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Only Civil Servant To Finish 2 Boston Marathons Says He is A Runner First, A Bureaucrat Later

IRS Vijay Kumar Singh, who is Commissioner of Income Tax, Ahmedabad, is the only civil servant in India to finish 2 Boston Marathons He has also run in other top international marathons like the Chicago, Berlin, Buffalo, Niagara Falls marathons. The officer, who says civil service is his profession while running is his passion, plans to run one marathon at least in each of the continents.
Indian Masterminds Stories

There came a time in his life when Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer Vijay Kumar Singh had to take a call on his fitness. His weight had reached 95 kg and his doctor urged him to lose weight to manage his high BP. So, he decided to start running on a treadmill. And this decision would lead him to his biggest calling in life – marathon running. What started in the treadmill of Ranchi Club in 2009 reached Boston in 2016 and engraved his name in the record book as the first Indian civil servant to run in the historic Boston Marathon. 

Mr. Singh is currently the Commissioner of Income Tax, Ahmedabad,

Speaking exclusively to Indian Masterminds, the 2004-batch officer, who is at present Commissioner of Income Tax, Ahmedabad, talked at length about his running and, also, dwelt a little on his work. It is evident from his talks that running occupies the better part of his life. 

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

The journey to Boston started in Dehradun in 2010 when a younger colleague casually mentioned marathon running to Mr. Vijay Kumar Singh, saying that he finishes half marathon in 2 hours. Leaner and fitter by now after having lost 22 kg, Mr. Kumar looked at him and thought, “I’m fitter than him and I can also run. If he does half marathon in 2 hrs, I will do it in less. I targeted 1 hr 50 mins.”

Then and Now

It is this self-belief, confidence and resoluteness that have made him one of the greatest marathoners of all times in India, placing him in the league of elite runners of the world. And without professional training! 

“Initially, I randomly searched Google and downloaded training plans. Then I started reading and following Jack Daniels’ book, Daniels’ Running Formula.” For him, this book is the holy book of running as he believes that most of the running plans floated by professional trainers are adopted from its pages. 

With fellow runners

FIRST HALF MARATHON

So, he ran the Airtel Hyderabad Half Marathon and kept his promise to himself. “I clocked 1 hr 40 mins. This run is very close to my heart as it is my first half marathon.” Next was Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, where he clocked even better: 1 hr 37 mins. And there was no stopping after this. By now, he has been bitten by the marathon bug and he went running from one race to another, graduating to full marathon and ultra running on the way. 

THE BOSTON MARATHONS

In 2016, he flew off to the United States with Indian government’s sponsorship and finished the Boston full marathon in 3 hrs 14 mins 30 sec, at the age of 43. “I became the first civil servant of India to qualify and run in the Boston Marathon.” 

The running itch didn’t leave him, and he completed the 2021 Boston Marathon at the age of 48, by improving on his earlier Boston timing, by clocking 3 hrs 5 mins and 8 sec. “As it was pandemic time, there were many quarantine rules. To go to the US, I had to first camp in a safe country for 15 days. I chose Serbia as the climate was same as Boston’s.” 

CHICAGO AND NIAGARA FALLS

In between his first and second Boston runs, the ace marathoner also ran other top international marathons like the Chicago, Buffalo, Berlin, Niagara Falls and the London marathons. He recollects what an exasperated doctor told him when he insisted on going for the Chicago race after a bout of severe dengue. “I came down with dengue just one week before my schedule departure to Chicago. But I insisted on going and taking part in the race. I told my doctor that I would get very depressed otherwise. He said, ‘jao, marna hai to dourke maro (if you want to die, go and die running).” 

He also remembers the iconic Niagara Falls International Marathon, where he ran “along the Niagara River and finished right at the falls. It’s one of the most beautiful marathon routes in the world. It takes place one week after the Chicago Marathon. So, it’s a good run to relax and recover.”

WINNER IN LADAKH MARATHON & TATA ULTRA

In 2017, he ran the difficult Ladakh Marathon, the world’s highest altitude race, and emerged the winner in open category. “It was an extremely tough race. I had to reach there a week in advance to acclimatise myself to the low oxygen level.” 

He was also the winner in 45 plus age category in the tough Tata Ultra Marathon 2019 after completing 50 km in 4 hrs 29 mins 48 secs. 

TRAINING AND RECOVERY 

He says when he started running, he didn’t know about the concept of recovery. But now, he takes recovery drink, whey and plant protein. “I am a strict vegetarian as I am a devoted Iskcon follower. I don’t even take onion and garlic. I cook my own food and first offer it to Lord Krishna and then to the rest of my family.” 

He tries to divide his time between his favourite deity, running, work and family. His family consists of his wife and two sons. “I usually avoid parties and get togethers in the evenings. My colleagues and seniors understand that as a runner I have to maintain certain discipline and they do not force me to attend.”

His training schedule includes six days of running and one day rest. “I generally run solo. If it’s a long run, I start at 5:30 am and if its an easy short run, I start at 7 am. I finish on time as I have office. I make sure to sleep between 10:30 pm -11 pm so that I get 7 hrs of sleep.” 

With his family

THE GOALS AHEAD

And now for the tricky part. If he were to choose between job and running, he will choose running as it is his passion. He turns philosophical as he says, “My job is just a means of livelihood for me. But running is my life, my passion. And what is life without passion?”

His future goals are to run marathons in all the continents. And there are still few more runs to strike off his bucket list: New York, Tokyo, London, Paris, Amsterdam, and South Africa’s Comrade Run.

RUNNING IS HIS IDENTITY

The officer says he tries to get postings where he can pursue his passion and does not want the job to become his identity. “I want to be known as a runner. I never introduce myself with my designation. When someone asks me in the marathons what do I do, I tell him I am a runner just like him. We should always live for a purpose. Running has given me that purpose. I am a runner first before everything else.” 

IRS Officer Mr. Vijay Kumar Singh @ world toughest and Highest Marathon Ladakh marathon 2017, where he was winner in open category

Here he quotes an iconic speech of John F. Kennedy to drive home the point that when you are running a marathon, you have no caste, no religion, no identity. “You take on the identity of the place where you are running. If you are running in Boston, you are Boston! If I am running in Berlin, I am Berlin! This is the spirit of marathon.” 

FITNESS EQUALLY IMPORTANT AS JOB

Covid pandemic has highlighted the importance of fitness for everyone, be it civil servant or the common man. “If you only concentrate on job, it will not lead you very far. After retirement, you will get frustrated and become depressed as you will not know what to do. Practise a way of detachment from your service,” he advised.

KEEPING INDIAN FLAG FLYING HIGH

It’s not often that we come across civil servants who participate in sports on an international level and bring laurels to the country. Noida DM Suhas L Yathiraj (IAS) won a silver medal for the country in Tokyo Paralympics. 

And then, there’s IRS officer Vijay Kumar Singh who runs around the world and keeps the flag of India flying high in international running events. 

May their tribe increase.


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