the television. Pradeep got the half marathon form in July for himself, and because he wasn’t sure about my training, he suggested that I should participate in the dream run. I was baffled at the thought to run amidst strangers and asked him to register myself for the half marathon as well.
Now, the biggest issue was – who will take care of Misri in our absence? My mother-in-law offered full support and encouraged us to run.
We trained together for six-seven months in that one hour we used to get, and in 2012 I crossed the finish line of the first half marathon holding Pradeep’s hand in 2.13 hrs.
Four months after the half marathon, in July 2012 I registered for a full marathon
Run, for my daughter will never be able to do so
We then joined Nike running club and slowly graduated in learning the running terminology along with new terms and conditions about Misri’s health.
In 2013, I crossed the finish line of 42.2 km along with Pradeep in 4.49 hours.
Running gave me liberation from tiredness, anxiety and filled me with energy to look after my child as well as home.says, Deepa
I wanted to run longer now, and someone told me about ultra runs. I was attracted by the distance. Pradeep was not keen and asked me to train while he was okay taking care of Misri. I took a yearly plan from Daniel Vaz and started with religious training.
We flew to Bangalore, and Pradeep stayed with Misri in the hotel room while I went ahead to the start line of my first 75 km Bangalore Ultra run.
I finished the run in 11.43 hours and stood at the podium while Pradeep cheered me at the finish line along with Misri.
Misri’s condition continued to deteriorate each passing day. We had a new learning with every new symptom.
Meanwhile, I continued running.
Running gave me a lot of self-confidence and strength to dedicate to Misri. Everyone in the family stood by each other as the most robust support.says, Deepa gratefully
After 75 km ultra, I was keen to do a 100 km run. Pradeep registered for a 75kms ultra, and both of us started our training under the guidance of Daniel Vaz.
This time both of us were running hence taking Misri along was not possible. My mother and mother-in-law offered to take care of Misri, making us relaxed for the run.
I started the race at a turtle’s pace as I was keen to finish rather than messing up. At the 75th km mark, I observed some cheering at the podium, and when I craned my neck, I saw Pradeep conquering the podium. I was thrilled to the core, and then something happened, my feet just started rolling, my pace increased substantially.I finished the race in 17 hours.
I stood first in the women’s open category.
The Tri game
In between training for marathons, Pradeep was keenly following triathlons videos and tri-athletes. He started to learn swimming. He registered for the Chennai Triathlon and got a road bike worth 52k for the training. We had to keep the bike cost a secret as we knew we would not be able to justify the expense.
I used to cycle on the basic bike. One day I took Pradeep’s bike and rode from Malad to Borivali. That day I realised why my neck and back used to hurt while I rode my bike. But buying a new bike was out of the question. Our primary focus was on Misri’s treatment, so managing expenses was critical. Both of us were preparing for the same event, but buying the accessories in pairs was difficult. We managed all the things in between us and started training alternately.
Misri’s condition continued to deteriorate. She would not open her eyes or won’t respond at all. But we continued to share all our racing and training stories with her.
After Pradeep’s successful completion of the Chennai Triathlon, I also started to learn swimming. I had to unlearn and start afresh. I used to mimic the swimming stance throughout the day.
I registered for the Chennai Tri, but the event got cancelled. We then registered for the Pune Triathlon.
Our close friend came to assist Misri while both myself and Pradeep went for the race.
I was scared of open water and didn’t step in the lake. I was just a mere spectator . I felt sorry and disgusted with self and for all the help that poured in enabling us to participate in the race.
Later on I successfully completed the first Olympic Distance Triathlon in Kolhapur.
I started loving the sport and the thrill to train for three different sports was marvellous.
Pradeep went ahead and finished his comrades. Being an expensive race, I stayed back with Misri while he came back with a bronze medal and we proudly dangled it around Misri’s neck.
Misri was not showing any signs of improvement, and it was tough for us to accept the reality.
Keeping all odds at bay, we started training for the Hyderabad Ironman 70.3,2017 together.
Even though we got Misri’s flight ticket to Hyderabad, we decided to let her stay at home due to overexertion while we headed for our race.
Both of us successfully completed the race. I crossed the finish line in 8.32 hours.
While boarding the flight back, I felt an uncomfortable stomach-churning. I called up home to ask about Misri, and my mother gave a satisfactory answer. The uneasiness continued all through the journey. Once we reached home, Misri was running a high fever. Upon consultation, the doctor prescribed some medicine. We fed Misri and went to bed.
It was a regular practice for me to check Misri’s heartbeat whenever she slept. That was the only way to check her existence as otherwise, she won’t respond for hours. That night I couldn’t feel her heartbeat.
When Pradeep and I held her in our arms, she looked at us and then closed her eyes forever.
All of a sudden there, the house turned silent.
Our life revolved around Misri, and it appeared as if we had nothing to do anymore.
The chaos of time management, the rush for doctor’s appointment, the sleepless nights, everything came to a standstill.
Pradeep was totally shattered.
He stopped his training even when he had to race for full ironman Malaysia in just fifteen days.
He was not ready to participate. He was mentally disturbed as Misri was his heart and soul.
With lots of encouragement and counselling, both of us went together for his race.
He finished the race in 13.14 hours. He was among the top 10 Indians to finish the race and received a sponsored participation for Malaysia 70.3 the next year.
He was not keen to participate; hence he asked me to race.
I worked on all three sports, especially the swim.
I crossed the finish line Malaysia 70.3, 2018 in 7.42 hours.
In 2019, I also participated in TFN(Tour of Nilgiris) and stood 10th in the female category.
Do it for yourself as no one else will do it for you.
We never had outside help for Misri. All of us worked like an F-1 race team- prompt, accurate and knowing our jobs well.
Our life was nothing beyond Misri and racing.
Now that the central element was missing there was a vacuum in life.
Pradeep had to get back to his job while I was still trying to figure out my way.
I always loved to dance; hence I did Zumba certification. I also got certified as a Reebok fitness trainer.
I started taking Zumba sessions in three schools and totally loved my stint.
I was dancing my heart out and also interacting with children. I used to see Misri in all of them.
Myself and Pradeep got associated with organisations that worked for children with special needs.
Recently during Navratri 2020, both of us did a fundraiser for one such organisation by cycling 90 km for 9 days. With our experience, we know the expense incurred in the treatment, and the mental trauma parents go through. It is our small gesture to help many parents and children.
Pradeep and I worked hard on ourselves to bear as well as come out of our massive loss.
Any medal, podium or a finish line is dedicated to our daughter Misri who could never express her emotions, but we as parents understood whatever she said.
We knew she was happy seeing us racing and finishing too.