They don’t call it the ‘Iron man’ competition for nothing. You have to be made of a special steel to compete in it and have even greater mental muscle to be able to complete it. Held annually in select cities across the world, the event consists of a 3.8 kilometer swim, followed by a 180 kilometer long cycle ride and then the running of a full Marathon of 42.2 kilometers. All this has to be done simultaneously and finished in just 17 hours of virtually superhuman effort.
This year’s Iron man Competition held at Klagenfurt, Austria on 01 July, saw one of the competitors stride past the finish line with an Indian flag draped across his shoulders. He was Major General Vikram Dev Dogra, – the first serving officer of the Indian army and the only General Officer in the world to have completed the Iron Man competition.
The event, comprising amongst the best and the fittest across the world, had drawn 2850 competitors from 50 countries, most of them professionals. General Dogra, was amongst the few who had participated entirely on his own, without any sponsoring or external assistance. Presently posted as the Director General Resettlement at Army Headquarters, he trained after office hours or when on leave from his duties in the Army. It has taken him years of intensive training, and a lifetime devoted to fitness and physical activity to have reached this standards. His time of 14 hours and 21 minutes bettered many of his competitors. He completed the 3.8 kilometer swim in the freezing waters of an Austrian lake in an hour and 27 minutes, then set a blistering pace in the 180 kilometer cycling, notching up over 25 kilometers per hour. He followed it up with the 42.2 kilometer Marathon – much of it over rough undulating terrain – in less than 4 hours. As he reached the last stretch of his run, around a kilometer short of the finish line, his wife Supriya, handed him the national flag which he carried high and then draped around his shoulders. The image of the exhausted General, carrying the Indian flag as he crossed the finish line was beamed across the world and is the abiding image of this year’s competition.
Perhaps General Dogra’s achievement will help raise a new level of awareness of sports and fitness, not only in the Armed Forces, but in society as such. This is the culmination of a lifetime dedicated to fitness and professionalism. In this he has been perfectly complemented by his wife, Supriya, who is herself an accomplished runner with a string of half-marathons under her belt.