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Coach Bhagwan Nagarkoche

Coach Bhagwan Nagarkoche — Nanded (Maharashtra): At Sainik School, Sagroli in Eastern Maharashtra, they are adding another truism.

It’s 5 am and young boys and girls collect at the school playground. A few quick warm up exercises and time for action — running a seven kilometre route as Coach Nagarkoche checks their timings.

There is no great science. It is just a pilot project based on marathon’s unwritten scouting law — scan the rural country side for lean frames.

Their daily struggle for survival tones up these children’s calves and opens their lungs. As they run along, the harsh reality of life layers them with tenacity. And these body types, says Coach Nagarkoche, are hard to find in urban cities.

“City ke bachchon main aur inmein bahut farak hain. Yeh simple hain. Inke koi zaroorat nahin hain. Inki koi distraction nahi hain. (They are very different from city children. They have no distraction and their needs are simple),” says he.

Bhagwan Nagarkoche retired from the Armed forces eight years ago and took up the position of a physical instructor at the Sainik School, bringing with him discipline and fitness.

He helped hand-pick marathon hopefuls from a mix of orphans, remand home boarders and students of a the modest school.

And taking a cue from him, his students took nothing for granted, and just ran in simple canvas shoes and with empty stomachs.

“Vo bus bhagna chahte hain. Junoon hain. Jitna bhagan hai bhagao. Kehtein hain hun aur bhage gaien. (They just want to run. Make them run as much as you want),” says he.

Running here is an expression of breaking free.

With freedom, came dedication and results followed. The children won races at district, state and national levels.

At Vishakhapatnam, Pune, Aurangabad, Mumbai – Sagroli’s boys and girls were the winners. In the under-18 category at the Mumbai marathon, they stunned everyone when the girls took the first, second and third positions.

It’s hard to say who the real heroes of Sagroli are – the little ones who get up at 5 am daily to run, even when their limbs are heavy, or a school and it’s instructors who make sure they do with no help and infrastructure.

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