Dubai: Resident earns Ironman title in Kazakhstan

46-year old Dharmajan Patteri aims to run a marathon even when he is 80


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Sun 28 Aug 2022, 7:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 29 Aug 2022, 5:02 PM

Dubai resident Dharmajan Patteri has achieved the title of Ironman after successfully completing what is considered to be one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. The Indian expat finished a 3.8km swim, a 180km bicycle ride and a 42.2km run, in that order, in the span of 16 hours and 30 minutes.

The race, held in Nur Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, was attended by professional athletes and sport enthusiasts from all over the world.

“It was not just about physical stamina,” said the 46-year-old. “It was equally a test of my mental strength and the way I managed my nutrition. I had an injury during the race, but I was determined to finish.

The race was on August 14th, the fifth death anniversary of my father. I got my love of sport from him, and I wanted to dedicate my title to him. So, I persevered.”

The Dubai Factor

Hailing from the southern Indian state of Kerala, Patteri landed in Dubai in 2007 and had no idea how the city would change his life. “When I came here, I did not have any concept of fitness,” he said. “I used to play football and cricket while at college, so I was under the impression that I was quite a fit person.”

The chartered accountant’s first brush with physical activity came in the form of the Dubai Marathon. “At the time the fun run was 3km long,” Patteri said. “My friend and I decided it would be fun to try out.

The first kilometre was great, and we ran with much gusto. By the second kilometre, we could see little kids overtaking us. That is when we realized how out of shape we were.”

From that point on, Patteri began to run regularly, and participated in several local runs including the 10km Dubai Marathon. “After a while, I started to get bored with just running,” he admitted. “I was using the same muscles and I felt like I needed a change. My favourite haunts were Mamzar Park and Creek Park. I started seeing people swimming and biking around them. So, I decided to give that a shot.”

He credits local running and cycling groups like Dubai Creek Striders and Dubai Riders for helping him during his journey. "These support groups were a massive help for me to improve my technique," he said.

Turning Point

The biggest turning point of Patteri's life came in 2017, when he lost his father and a colleague in the same year.

“That was a huge wake up call,” he said. “My father had turned into a very inactive person after retirement, and I felt like that contributed to his untimely death. My colleague was a relatively young man who had everything a man could wish for in life. However, his life was also cut short due to health issues. These sudden deaths shook me, and I knew that I had to get fit.”

With renewed interest, Patteri continued his fitness journey. This time he had a purpose. “In my community, it is common for senior citizens to live a sedentary life,” he said.

“However, here in the UAE I could see various people of different nationalities aged 60 and above leading a very active and sporty lifestyle. I wanted to set an example for people around me.”

In 2019, he began to participate in smaller triathlons in Dubai with the goal of eventually participating in an international competition. However, everything came to a standstill when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. That year, when the Dubai Fitness Challenge rolled around, Patteri decided to swim in the open sea.

“It was a perfect sport for the situation,” he said. “Open sea, lots of social distancing and no other restrictions.” He swam 2km every day of the 30 day challenge.

Preparing for Ironman

Patteri admitted that the preparation for the Ironman competition was one of the most disciplined things he has ever done in his life.

“The entire training program was for 6 months,” he said. “In the beginning, I was training around 5 hours a day. I had to manage work, travel and life too in between the training. I had to take care not to fall ill.

I would go to bed every day by around 7 or 8 pm. I turned down a lot of invites to social events. I learnt a lot about nutrition, fitness and physiotherapy during these six months. It was hard.”

When he finally began racing, he had to face a lot of unexpected challenges. “Swimming went seamlessly,” Patteri said. “But cycling and running were a whole different story. My aim was to hit 25km per hour while cycling.

However, halfway through I started getting knee pain. By the end of the race, I was only cycling 17km per hour. I still had to run the marathon after that, so I paced myself.”

The marathon was a sheer test of his grit. “I had to take two painkillers so that I could continue,” he noted. “But I was determined to finish. When I reached that final line, it was the best feeling in the world.”

For Patteri, his life’s mantra is simple. “The best thing you can do for your children is invest in two things,” he said.

“One is their education, and one is your own health. I am determined to continue running and maintaining my health. My long-term goal in life is to run a marathon when I am 80.

I draw a lot of inspiration from this quote by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: In the race of excellence, there is no finish line. Similarly, there is no finish line in fitness for me.”


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