Srinu Bugatha, aiming for greener pastures in Tokyo 2021

Marathoner Srinu Bugatha is aware of the challenges ahead but given the performance in Mumbai Marathon 2020, he is confident to make the cut.

Indian Army's marathon runner Srinu Bugatha of Vizianagaram.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

From the paddy fields of Gajapathinagaram in Vizianagaram (Andhra Pradesh), marathon runner Srinu Bugata has embarked on a journey to chase his dream of making it to the next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Born in a farmer’s family, the 27-year-old Srinu has been home since the COVID-19 outbreak. He, otherwise, trains at the Army Institute of Sports in Pune.

He is aware of the challenges ahead but confident given the consistent performances, including a personal best of 2:18.36 in Indian Elite category of Mumbai Marathon 2020 (Olympic qualifying norm is 2:11.30).

He regrets that the lockdown has denied him a chance to compete in the Olympic qualifying event in Spain this March and also an opportunity to train in the Rift Valley in Kenya which produces 90 per cent of the top Kenyan athletes. “Well, with the Games itself postponed to next year, I hope I will get a few more chances to qualify for the Olympics,” he added.

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For someone who joined AIS in 2010, he was drafted into running by his first coach K. Rajendran, then encouraged by Venkaiah and is now being trained by Subedar K.C. Ramu, a former Indian marathon champion.

Within one year of training, Srinu won the 2014 Pune Half Marathon and also the silver in his maiden Senior National Open cross-country championship in Ranchi.

“Those two early results spurred me to think big and change gear as far as training is concerned,” he said.

To the delight of his coaches, Srinu has been improving with each big race – winning a bronze in the Indian category of full marathon in 2018 Mumbai Marathon, followed by a gold each next year in half-marathons in Mumbai, Delhi and the 25K Run in Kolkata.

“When I competed in the South Asian Games in 2019 in Nepal, I finished sixth and realised that I need to step into a different zone to be a world beater,” he said.

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“Exactly for this reason, I have chalked out a training-cum exposure programme thanks to the complete support of my bosses in AIS and Rajesh Vetcha, founder of Hyderabad Runners. Hopefully, I will make the cut for next Olympics,” said the runner who covers a distance of 180 km on an average every week in normal times and now in lockdown about 130 km.

His coach, Ramu, is waiting for the new Olympic qualification norms so that he can chalk out a plan for Srinu. “I am sure he will make a big impact,” he said.

On the path to qualification, Srinu needs to break the 42-year-old record of 2:12.00 of the great Shivnath Singh set in the scorching heat in May 1978 in Jalandhar.

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