Leading the way during the early part of the group training session on that special night in Felthorpe Picture: Neil Featherby
Ever since I was a young kid I have always had sporting heroes – and I have been so very lucky to have met many of them during my life.
Bhaskar Kumar after a chance meeting with one of his previous patients at a training session in Felthorpe Picture: Neil Featherby
I have, however, also met a lot of other amazing people through running, who, whilst they might not be sporting heroes, they are most certainly unsung heroes of everyday life.
For those who do regularly read my weekly columns, you will also know that I very often like to not only write about some of my great experiences with world class sports stars, but also those who I see as local sporting heroes here in Norfolk too.
About four years ago, a gentleman by the name of Bhaskar Kumar walked into Sportlink asking me for advice on running shoes. However, it did not stop there as he absolutely enthused not just running, but life too.
He didn’t stop talking, and with every question I answered there was another. During the next year or so he came in a few more times and, as per his first visit, it was more of the same. Then, a couple of years ago, he asked me if it would be okay to send me his training programme for me to cast my eye over and if it would be okay to come along to one of my run group sessions.
“Yes of course, ping me an email,” I said, “and we will go from there.”
When the email arrived, apart from telling me that he was not only a very good runner, having ran 16 minutes for three miles as a youngster, it also showed he was also an excellent tennis player – at 17 years of age he was ranked number one in Yorkshire in the 18 and under age category.
I also noticed at the bottom of the email it read Mr Bhaskar Kumar MD FRCS, Consultant Oesophagogastric & Laparoscopic Surgeon, etc. I always had an idea that he was involved in medicine, but never really knew to what extent as he always wanted to talk about me and my running. If I am honest I’d feel a little embarrassed, especially if others were in earshot, what with him continually telling me that he thought I was some kind of sporting hero.
Nevertheless, what was so very clear to me after reading his email was whilst I have always looked up to those who have achieved the highest honours in sport, this guy was indeed one of life’s genuinely humble people who was at the same time a pretty special guy himself.
He came along to one of my sessions a couple of months later and, needless to say, it was very obvious that he could run, and whilst he did blow a bit towards the end, albeit through a little over-exuberance early on, he was most certainly a talented athlete.
During the session an elderly gentleman, who lives next door to the park in my village of Felthorpe, where I put the sessions on, came over to have his usual chat before doing his own lap of the park, albeit in the opposite direction of the run group.
On this occasion, though, he had not long been out of hospital after a big operation and as he was walking towards all the oncoming runners. It just struck me that he and Bhaskar may know each other.
At the end of the session and while chatting in the car park, George was still on the field. I pointed and said to Bhaskar, “see that gentleman over there, you may just know him”. At that point, he looked around and stared intently for a second before sprinting over to him and they both started hugging each other.
Needless to say, I gave them a minute or so before walking over, only for George to look at me and repeatedly say, “he saved my life, he saved my life”. There is, of course, a much bigger story, but to say it was so very emotional is an understatement and I can honestly say that it really was another one of those most special moments which I have indeed been so privileged to be part of.
I have since then had several conversations with George, who thinks Bhaskar is an amazing man and, of course ,with Bhaskar about what could have been his true athletics potential only to further discover that he did actually have the chance to play full-time collegiate tennis.
When it came down to it, though, it was his studies which he decided to concentrate on and whilst he may have sacrificed what may have been a chance to be a champion, what is meant to be is meant to be and I don’t doubt for one moment that he will not only continue to still play tennis at a very competitive level, but also achieve some pretty impressive race times.
He has also pointed out that it was his sporting background which has now very much given him the mental attributes to focus and deal with what can be stressful decision-making when under pressure.
I have always said running is such a great leveller and whilst those who are regarded as the sporting elite will always stand out above the rest, what you can be sure of is that tucked away amongst the masses there really are so many other unsung heroes.