On Nov 15, Dr Mahendra Mahajan became a Guinness World Record holder – the fastest man in the world to cycle from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, 3751 kilometers, in 10 days, 9 hours, 59 minutes flat!
Hello Sir, what led to this Herculean challenge?
I’m a dentist in Nashik, and took up cycling as a hobby. It soon became a passion and I started taking up various challenges with my brother Dr. Hitendra Mahajan. We did the Golden Quadrilateral Challenge of about 6000km in just 10 days and 20 hours, and also completed RAAM (Race Across America), the “world’s toughest race” of 4800km as a team of two, Under 50, in 2015.
I was then motivated to push even further, and aimed for the Guinness World Record. What better route than Kashmir to Kanyakumari traversing the entire length of our beautiful country? I coined the name K2K for Kashmir to Kanyakumari, put together my crew, and proceeded to convert my dreams into reality! I also took the opportunity to support the causes – “Khelo India” and “Quit Tobacco”.
How was the start, and what was your strategy?
For this expedition, I took two support vehicles and 5 crew members with me from Nashik to Srinagar. In one of them, a Toyota Fortuner SUV we only kept the two front seats and cleared the back area for my comfort and gear.
Right from the start in Srinagar, we faced a delay due to harsh weather, but after waiting for three days I decided to head out anyway and began pedalling slowly in snow and slush. The temperature was as low as zero degrees. My feet were freezing even with shoe covers. Not the super, whizzing start one may have imagined!
After cycling for a while I faced a traffic jam in the Jawahar Tunnel, on the Patnitop route, due to a landslide and rubble on the road. What was I to do? Wait for it to clear up until my support vehicles and I could both go ahead? Or just push on, alone? Not a very safe plan when cycling in remote areas! Alone it was, as every minute mattered. My crew did join me later, the expedition gained momentum and soon we were averaging 350-370km per day. On the second last day, I did 400+km.
My main strategy was to ride as much as possible till I was uncontrollably sleepy. At that point, I’d rest near highway dhabas and toll plazas.
Any unexpected hurdle or obstacle?
I was ready for some natural obstacles, but the biggest setback happened between Narsinhpur to Chindhwada, which was a single lane forest area. A pickup truck rammed into our SUV, totally damaging the vehicle. Fortunately no one was hurt, but our schedule was upset, we wasted time shifting the luggage and honestly, we were shocked! But with support from family and crew members, I pedalled on.
How did your body hold up?
It was doing well but on the Sonipat to Mathura route, my knee started hurting a little and I took a painkiller. By the next day, the pain worsened and my orthopaedic friend asked me to carry on with two pain killers a day, only if hydrating and eating well.
At the end of the day, breaking records is an endurance sport where you must push on! No one pushing so hard, against normal human levels, with a sore behind will say “I was having a great time”. The high is when you complete it and pump your fist in the air saying – “I did it!”
How did you stay on schedule and manage nutrition breaks?
Oh, we multitasked and tried to save every minute. If I stopped to eat, I would lie down and eat so that the crew could massage my legs simultaneously. The food was always prepared ahead of time and handed to me as soon as I got off the saddle. The rest of the nutrition happened on the saddle itself as the crew passed me fruits.
Wow, that’s great support. How many people does it take for one man to achieve a record?
It certainly is a team effort. Thanks to my family and crew members for motivating me and for the success; my mother Devika Mahajan, brother Dr Htendra Mahajan, wife Dr Arti Mahajan, daughter Sharanya, crew members – Dattaray Chakor, Kishor Kale and Vijay kale, Sagar Bondarde, Sandeep Parab, coach Miten Thakkar (Cyclozeal Training), dietician Meghana Surve, Mr Pravin Patil (CEO of Starkenn Sports) for providing a wonderful bicycle and Nashik Cyclists Foundation that always stands with us.
Any tips for other record attempters?
Have dedication. Love what you do! These challenges cannot be overcome if you take them up as a burden. Find something good in the challenge that keeps you going, beyond showcasing it to others. All the best with breaking my record!
Update: Record broken by Bharat Pannu in October, 2019.