Reverse running may not be the most difficult task to be accomplished. Or that is how it generally appears. Not something that would get you recognition from the Limca Book of Records. While it may seem like a very simple and achievable task, try running a few hundred metres in the reverse and the enormity of the effort will hit you.

For Vijay Boddupalli, a budding cricketer from Chennai, it started by chance.

Since he was nine, Vijay had been a regular at running to keep himself fit as a cricket player. During his school and college days, while cricket was his favorite sport, he also played football, handball and some rugby. He participated in professional cricket across Zimbabwe, Kenya and Maldives. He kept raising the bar to keep fit. It was important for a budding cricketer like him.

In 2014, a tragedy struck. Vijay suffered a hamstring injury, something that fast bowlers fall prey to regularly in cricket. For Vijay it meant his career as a cricketer was nearly over. It was the first bad break of his sporting career. But that did not break his spirit.

“I was fit to do anything at any point of time. That was the kind of preparation, psychologically and physically I had,” Vijay recalls.

With his cricket career on a sticky wicket, Vijay had to rework his life to make a mark. He took to running, which was not physically as demanding. Helped by his running mates from different communities, Vijay landed in Bhopal one December morning. He was identified by the ‘Run Bhopal Run’ authorities as one of the celebrity runners.

“Since so many people and running groups had helped me, I decided to run in the reverse to level up my running regime,” Vijay recalls. He ran 10 kilometres in the reverse, something that made curious onlookers, and some fellow runners, to take note.

“Initially, people found it a little awkward. As I moved ahead, they were guiding me. There were some 15-20 volunteers who helped me. Doing the run was my way of expressing gratitude for all the help I have received from people,” he says, as he recalls the morning of December 2, 2016. He completed the run in two hours and two minutes from Board Office Road to Link Road in Bhopal, according to the 2018 edition of the Limca Book of Records.

It was not the first time he had made it to the Limca Book of Records.

The first recognition had come just a few months earlier. For 21 consecutive days, beginning August 10, Vijay ran a half marathon in Chennai. Each day was a new one as he competed against himself. The daily run helped him test the endurance that had built over the years of practice. All of it came in handy and got him the attention that he had earned. For the first time, his name was mentioned in the Limca Book of Records.

Beginning of reverse running

As part of his training schedule, one day Vijay’s cricket coach asked him to do three rounds of reverse run at a ground in Chennai. He asked the coach why he was suggesting reverse running. The coach told him that if he could do a good job of reverse running, doing the same forward would be much easier. Vijay, perhaps, took it a little too seriously and when he completed five rounds, he just got the feeling that he was fitter than before. He did not realise how it could be important for him in the later years.

The three rounds of the field, nearly 1200 metres, of reverse running, along with his team soon became a habit.

For cricketers, unlike in other popular sports like hockey or football, running in the reverse direction can be a good skill to have when fielding. During fielding, sometimes cricketers have to run that way to ensure they have their eye on the ball while covering the ground in an attempt to catch the ball. It is one of the most difficult things to do when fielding.

Cricketer to marathon runner

To keep fit, running about 10 kilometres had been a regular routine. As his cricket career was cut short, Vijay ran the first marathon at Vasco da Gama, Goa in 2014. Soon, he was running marathons in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Punjab. Running with different groups, helped him become an integral part of the marathon circuit. Last weekend, he was at Bhatinda and has now completed half marathons in 10 Indian states.

The inspiration to run and stay fit had come from the legendary Australian fast bowler, Dennis Lillee, who used to visit Chennai regularly since he was associated with the MRF Pace Foundation, a nursery for budding fast bowlers. Vijay had heard stories of how Lillee used to sprint a short distance after completing a 20-kilometre run. His dream was to be as fit as his hero.

“One day, I hope to complete running marathons across all the 29 states of India. I also want to run marathons across all the seven continents,” says Vijay, as he begins planning the next run.