What would you be doing on your 60th birthday? Soaking in the warm sun on a sandy beach, while savouring your favourite wine and reveling in the memories of a life well lived? Or maybe you would be chasing your grandchildren in a garden. Krishna Krishna celebrated completing six decades of living on Earth by running seven half-marathons on seven continents in seven days along with his wife, Uma Chigurupati, who organised this birthday gift which the two termed a “logistics nightmare”. This feat has won the couple a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the second time; their first record was being the first married couple to run a marathon across the frozen Arctic to the North Pole. At 60-years-old most people tend to think about slowing down and enjoying the run-up to their retirement but Krishna and Uma are of different mettle. They are the world’s first married couple to complete the World Marathon Challenge and Uma is the first woman ever to complete this extreme marathon.
We delved into their past to discover the motivation required for such super-human efforts. Krishna Krishna is the Chariman and Managing Director of Granules India Ltd, a Rs. 1200-crore pharmaceutical company based in Hyderabad, but he comes from humble origins – the son of a doctor, he always had a fascination for doing something different and after graduating with a B.Sc. he moved out of his family house in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh to setup a business in Madras. The business didn’t run for very long but young Krishna was unfazed. He set up a number of large and small businesses over the next eight years and eventually returned to Andhra Pradesh where he started his most successful endeavour – Granules India Ltd.
Uma is a director in Granules India Ltd and she also owns KRSMA Estates Pvt Ltd, a vineyard near Hampi, Karnataka that she and her husband started as a startup venture in 2008. Krishna’s father talked to Uma’s family before the two of them ever met and they got married in a very traditional way. By that time, Granules was doing well and Krishna was taken by another passion – wine. He had converted one bedroom inside his apartment into a small winery and regularly experimented with various techniques. This certainly fell outside Uma’s expectations after marrying the Chairman of a pharmaceutical company, “When I got married and stepped into his apartment, there was one bedroom that had been converted into a winery. He was making wine at home at that time!” said Uma to Livemint.
The couple soon discovered that they were passionate about wine tasting and although running started out as a key to staying fit, it soon bloomed into an ardent hobby. The secret to running marathons even at their age, Krishna claims, is quite simple, “It is more a mind game and emotions. People ask how do you run and I say it is all in the mind. If you make up your mind, everything else will follow.” Their first ever marathon, ironically, was a cleverly disguised wine-tasting. “We discovered this beautiful run at Bordeaux in France, it was wine-country, we had to go through different chateaus and they would give you wine, something we both have a passion for. That is where we ran our first full marathon,” said Krishna. Normal marathons have water stations at regular intervals but this special marathon had wine stations instead.
They gradually challenged themselves to tougher marathons and in 2010 became the first married couple to run across the frozen Arctic to the North Pole. The idea to run the extreme marathon over seven continents came from Krishna and Uma immediately dismissed it as being absurd. “When I first heard about it, I thought it’s absurd. How are we going to do seven continents in seven days including Antarctica – a continent most unpredictable to even go and land there.” said Uma. Being the entrepreneur that he is, Krishna convinced Uma to run with him after negotiating to make it half-marathons instead of full.
An immense amount of preparation was required for the marathon which took Krishna and Uma backpacking across the world and cost each of them $36,000. They would wake up as early as 3:30 in the morning and start training. The challenges were great but so were the rewards. “Not just temperatures and time zones, wherever you land, whenever you land, you have to run, catch up with sleep on a plane or bus, eat whatever is available on flights, change in washrooms,” said Krishna to NDTV. India’s largely tropical climate gave little experience of what it would be like staying in flimsy tents while enduring a blizzard in Antarctica or running against a head-wind of 55 kmph on a beach in Chile or even in total darkness and heavy rain in Morocco. The hardy couple shone through it all and ran 148 kilometres covering Chile in South America, Miami in North America, Madrid in Europe, Morocco in Africa, Dubai in Asia, Sydney in Australia and finally Antarctica.
Krishna and Uma were exhausted when they returned to India after completing the World Marathon Challenge. In all, they had slept only two nights on proper beds and done everything on the fly. If this isn’t perseverance and discipline we don’t know what is. Their eyes are now set on the next big challenge although Krishna is quick to voice his dream marathon, “A run from Hampi to our vineyard, and at the end of the line, you get all the wine you can drink!”