Most of us know about the Japanese Superhero group fighting Aliens and Villains – Ultraman. However, a lesser known fact is that apart from Superheroes, there are real life super athletes known as Ultraman.

Ultraman is a three-day athletic endeavor. The race covers a total distance of 515 kilometers. It requires that each participant must complete a 10 km open water swim, a 145 km bike ride on Day 1, a 276 km Bike ride on Day 2, and then an 84 km run on the final day. The one who finishes the race fastest is declared as the Champion.

From TV Series to a Sport – the definition of Ultraman has now been extended. The outfits are different, but the superhero qualities still endure. And with an increase in numbers, they are spread all across the World, including India.

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Arunaabh Shah after crossing the finish line on Day 3 of Ultraman Australia 2016. Source: Arunaabh

Arunaabh Shah, the first Indian male Ultraman, talks about how Ultraman as a Sport is like challenging yourself, “This Sport has always excited me because as an athlete I believe in challenging myself and finding my limits.”

“For me, comfort is a weakness, and so I always try to push myself to the extreme and find how far I can go and then raise the bar,” added Arunaabh, who considers Lance Armstrong as his hero.

Anuradha “Anu” Vaidyanathan is the first female Indian Ultraman, and also the first Asian. She achieved this feat in 2009 when she competed in Ultraman Canada and stood 6th in the race.

It was Ultraman Australia which made Arunaabh the first Indian male Ultraman. As the title says, ‘From First to the Fastest Indian | Ultraman Australia.’ So, along with the first, Ultraman Australia has been a landmark event for the fastest Ultraman as well, Mayank Vaid.

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Mayank Vaid after crossing the finish line on Day 3 of Ultraman Australia 2017. Source: Mayank

Mayank Vaid achieved the feat of becoming the fastest Indian at the Ultraman when he clocked 26:04:11, standing an overall 12th at Ultraman Australia, held recently. “I didn’t realize I have become the fastest Indian Ultraman until Steve King, the MC for the event, asked me to look at the record carefully. I was delighted to know that I had completed the race faster than any other Indian,” said the 40-year old.

Later, pointing out the failure to his success, “I wasn’t pleased with the result because I think that a country with such a large population, such a long coastline, bike riding culture has not been able to give the world a strong and fast triathlete,” Mayank said with disappointment.

Mayank started his practice 18 months prior to the Ultraman Australia event. He weighed more than 87 kgs and had a very unhealthy lifestyle. With an aim to make a mark, Mayank started some hard practice. He switched on to a healthy way of life, followed a strict diet, and started playing tennis to get back in shape.

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Mayank Vaid after the swim. Source: Mayank

Talking about his journey and state of mind during those three days of racing, “Day 1 was a 10km swim followed by a 145 km bike ride. Ultraman Australia introduced me to a local paddler who was a 13-year-old girl. The role of the paddler is critical. The paddler does the sighting for the swimmer and also carries water and nutrition in long distance swims. The swim was an open water back and forth off Noosa Heads Surf Club. After about 3km the sea was choppy and a bit rough. I finished my swim in 3 hours 43 minutes with about six but short (45 seconds) breaks to drink water and get some carbs and electrolyte gels,” he said.

“After the swim, we were required to bike 145 km out of Noosa into the beautiful Queensland countryside with approximately 1,400 meters of elevations. I completed the ride in just over 5 hours. Finishing Day 1 in 8 hours and 45 minutes,” he added.

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Mayank Vaid biking during the race. Source: Mayank

Talking about the second day, “Day 2 was a 275 km bike ride again in the beautiful countryside with approximately 2,300 meters of elevations. It was a long day on the bike. Thanks to my crew I finished Day 2 in 9 hours and 5 minutes,” he said.

He then talked about the physical pain he had to go through, “Day 2 evening my legs were in pain and stress. But my coach had trained me well for such days. He taught me to be patient and not to ride too hard because we still had Day 3 with a double marathon to complete.”

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Mayank Vaid in action during the race. Source: Mayank

“Day 3 was the real test. A self-supported 84.3 km run with approximately 550 meters of elevations. It was an out and back course,” he said while talking about the third-day scenario.

Watch this Ultrarunner who recently won ULTRABALATON 2017, candidly sharing his initiation to ultra running and running motivation.

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“I finished the day in 8 hours 12 minutes. I finished Ultraman Australia in 26 hours 4 minutes and 11 seconds. I was 12th overall,” concluded Mayank.

Mayank now has his eyes set on Ultraman World Championships.

The first Indian male Ultraman, Arunaabh had some words of praise to share for the fastest one, “I did not know about Mayank until March this year. Learning his story, how he progressed in 18 months is really inspiring. Doing a race as long as the Ultraman, in that time splits and ranking so high up a highly competitive international field on the 1st attempt nonetheless, is absolutely amazing.”

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Arunaabh Shah gestures while Biking. Source: Arunaabh

Arunaabh’s journey from a novice runner to becoming the first Indian male Ultraman has been absolutely inspirational. When he was 16, Arunaabh was a competitive swimmer. But like every other Indian kid, academics happened, and he had to leave swimming and pursue Engineering. At the end of his B.Tech degree, he fell sick and became really unhealthy. Arunaabh then decided that as he gets back to the daily routine, he will get fit and make an impact on the society. He then began running in 2012, and there’s no stopping for him now. He started participating professionally since then, and, the rest is history.

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Arunaabh Shah swimming. Source: Arunaabh

When asked what’s the best thing Arunaabh likes about the Ultraman Sport, “Ultraman is based on three values: Aloha (Love), Ohana (Family) and Kokua (Help). And during the event, you can see these values come to life. Everybody helps everybody. People go out of their way, selflessly help each other so that everyone can succeed.”

The first Ultraman Triathlon was held in 1983 and organized by Curtis Tyler, Alex Smith, and Conrad Will. Among the group Curtis Tyler served as the original race director with the goal of having more than just a competition but an event which focused on the guiding principles of Hawaiian culture…. Aloha, Ohana, Kokua.

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Arunaabh Shah in action. Source: Arunaabh

Arunaabh believes the future of Ultraman in India needs a lot of improvisation, “Like with running and cycling, triathlons have picked up in India over the last few years. I do believe India will have many Ultraman finishers. However, I think we need more than mere finishers,” he said.

According to him, change in approach is the key, “I believe we need people, who can go out and rank highly in the big international field. And for that, we need to change our approach on how we look at events.”

Catch Arunaabh Shah on FacebookTwitterInstagramBloggerStrava.

Almost two years after winning the ‘Ironman’ title at a triathlon held in Switzerland in July 2015, model-turned-actor Milind Soman added another feather to his cap by bagging the title of Ultraman when he participated in the Ultraman Florida 2017 held in February this year. He took 34 hours and 46 minutes to complete the rigorous events and overall came 41st in the race.

In the same race, Pune lad Kaustubh Radkar outdid Milind Soman by finishing the race in 31 hours, 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Kaustubh “Kau” Radkar is considered one of India’s Elite swimmers and Ironman athletes. Kaustubh Radkar is considered to be one of India’s elite athletes. A former Indian swimming national champion, he started swimming at the age of 9 and then went on to win medals for Pune, Maharashtra and his University.

Another well-known name in the circuit, Kieren Dsouza, the 23-year-old from Nagpur last year became the first Indian to compete in one of the toughest races in the world – the Spartathlon in Greece. He completed the race in 33 hours, 2 minutes and 25 seconds and stood 86th among a total of 370 participants. Catch Kieren Dsouza here, as he talks about training for an Ultra Marathon.

Zishan Amiri

Author: Zishan Amiri

His peculiar love for words and Sachin Tendulkar got him into sports journalism. A vintage bike lover, whose introvert personality often takes him to long solo rides on his restored RX 100.

From First To The Fastest Indian – Ultraman Australia

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