After proving his mettle in several half marathons, Major Kumar Gaurav is now all set to participate in the world’s toughest one-day sporting event.
Diagnosed with type-1 diabetes in 2010, the world seemed to be falling apart before this 25-year-old army officer. Today, Major Kumar Gaurav who serves as an education officer at the Madras Engineers Group (MEG) and Centre, Bengaluru, has to inject insulin twice a day to maintain his glucose levels. The determined young officer, nevertheless, has repeatedly pushed himself beyond the limits and after proving his mettle in several half marathons, is now all set to participate in the Ironman triathlon, considered to be the world’s toughest one-day sporting event.
“I want to test my physical limits and aim to inspire people living with type-1 diabetes. I am determined to share this positive approach and not let diabetes hold me back. At present, I am training for Herculean 70.3 (half Ironman), Odisha and the Bangalore marathon, both scheduled for January 2022. As of now, I am self-sustained and manage my own expenses,” Gaurav says.
In 2016, he started running for fitness and the next year he participated in his first half marathon, finishing fourth out of 70 participants. He has since participated in six half marathons, finishing among the top 10 in five of them. During the first lockdown in March 2020, Gaurav picked up cycling and started preparing for triathlons. The Ironman triathlon includes a 3.8-km swim, a 180-km bicycle ride and a 42.2-km run to be completed in 17 hours. It will be held in June-July 2022.
Born in a middle-class family in Patna, Gaurav spent most of his time playing games. “I had a distant relative who was serving as an officer in the Army. I would see him coming home from various postings in his uniform, upright with a stocky moustache. His gait and bearing are my first memories of getting inspired to join the Indian Army,” he remembers.
Gaurav was an average student who cleared the entrance examination of the National Defence Academy after Class XII, but could not get through the Service Selection Board (SSB). This hardly stopped the lad from chasing his dreams. After graduating from a private college in Bengaluru, he joined the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun.
“I was commissioned in the Scinde Horse in 2009 and reported to my unit in Bhatinda, Punjab. Routine activities included doing basic training on tanks, various army courses and spending time with my troops,” Gaurav adds.
“In 2011, while posted at Hisar, certain anomalies were noticed by the medical officer during my annual medical exam. Post the results, I was immediately transferred to the Army Hospital R&R, Delhi where they confirmed that I have type-1 diabetes. The word kept ringing in my ears as I returned to my ward with tears swelling up in my eyes,” he says.
As a young army officer, losing control of his physical health was mentally excruciating for Gaurav who would have slipped into depression had it not been for his wife’s support.
In 2015, the officer’s family faced another challenge when they were blessed with a baby girl. Her birth also gave a new direction to Gaurav’s life. “The happiness was short-lived and the next day after her birth, we were informed that she had congenital heart disease (holes in the heart) and a few more disabilities including weak muscles, squint, ptosis and a rare genetic condition called Zibberman Landan Syndrome (ZLS). This threw another major challenge our way which took both a physical and mental toll on us. My daughter Avisha underwent an open-heart surgery after four months of birth, at the Army Hospital R&R, Delhi and an eye surgery at the Command Hospital, Bangalore,” he says.
“On her first birthday, I came on leave and we went to an orphanage in Bangalore to celebrate the occasion with underprivileged children. It propelled me more towards what I now say is “the light of my fight” against diabetes mellitus. The chance visit to the orphanage, coupled with the seemingly never-ending struggle of my daughter and meeting these young kids so wronged by circumstance, initiated a chain reaction. I felt thankful for the little issues I was facing compared to the life-altering incidents those young kids had encountered,” Gaurav says.
That day, Gaurav decided to take stock and regain control of his life and body. On September 8, 2016, he registered for his first half marathon and finished fourth out of 50-60 odd runners. “Thereafter, every time I came on leave, I made it a point to run one or two half marathons and finished among the top 10 in four of them. This was the beginning of my journey,” he adds.
“My pancreas has given up, but I never will. At present, I am training with a few local friends and tri-coach Arjun Kundikuppa. I aim to educate, empower and inspire people living with type-1 diabetes and make each one of us believe how strong we actually are,” he sums up.
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