It’s a runner’s worst nightmare: an ankle injury before your first marathon. Not only is it agonizingly painful, but your dreams of taking part vanish before your eyes. That’s almost how it went for Deepak Chinnam. But three years on, he’s back and ready to run the Virgin Money London Marathon.
Deepak, who works as QA and Test Director at BT Technology, was already an experienced half marathon runner when he hit a pothole while training for the 2016 Brighton Marathon. The result was a serious ankle injury that required surgery and years of recovery.
That might have stopped someone less determined than Deepak. But all through his recovery he was thinking about getting back to fitness and running a marathon. Now, thanks to the support of Tata Consultancy Services, London Marathon’s Official Technology Partner, he has secured a place to run in this year’s event.
Now or never
Back in December 2015, Deepak, who regularly achieved times of 1 hour 53 minutes for half marathons, was building up confidently to running the 42.2 km distance in Brighton in four hours. Then disaster struck. “I tripped and my ankle kind of had a massive problem,” he recalls.
“I had to undergo surgery and I only got a full green light to run again just four months ago. So, I thought, you know what, why don’t I give it a shot before I get too old? And before my joints start aching just when I start walking. This is my now-or-never moment.
“I am just so lucky that I got the opportunity to run in the London Marathon, which is not easy, not at all easy. But, God willing, I will come through this. I am not going to be very competitive. All I want is to be able to say I have completed a marathon. So, I am looking at between five and six hours.”
His road to recovery was helped by Sona, his pet Labrador. Walking Sona, he built up to five miles a day. “I kind of walk and run with her, although it’s been mostly walking in the past three years. But when I have been preparing for the marathon, she has been running with me,” he says.
Although training with Sona has helped, Deepak has been forced to recognize there are limits after his injury. “I went for up to 16 miles on my last run and I started having ankle pain again, so I decided, you know what, it’s probably not worth pushing myself. So, I decided if I am able to run 16 miles, I will walk the remaining 10 miles and still complete it in six hours.”
Deepak says running in the London Marathon has always been on his bucket list. “I wanted to run a half marathon in two hours, and I achieved that. Running a full marathon is something I have always wanted to do.”
His determination kept him going during the years of recovery, he says. And being given the chance to run this year was the boost he needed to step up his training.
“It’s an opportunity that not many people get so I really wanted to make the most of it. To be honest, I haven’t been able to prepare as much as I wanted to but, given that I am not aiming for a time, I think that, as long as I can complete the course, I shall be pleased,” he says.
Deepak is running to raise money for a charity that supports his local school in Surrey. “This is something very close to my heart. I come from a family of teachers. My mum and dad are both physics professors, my aunt is a lecturer and my grandfather was a lecturer. I am where I am today because of all the support I got from the education system growing up in India.”
Whatever the weather
In training, Deepak uses a Garmin Forerunner 235 running watch that he links to his smartphone to track his heart rate and monitor how fast he is running and how far he has left to go. “I use that extensively. It is very motivational,” he says.
Runners often worry about the weather. Deepak’s fear is that the recent warm weather will give way to cold. “If it is rainy and wet it’s fine. If it’s sunny, absolutely no problem. I come from India, so I have no problem with the sun. It’s just the cold: once it gets below 6C, I get a nose bleed,” he says.
Whatever happens on Sunday, Deepak will have strong support. “I feel as though I am doing something for the community and the school, which will keep me going. It’s an additional motivation,” he says. “Probably I won’t hit the wall, but if I do, they will help me get over that wall. My wife and son are coming to cheer me on as well.”
Support your friends, family or favourite elite runners using the hashtag #ThisRun and track their progress using the 2019 Official Virgin Money London Marathon app, powered by Tata Consultancy Services. The app also provides an interactive course map and allows you to make donations to the runners’ chosen charity.
Find the app here:
Apple App Store