Only a few dare to venture out of the cocoon of the ordinary and explore the realm of the extraordinary. Moreover, only a few fan the flames of possible human potential. 18 year old Shubham Kajale from Pune has done just that. Shubham has not only bagged the Iron Man title in Australia, but has also earned another badge of honour of being the youngest Indian to have completed the race.
The Ironman Triathlon is a series of long-distance triathlon races organised by the World Triathlon Corporation. To achieve the Ironman title, a participant has to complete the triathlon that includes 3.86 km of swimming, 180.25 km of cycling and 42.2 km of running within 17 hours. Shubham who has a deep ingrained love for sports since childhood, not only managed to successfully complete the race in 14 hours and 17 minutes of time but also emerged as the youngest Indian to do so.
We were bound to talk to Shubham and know him and his journey better. As we spoke, he radiated abundance of captivating energy and vitality. But most significantly, his voice exuded a sense of simplicity and serenity.
Here is an excerpt of our conversation with the youngest Indian Ironman, Shubham Kajale.
1. Shubham Kajale, many congratulations for being the youngest Indian Ironman. How does it feel?
It feels so good. Achieving the youngest Indian Ironman title, making our nation proud and putting up our nation’s flag and status on a worldwide level just feels so good. It’s just an amazing experience. Every Indian should take this opportunity to experience this feeling.
2. Can you give us a brief introduction to the Ironman Triathlon Series?
Yes. Sure. Ironman Triathlon is a triathlon which has 3 sports incorporated in one: 3.86 km of swimming, 180 km of cycling and also 42 km of running. The whole thing has to be completed in 17 hours of time. The cut off for each activity is also different. For swimming, the cut-off is of 2 hours and 20 minutes, for cycling it’s 10 hours and 30 minutes, and for running the cut-off is 6 hours and 30 minutes.
3. So you had to complete all three stages of activity within 17 hours, right?
4. And your record was?
I did it in 14 hours, 17 minutes and 14 seconds.
5. That is simply amazing. Also, now that we are talking about these 3 activities which one amongst cycling, swimming and running happens to be your favourite?
Swimming is my favourite sport amongst them because I have been swimming since the age of 4 or 5, so it’s very close to my heart.
6. When were you first introduced to the triathlon series? And what grabbed your attention and made you believe this was meant for you?
When I was in 8th or 9th Std, I took my first mountain bike and I used to do a lot of mountain biking and participated in many races in Kolhapur. Also, I got to know about the Ironman race when I was in 8th Std. I had just finished my race in Kolhapur. The race director over there had just finished the Ironman Switzerland race and he was organizing the event. I met him. He enlightened me about the series and was encouraging everyone to participate.
I just got an idea and I knew that this was the race I wanted to participate in because I was good at swimming and also I had started cycling, so it didn’t seem that difficult to me but the running part was too tough for me. I had to practice a lot for it.
7. When did you tell your parents about your ambition?
After my SSC board exams I told my parents that I wanted to participate in the Ironman Triathlon series after two years. I was 16 years old and the minimum age requirement for the race is 18 years. The athletes should be minimum 18 years of age on the race day. So I had two years in my hand after telling my parents about my plan.
8. How did you end up winning the National Pentathlon Game in that period?
While I was practicing for the triathlon in 11th Std, I got an opportunity to participate in the National Pentathlon Game. It’s a five sport event: Swimming, horse riding, running, rifle shooting, and sword fighting. I won the Gold medal there. I stood first in the National games. Then I was selected for the Asian games in 2014. But eventually the government cancelled the event. So I couldn’t go there or else I would have participated in the Asian Games also.
9. What happened next?
Meanwhile I entered my 12th Std. I started working on increasing my stamina. I used to run daily, swim daily, bike on Saturdays and Sundays. I used to do all this and manage my class and college too. When I finished my HSC Board exams, I was determined to do the Ironman Australia. I had only 40 days in my hand to train myself.
10. Only 40 days?
Yes, only 40 days. On 4th of March I finished my HSC exams and from 5th of March I started practicing for Ironman Australia which was on 1st May. From then I had 40 days in my hand.
11. How intense was your training?
Before finishing my HSC, it was 3-4 hours of training per day. But after finished my boards, it was 6 hours in the morning and 6 hours in the evening.
12. 12 hours a day?
Yes. I had very less time in my hands to ready myself. So it was 12 hours a day. At 5am I used to leave my house for cycling sessions, after which I used to go running and if the pool was open at 10, I would go for swim sessions. I would come home at 11 am, have a good diet and take rest. In the evening I would leave my house at 5, followed by 2-3 hours of running and swimming or gym sessions. I would return home at 10-10.30 pm every night. This was my daily schedule.
13. Were you coached by someone?
Not for cycling and running. I was getting my coaching for swimming by my swim coach Kalpana Agashe. I did cycling and running on my own. Also I would like to mention, Gunesh Purandare who was my horse riding coach, took my running sessions in my 11th Std for the Modern Pentathlon National Games. He has improved my running.
14. Is it correct that you are pursuing your C.A?
Yes. I’m doing my C.A currently. Actually I was going to appear for the CPT exams in June only but because of Ironman and its training part I couldn’t manage and study for it then. So now I am studying for it.
15. What prompted you to take up C.A?
My home background. My mother has done ICWA and my father is a C.A. We have Commerce background at home. Also, I like accounts very much. So I opted for it.
16. So how are you planning to juggle sports and your IPCC preparations?
Till I complete my IPCC, I am going to carry on with my sports side by side.
17. What are your plans after IPCC?
After I complete my IPCC, I will be targeting for the Ultraman. Ultraman also has a minimum age requirement of 21 years. So I have another 3 years in my hand to wait it out.
18. Do you practice any particular hobby?
I don’t have any time left to practice anything other than swimming, cycling and running.
19. Ultraman has another 3 years to go. Do you have anything before that?
I am planning to do Ironman every year. So the next year will be my next Ironman.
20. Do you have any specific time limit set as your goal for next year?
Yes. The goal is to complete it within 11 and a half or 12 hours. The first Ironman was just an experience and I enjoyed every minute of the race. For the next one, I will make a cut-off of my timing and the goal is to achieve the title between 11-12 hours.
21. Ideally how many days should a person spare for training for these series?
You should spare at least 3 months. If you want to do an Ironman in a good condition and shape, wherein you don’t want any cramps or any other problems then 3 months is an average time to ready yourself.
22. How supportive are your parents?
My parents have helped me a lot in my career and also because of them I could do an Ironman. They are my backbone.
23. Any piece of advice for people who are planning to participate in the Ironman series next year?
I would just advise them not to hurry in the race because if you hurry then you will be stuck in a problem later. We are investing a lot of money to be there and to be able to race so just enjoy the race and enjoy the climate which is too good over there. The best experience is when you make it to the finish line. There are so many people cheering for you and the commentator calls your name out loud saying “Yes, you are an Ironman”.
We are scarcely able to contain how proud we are of Shubham Kajale and his achievements at such a tender age. If you have any questions for Shubham, you can write to us in the comments section below. Also, don’t forget to share his journey with your friends.