When Sportsavour last met Praveen Teotia, he signed off by saying, “Pain is there, it will always be there. But overcoming it is the greatest challenge. Success reduces all the pain…both mentally and physically.”
Two years have passed in between and in these two years, Praveen Teotia has courageously faced all challenges and bravely conquered those. Today, he is one of the most successful long-distance runners of India- a victorious marathon man and a triumphant Ironman.
THE PAST – AS A MARINE COMMANDO
It was on the night of 26/11 when Praveen Teotia, a marine commando, took four bullets in his lungs and ear while resisting the insurgents of Taj Hotel in Mumbai. It was the most terrific terrorist attack in India. For almost 6 months he was in hospital, fighting for life against death. His lungs ruptured, he had multiple operations and even the doctors planted prosthetic ear to bring back his face symmetry. Praveen could not move his right hand and also could not walk. But he never lost hope….the hope to survive.
Praveen Teotia’s strong will power brought him back to the mainstream. Post hospitalization, several medications made him extremely weak but at the same time he began to gain weight. He joined his office in Vishakhapatnam to continue his service in Navy but was assigned administrative desk job. It is during this time, Teotia started motivating himself to start afresh. He began jogging and running- first to keep him fit and then to remain involved. Praveen used to set a target everyday. For the first few days he ran 500 m and then gradually increased his distance. Within 1 month he started running 5 km a day and also reduced his weight from 78 kg to 67 kg. He began to feel fit and therefore applied for Navy Mountaineering Expedition. But he was rejected on medical ground. Instead of becoming disheartened, he became more determined. In 2014, Teotia forced his transfer to Mumbai and from then onwards another exciting chapter of his life started.
THE PRESENT – AS A RUNNER
Praveen Teotia participated in Mumbai Marathon in 2014 but under an alias as he knew that Indian Navy would not permit him to take part in a marathon. He was successful in his first attempt as he finished the race in 1 hour and 53 minutes. Next year he ran the full marathon. Though he cramped in the middle, still he finished the race in 4 hours 37 minutes. In 2016, he came out from his alias and took part in the Indian Navy Half Marathon. But as the Navy was still not convinced about his fitness, he did not clash with the authority and took a voluntary retirement. Since then Praveen Teotia has participated in various long-distance runs both at national and international level.
In February 2017, Praveen took part in Goa Triathlon where he covered 1.5 km of Swimming, 40 km of Cycling and 10 km of Running. This win made him high with confidence. So, Praveen decided to do another encounter but this time against nature’s dangerous landform Khardung La. On 9th September Praveen and his fellow runner reached the top of the Pass that runs at an altitude of 18,380 feet. He finished the race in 12 hours 43 minutes, before the stipulated time of 14 hours.
IRONMAN- A FITTING TITLE
“Glory always comes with guts, not by death. It is not something that is awarded or gifted but is always earned.”
With the much-needed endurance level, Praveen Teotia has touched new heights. He has damaged lungs and serious hearing disability; but still he has achieved the title of Ironman, not once but thrice.
1st Ironman on 15th April 2018 at Nelson Mandela Bay in South Africa
“It was the day of Ironman Triathlon Championship in South Africa in which one has to swim 3.8 km, cycle 180 km and run 42.2 km. After finishing Swimming, I started Cycling. When I reached 110 km on my cycle, suddenly the derailleur broke and the chain got twisted. I fell down on the road with a bang on my knee that started to bleed immediately. But luck favoured me as the bike maintenance centre was just 50 m from where I fell. The volunteers helped me to rush to the centre with my cycle. The servicing was done but it took away almost 35 minutes from my schedule and more importantly the derailleur was removed. With a mechanical disadvantage and a bleeding knee, I cycled the remaining 70 km against some strong winds. But I stayed focussed on finishing the remaining distance within the cut-off time. I pushed myself, thought of not losing the battle and continuously motivated myself to finish 180 km of Cycling within the fixed time. I reached my target, became the Ironman for the first time and had a great feeling. But that day I made up my mind of not stopping but pushing my limits.”
2nd Ironman on 17th November 2018 at Langkawi in Malayasia
“I woke up early in the morning, did my meditation and yoga before heading towards the venue. It was a clear morning with lovely atmosphere and 1276 participants from 61 countries. The Swimming started at around 8am. But suddenly the weather changed, the clear sky got covered with cloud and rain started. The strong winds began to push me back. The kayaks which were in the water for route safety started getting dislodged and came in the way of the participants. One of the kayaks almost hit me but somehow I saved myself. I finished the remaining distance and ran to the transition area where the participants took shower, changed and picked up their bike for the next phase of 180 km Cycling. The bike course was absolutely spectacular where we had to complete two laps around the island. But due to rain the road became a nightmare. Throughout the first lap the rain continued. When the rain stopped, the weather again changed. The sun was up above the head, shone brightly making the temperature high and humid. I was dried outside but my socks and shoes were wet inside. My feet were drenched and blisters made them worse. Suddenly I felt a little pain in my damaged lungs. I was worried that I might not cope up with the situation further. But I remembered my Marcos training where I was trained never to give up in any situation. I completed my bike ride almost one hour late than what I targeted. After a quick break in the second transition area, I started my Marathon of 42 km. But it seemed like an uphill task for me. I felt pain in my lungs that gradually increased. So I stopped running and began walking. I had only two options then- either to give up the task or continue going. At that point, my inner self acted as my confidant who gave me confidence to finish the task. I started running again and only stopped after crossing the finishing line. I completed my 2nd Ironman Challenge that took 15 hours and 23 minutes. After this event, I understood that physical preparation is definitely needed for any endurance test but what is needed more is the training of mind.”
3rd Ironman on 28th July 2019 at Lake Placid in New York
“Ironman Challenge in Lake Placid is any triathlete’s dream. It was also a dream come true for me. On the day of the event, I put some bananas in my bike bag and an extra pair of socks in my running bag. With a flag of India, I reached the venue as early as 6 0’clock. The venue was absolutely fantastic. The race started with Swimming. All was well as I completed the Swimming part of my race smoothly. But after finishing as I was in the transition area, dizziness dawned on me. I started feeling hungry and weak. I ignored the weakness, had a banana and began Cycling. Hardly it was 10 km of Cycling, I felt that I would fall from my bike. I was sacred; I murmured- ‘ Oh God, how I will compete?’ Lots of questions started coming into my mind. I rested a little, took a deep breath and again started. On reaching 20 km I found an aid station. I had some chocolates, energy gels and drinks. This rehydrated my body and I felt a bit fresh. Till 65 km, the track was non-hazardous but after that it was totally an uphill road. Wind was against us as all athletes faced difficulty in Cycling. I pushed myself hard against the wind. It took 4 hours and 10 minutes to finish the first lap of 90 km. I was quite worried of getting disqualified as the next 90 km was harder and I knew I had to paddle faster. It was an extreme test of endurance for me. I tried my best and I don’t know from where all the power came. It was a do or die situation for me and the only option was to move forward. I finished the next 90 km in much lesser time. I was the happiest man at that point of time. I quickly went to the second transition area, changed my attire and started my final round. The Running track also comprised of uphill and downhill course but I successfully completed it in 4 hours 57 minutes. It was an extremely proud moment for me. It was an Ironman hatrick for me.”
There is a unique saying- ‘Tough time does not last, tough people do.’ Praveen Teotia is a burning example of this. In a true sense, he is a man of mettle. Praveen, presently, is in New York to run at the New York City Marathon and later this month he will be in Pune for another Marathon. 26/11 is a thing of past for him now. He has stepped far ahead from that; has been in his own world of comfort where there is only ‘ Run, Run and Run’.