Milind Soman: The other Ironman

Milind Soman talks about tackling one of the world’s toughest triathlons

July 25, 2015 06:33 pm | Updated 06:36 pm IST

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 28/03/2015: Actor Milind Soman, Pinkathon Ambasador during an interview in Chennai on March 28, 2015.
Photo: R. Ragu

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 28/03/2015: Actor Milind Soman, Pinkathon Ambasador during an interview in Chennai on March 28, 2015. Photo: R. Ragu

Milind Soman sends us a selfie from Florence. In the background, Michelangelo’s  David looks on.

We’re in the middle of a telephonic interview with the supermodel-turned-actor-turned-runner, and he’s momentarily distracted by the towering marble sculpture. Though, admittedly, for his legions of swooning fans, Milind is even more inspiring than David. Especially now, after he completed one of the world’s toughest races, The Ironman Triathlon, at the age of 50.

Held in Zurich, a couple of days ago, The Ironman involves a 3.8-km swim, a 180.2-km cycle ride and 42.2-km run. Participants have to race through all three, in that order, without a break, completing them within 16 hours to win the title.

“Everyone who completes this distance in the stipulated time is called an Ironman,” chuckles Milind, explaining why the Internet is suddenly awash with pictures of him juxtaposed with Robert Downey Jr. (If you didn’t get the reference, you need to brush up on your superhero movies!)

For those of you who like number crunching, Milind completed his swim in one hour, 18 minutes and three seconds. The biking took seven hours, 45 minutes and 16 seconds, while the run took five hours, 48 minutes and 35 seconds, bringing it to a finishing time of 15 hours, 19 minutes and 29 seconds.

A four-time national swimming champion, Milind has always been fit, but it’s after he started running seriously, at the age of 38, that he really started pushing the envelope. Proving time and again that age is no barrier to fitness, he picks increasingly difficult physical challenges every year, including once running from Delhi to Mumbai, covering a total of 1500 km in 31 days.

As an ambassador for the Pinkathon, India’s biggest all-woman running event, he spends most the year travelling from city to city, encouraging people to start taking fitness seriously, irrespective of their age. “That’s why I keep my hair grey,” he once told us, between rousing speeches at a Pinkathon launch. “Then the younger people think, if he can run, so can I.”

This year, as a gift to himself for turning 50, he set his sights on the Ironman. “I did it to explore my potential and level of mental and physical fitness,” he says, before adding, after a very short pause, “And for fun.” Clearly he defines “fun” very differently from the average person. Training for this race involved three months of swimming, cycling and running for about 3 hours a day. “The most difficult part was finding the time and locations to train.” Not the age factor? “Age is an advantage,” he says. “It gives you better focus and more discipline.” Then, as an afterthought, he sends us one more message from Florence, where he’s taking a well-deserved holiday. “Honestly, at the rate I’m going, I feel I could do the Ironman at 80 as well.”

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