Still running at 78
Ghulam Rasool Is Valley’s Oldest Long Distance Athlete
Srinagar, Apr 9: He may be 78-years-old, but his enthusiasm as an athlete hasn’t died down.
Ghulam Rasool Bhat is known among the athletic and cycling arena of Valley as oldest athlete who is still going strong in his strides.
By competing in all the cross-country runs and cycling events that are being held in Srinagar, he motivates youngsters towards the sport.
Working as washer man on the banks of river Jhelum, Aali Kadal Ghat area of old City, Ghulam Rasool doesn’t remember the exact dates of his starting the career in athletics. However, he remembers with catch phrases attached with the particular incidents at that time like China War for Indo-China war of 1962.
Unlike most of the kids who were attracted to football during his childhood, Ghulam Rasool started to involve himself in daily long distance runs at Eidgah ground. The field used to be filled with footballers during the time and he was the only exception to do just running.
“I don’t know why I took to running instead of popular football. Everyone among my friends used to play football in Eidgah ground that has given some well known names but I was the only exception to just do long distance running,” said Ghulam Rasool.
“I was doing it for my fitness and had no intention of becoming professional athlete,” he said.
The 78-year-old athlete has not kept records of his major events participation preserved nor does he remember them. Being hearing impaired multiplies the problem for the person who ask him about his achievements. Still there are some certificates and memorabilia that he proudly display in his small room.
He has participated in Sorts Authority of India (SAI) long distance run organised by Department of Youth Services and Sports (DYSS) In Srinagar on October 24, 1985. In SAI long distance run organised J&K Sports Council on 29-6-1986.
Freedom Run to commemorate 40th anniversary of India’s freedom Independence on 17-8-1987. He has also participated in Jawaharlal Lal Nehru 20-kilometre run in 1989.
The above achievements give little details of the veteran athlete who was at peak of his career during his time with Indian Army. He worked in Army for nine years and participated in all the national and local athletic and boxing events. However he has no record of that.
“I joined army after China war. My officers after seeing me practicing encouraged me to participate in the events. I performed well in every event and was deputed for various national level events in different states. However being illiterate I never preserved certificates,” he said.
Ghulam Rasool had to leave army after nine years of service as medical board did not considered him fit to serve Army because of hearing problem.
“I was asked to leave army because medical board did not issue me medical certificates because of my hearing problem. It was around during Bangladesh war,” he said.
After returning home, he used to go to Bakshi Stadium the only place where he could find any thing like running being conducted during his time.
“I used to go to Bakshi stadium however the officials there told me every now and then that they have got no long distance type of event for me. They were saying that in Kashmir only events like 5000 meters and 10000 meters are being held and no event of my calibre. They suggested me to move outside state,” he said.
The poverty and to earn livelihood did not allow the veteran athlete to move outside state and pursue his athletic career. However, he continued to run though this time for his physical fitness.
“I continued my regular practice sessions of running at Eidgah and Badamwari (Almond garden) on week days while on Sunday I used to run up to Ganderbal from Aali Kadal and back. It was not for any event participation but for me and to carry on my love with the sport and physical fitness. It was around 20-30 kilometers of distance and I always kept myself ready for Marathon run that is of 42-kilometeres,” he said.
When asked how people used to react when seeing him running decades ago, he said, “People used to make fun of me, even some were calling me mad however with the passage of time lot changed as they were able to realize what I am doing. Today it is quite different as people have been forced to take regular walks and running sessions because of health problem. There is also some section of youngsters who are pursuing career of athletics.”
About why he participated in events meant for youngsters “My only motive is to encourage youngsters whenever there is any event, by seeing me running it gives them motivation. The other reason why I keep running is that my genes are strong as my father was wrestler himself, student of well known wrestler of State Habib Kodha.”
Lastupdate on : Mon, 9 Apr 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 9 Apr 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 10 Apr 2012 00:00:00 IST
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