Middle-distance runner Reshma Patel has developed a knack of disturbing the record books. Weeks after rewriting the Under-20 10k race walk event on her debut, the 16-year-old on Sunday breached the U18 5000m mark at the junior nationals in Guwahati.
Reshma clocked 23 minutes 38.57 seconds to erase KT Neena’s 24:11.70 set in Goa in 2014. The Allahabad athlete has been training with her sister Roji Patel and elder brother-cum-mentor Inderjeet Patel — a 2012 10k national champ — in Uttarakhand since 2017. On January 26, Reshma broke the U20 mark at the Jr Federation Cup in Bhopal.
Credited by Reshma for helping create two national records within a fortnight, Inderjeet is a known face on India’s long-distance running circuit — with wins in events like the Mumbai Half Marathon. The 27-year-old, who is now battling knee injuries, also competed the Youth Olympics in 2010.
#IndianAthletics Reshma Patel bagged a National Record in 5000m Race Walk of U-18 girls. She completed the distance in 23:38.37s.
Her teammate Suraj Panwar bagged Gold in 10000m Race walk of U-20.
Till now 2 National Junior had been smashed by #Uttarakhand athletes.@afiindia pic.twitter.com/93Yjri0tXC
— Nitin Arya (@nitinarya99) February 7, 2021
“Bhaiyya has paved the way for us. He did everything for us, including fighting with everyone back in our village to get us to Uttarakhand. He takes care of our dietary requirements. He trains us regularly. I did not even have a clue about professional athletics until my brother got me here,” she says.
Coming from a farmer family in Allahabad, Inderjeet saw sport as the only means to escape poverty. The road to athletics though was filled with struggles; from selling vegetables back home to struggling to pay rent for his accommodation in Lucknow, where he trained for almost a year.
The hiccups meant Inderjeet, now an employee with ONGC, had a tough time convincing his parents to let his sisters pursue athletics.
The runner first took Roji Patel (10000m race walk in U-20 champ in 2019) to train under walk specialist coach Anup Bisht.
“I fought with everyone. Even my family members were against it. The villagers ridiculed me by saying ‘why don’t you achieve something significant first, then you can train your sisters’. I initially got Roji cause I couldn’t afford to take care of them at that time,” Inderjeet says.
But with both younger siblings now doing well on the circuit, Inderjeet’s doubters have turned into admirers. “Now when I go to my village, people ask me how to get their daughters or sisters enrolled in sports,” he says.