regular-article-logo Thursday, 18 July 2024

Sexagenerian Prosit Ghosh with marathons under his belt

I told myself, ‘Fitness is your sole target and you must achieve it’, says says the 65-year-old

Bitan Sikdar Calcutta Published 13.11.23, 09:40 AM
Prosit Ghosh trains near Tala Park in Paikpara.  

Prosit Ghosh trains near Tala Park in Paikpara.   Telegraph picture

Long before touching the finish line of a 10km police marathon in the recent past, Prosit Ghosh had aimed to cover a distance of around 6km — from Paikpara to Dakshineswar by road — in one run. At that time, he was in his fifties.

“I told myself, ‘Fitness is your sole target and you must achieve it’,” says the 65-year-old, who never had any formal training in athletics.


But that hardly prevented him from joining the youngsters, who competed in thousands in the marathon. “At 65, finishing the marathon is a challenge, let alone being in the top-10 list,” Ghosh said. Marathons may be difficult or agonising, but the sexagenarian has “an indomitable spirit” that keeps him running.

Ghosh has taken part in three marathons, including two held this year. The Calcutta Police Safe Drive Save Life Half Marathon had Ghosh in seventh place in February. In January, he took part in the Apollo Sreebhumi Gold Marathon and got a medal on completion of the 10km run.

“We forced him to take part. He was not interested,” says Lovely Datta, 25, who also trains at Tala Park vying for a constable’s post in Calcutta Police.

Prosit Ghosh of Paikpara with his young “fans”.

Prosit Ghosh of Paikpara with his young “fans”. Telegraph picture

In due course from a race-walker to a marathon runner, Ghosh has become quite a known face in his locality, where youngsters would come to train themselves, mostly to secure police and security jobs. Ghosh accompanies them, runs with them, guides them, and if need be, trains them.

In 2017, Ghosh, then 60, first took part in a 10km marathon, organised by Calcutta Police and the women and child welfare department in a “campaign against drugs”. “I clocked it in 35 minutes and secured a medal,” Ghosh recalls.

“It’s awesome having a senior, in his sixties, running alongside you at the same pace but with the sole aim of helping. He’s an inspiration for many of us,” said Tonmoy Sen, 21, another runner and aspirant for the Calcutta Police jobs.

Over the years, it’s been a gradual rise of a self-made runner — from obscurity to a near-permanent presence as an inspiration for Gen Z and a motivation for the elderly. “A tough soul, a gentleman and a runner,” sums up Sen.

The man lives in a shanty in Paikpara and with no income of his own. Ghosh gets financial support from his brothers. His sister died recently.

A spiritual soul, who frequently shuttles between Calcutta and Tarapith, he says: “Sports is packed with positivity. I believe a healthy mind in a healthy body can fight the odds in life. It’s a solace. If you ask me, sports can increase one’s spiritual awareness.”

He doesn’t have any material goals set before him. “What am I to get at this age? I run for the joy of running.”

Nevertheless, the pathway to “joy” has never been easy for this 5-foot-6-inch man. Recalling his childhood at Paikpara in north Calcutta, he talks about his family with enthusiasm. His father was a private firm employee, while his elder brother was a state government one.

His younger brother works in a private company in Balasore, Odisha. His younger sister was a graduate. “Ours is an educated family. Only I’m the black sheep,” Ghosh laughs.

He had never been academic-minded but was a good athlete since his school days. “I used to take part in all sports contests held in school. I won quite a few prizes in those competitions.” Ghosh studied at Paikpara Kumar Ashutosh Institution but could not clear the board exams.

His passion was sports. In between, life’s ordeals might have taken him out of his tracks, but he’s back to it now. After school, he got a sales job in a textile firm. He quit it. He tried his hands at various businesses — from selling fish to manufacturing plastic toiletries, from construction business to travel agency. But, “I miserably failed in every sphere”. He feels that since “I don’t have any expectations from running, it has never disappointed me”.

Ghosh gets up at 3am and reaches Tala Park for “practice”. “It’s splendid jogging or running at a cold dawn.” Morning walkers and youngsters would catch a glimpse of this 65-year-old involved in strenuous physical training.

Strictly vegetarian till a few months ago, Ghosh has now shifted to non-vegetarian. He recently chanced upon a doctor, who advised him to pay attention to supplementing high-quality protein, especially animal ones. “He said it’s crucial for athletes,” says Ghosh.

“We can’t be like him. But we do aspire to be like him,” says Bapi Nath, 72, a morning walker who frequents Tala Park for light exercises. “His agility and flexibility are remarkable. At this age, he’s at the centre stage in the Tala Park running culture.”

An ardent fan of Mohun Bagan, Ghosh watches almost all sports on his mobile phone with a special interest in athletics in the Olympics — from road running to race-walking.

But does he have any dream of taking part in national or international events? A clear-cut “No”! “I run for joy and to stay fit. I don’t have to prove anything to society, nor do I want any promotion,” he smiles.

But what worked for this sexagenerian, who broke through with a top-10 finish in three marathons? A gruelling training programme, all by himself. “I train myself in the heat, in the cold and in the rain.”

His big “fans” haven’t yet been able to find a sponsor for Ghosh. Of course, no sports institutes would appoint a “self-made runner” as their coach.

“We really want to repay our debt to him,” says a young runner. In reply, Ghosh says: “When physical activities will improve health and quality of life in this nation, my goal will be accomplished.”

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