Meet The 86-Year-Old Who Cycles 53 Km Every Day

Looking for inspiration to get your ‘couch potato’ off the screen? Tired of asking him to lead an active life? This interview is just what the doctor ordered. Inspire your child now!

By Ashwin Dewan

Meet The 86-Year-Old Who Cycles 53 Km Every Day

Today, children and youth spend most of their time indoors, watching television, playing games, surfing the net on mobiles and tablets. This sedentary lifestyle has resulted in obesity and other health issues at an age when they should be at the peak of physical health.

And then, there is someone like Bylahalli Raghunath Janardhan, who is an absolute inspiration for today's generation. At an age when most people are getting used to a retired and peaceful life, Janardhan is busy cycling, running marathons, and trekking. He started cycling at the age of 64 years and has not looked back since.

At the age of 86 years, Janardhan, who lives in Bangalore, still makes it a point to cycle for 53 km daily and believes that staying fit does not depend on age and that it is all in the mind.

In a candid conversation with ParentCircle, Janardhan talks about his inspiring journey and that it is never too late to choose a fit and healthy lifestyle.

86 years, fit as a feather, cycling and ever so eager to run marathons. What's the secret?

I started cycling at the age of 64 years, after a gap of 43 years, because I was working in the Indian Railways for a period of 37 years and got no time to pursue my passion for cycling. As I started cycling, my stamina improved over time and it helped me trek in the Himalayas and the Western Ghats.

Over time, cycling and trekking gave me the confidence to take up running at a ripe age of 72 years. I used to play a lot of sports during childhood and feel that I am reliving those lost years.

What was that one moment that intensified your passion for cycling and running?

One morning, at the age of 62 years, I was relaxing with my family when I lost consciousness. I was taken to the doctor where I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I began taking medications but could not go outdoors on my own as my family feared for my condition. All these restrictions began to take a toll on me and I decided I had to do something to stay fit and healthy.

I started waking up early and would walk for some distance and come back home before the rest of the family members woke up. Slowly, this turned into a daily activity and I started feeling fit and more confident.

Finally, one day, I took my son’s cycle and went on a long ride without any difficulty. This was the beginning of my love affair with cycling and running.

I still remember the epilepsy attack was on 19th March 1995. It has been so many years and there are no symptoms of epilepsy or any other ailments.

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How do we get the young generation of today to move out of a sedentary lifestyle?

Eat good food, exercise regularly, respect pedestrians and cyclists, and do what you want to do in life right now! Do not postpone and wait for the right moment. Getting fit should be on everybody’s priority list. 

Meet The 86-Year-Old Who Cycles 53 Km Every Day

How important is diet to maintain a fit lifestyle like yours?

To begin, I am a staunch vegetarian. My diet is very simple and consists mainly of food that has been steam-cooked or boiled. I avoid fried and junk food and prefer homecooked meals.

I start the day with a litre of warm water and after breakfast, lunch, or dinner, again have warm water. I have a heavy breakfast, which is followed by a light lunch and almost negligible dinner. I like having fruits and milk in my meals.

I believe in simple and homecooked meals, which are free from any added preservatives. Health bars and drinks may be healthy, but I refrain from taking them. Each person has his own needs and should consume foods that will agree with his or her body.

How can one make children understand the importance of physical and mental health?

A fit body does indeed lead to a fit mind and vice versa. However, for me, I believe that the mind controls the body and not otherwise. Apart from the attack of epilepsy that I suffered from years ago, I have not experienced the many diseases that come with age. So, I believe that it is all in the mind.

I do not let anyone help me unless it is a must. I prefer to live my life totally independent.

Your motivation mantra...

My desire to be fit and the passion for cycling and running keeps me motivated. Every day, I wake up knowing that I am blessed to be healthy and running and cycling even at this age.

Meet The 86-Year-Old Who Cycles 53 Km Every Day

Tell us about your achievements?

Till date, I have pedalled around 4,00,000 km maintaining an average of 53 km a day. I have run 13 full marathons, 59 half and ultra-marathons, one 50 km marathon, participated in 3 cycling events, 7 duathlons, and have also cycled in the desert, and taken part in a 5 km obstacle race (20 obstacles).

I have also participated in vertical runs. My first vertical run was at the World Trade Centre in the year 2014 of 2 km and 850 steps, which I completed in 23 minutes.

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