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Seema is one of India’s long-distance’s brightest talents, born in Himachal Pradesh, has the size and speed to be a roaring success, and so far in her short career, she's displayed immense talents and an eye for space. She surges forward, confidently aiming to better the previous timing.
In 2017, Seema created a new national record by clocking a time of 09:50.54 in girls’ U18 3000m race and broke her own previous record of 09:56.25 set in Hyderabad.
Not only that, the 19-year-old long-distance runner also won 3 gold medals and 3 silver medals in Jr nationals from 2015 to 2019; and 3 gold medals, 1 silver, 1 bronze in school national games during 2015 to 2017.
Seema captured 1 gold in 3000m in 1st Khelo India Games 2018, held in New Delhi and won 1 bronze in 3000m in 2nd Khelo India Games 2019 held in Pune. And she also won 1 bronze in All India Interuniversity Championship 2019.
She started running in grade school and quickly learned that she had an incredible talent and since then, Seema had powerful motivation to continue running and transcend the confines of her background.
The Punjabi University, Patiala, student bounced around with several coaches and training programs until getting into a groove with coach Hugo Van Den Broek. Since then, Seema has been logging more mileage and, not surprisingly, running a lot faster.
Seema’s primary competes in 3000m, 5000m, 10000m, screams confidence in her own abilities, but one with vision and a strong sense of purpose.
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When you first started out running...did you view yourself more as a long-distance runner or something happened / someone told you that you would be good at long-distance? How it all started?
I started running in 2012 at my village Retta in Chamba district Himachal Pradesh. The first time my school physical education teacher told me and my father that I have something special in running. But that time I didn't like running. I like playing volleyball. But later I think and listen to my coach advise and start training for athletics. And in 2012 my father death shook me from inside. And after then I start making my carrier in this field and not thinking anything else. The more I train, the faster I get. That’s when I realised that this is my sport. I’m doing this.
Who are your running idols?
My running idols in the long-distance are:
Male - Mohammed Farah (Great Britain)
Female - Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia)
Who has been a constant guide to your Athletic career from a very young age?
My coaches and my friends help me the most constantly to work on my carrier in athletics. When I was younger, I have had the support of my school physical education teacher. And when I got selection in SAI, Dharamshala in 2015, then coach Kehar Singh Patial sir helped me to get more knowledge and nuances of the sport and nowadays I train under Mr. Hugo sir, who’s giving me constant knowledge and solving my problems and helps me at every stage. And my personal friends also help me to get stronger by the mind. They always tell me that I am the best. They are always there for me. I’m surrounded by a close circle of friends who stand by me through thick and thin.
Do you remember your first ever race?
Yeah, I remember my first race. It was when I run in district athletics meet in Chamba. That time I secured 1st position in 600m. I was elated when I got a gold medal and some money.
You have been solid in the past two, three years, at what point did you feel your confidence in your ability growing stronger that you could not only become of the best in your state but one of the better long-distance runners in the country?
I think I have changed my attitude towards my work. I feel stronger when I train hard and my body tells me everything that where I stand behind my competitors in races. In national level there is a huge competition nowadays, when I ran Jr. national in 2017, there is only me who ran 3000m under 9:50 and now in 2019 Jr. National, there are 5-6 girls in u-18, 20 who runs under 9:50.so it seems like I have to train with more effort to counter the competition at national and world level.
Can you describe your running style? Which is your strong point curves or straight?
My running style was not so good earlier but I made changes after my coach advise. My strong points are that I don’t leave bunch during the race and striding more speed at last 1km and 400m to get a position in the race.
What is your pre-race meal? And then your favourite food to eat post-race (if you could have absolutely anything).
We have 1 session hard and 1 session easy in a day.
In the morning session, I normally eat Banana and coffee before the workout and after the workout, I eat heavy proteins and rich food. In which I add many things like Dalia, Muesli with milk, Paneer, Chickpeas, Honey, Pumpkin and Sunflower seeds, cut fruits, shake and juices.
For lunch, I eat light food in which I add dal- rice, boiled veggies and salad. And then I eat some fruits.
After the evening session, I have recovery drink if required and I also eat many dried fruits and drinking a lot of water.
And for dinner, I eat 1 roti, chicken, fish, mutton, green salad.
And I also drink green tea after dinner at night.
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Who is your coach, tell us a bit about them and why you train with them?
My coach is Hugo Van Den Broek, belongs to the Netherlands and now he is the head coach of Athletics in Bhopal academy. He has a great knowledge of athletics. Hugo is a 2 hr 12 min marathon runner. And he also works with many elite athletes in Kenya. When I starting training with him, he asked me many questions about my past training and then he starts giving me proper plan for workout and I training with them because I think I have gained so much after joining with him. I improve my personal best timings in 5000m and 8k in trials. He has taught me the importance of hard work, perseverance and patience. It’s a confidence booster knowing I’m at the right place with the right people. He tells me every time that we have to improve at every stage of life.
Every athlete needs some downtime every now and then. What do you do when you’re not training and racing? Do you have other hobbies to take your mind off running?
Yes, I have many hobbies like watching movies and listening to music after the run. And eating a variety of new dishes.
With the increased running, do you feel as though you’re getting stronger?
Yes, I am feeling stronger after doing increased running. And after doing effective hard session we are making me stronger day by day.
You’ve had a lot of memorable races but list the top 3 most gratifying races you have ever had?
I have had a lot of memorable races so far but few of my favorites would be:
Gold with a meet record in 3000m at the Youth National Athletics Championship 2017.
Bronze in 3000 mtr at 2nd Youth Asian Athletics Championship 2017, Bangkok Thailand.
Gold with U-18 National record in 3000 mtr at 33rd Jr National Athletics Championship 2017, Guntur (A.P).
These 3 races are very close to my heart because it gives me boost to my confidence and my carrier. I also run a good race in Youth Olympics Asian qualifiers, where I run 3000 mtr and got Silver medal and got the opportunity to represent my country in 3rd Youth Olympic Games 2018 held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
What’s the fastest workout you can remember doing? In regards to a workout which afterwards you’re thinking, “damn I’ve never been this fast.”
I did 16 × 400m repetitions at the pace of 1:14-1:08, it was a very fast workout for me. And I did it properly and felt very positive.
Any hidden talents or facts about yourself people would be surprised to know?
I respect my elders and my teachers every time. And someone asked me regarding athletics, I talk with them very fluently. Nothing hidden talent.
What's the furthest distance you have ever run?
24km in 1hr 37 minutes.
Running long-distance requires not only stamina but also you need to mentally strong to complete the race, so, what goes through your mind during the race as you’ll have lots of thoughts running on your mind?
Yes, we need to be mentally stronger during races because athletics require whole-body effort to complete the race. If we thinking of other things in our mind, we will feel tight in the race and wouldn’t compete in the race. I always think about practice and calculate myself before the race and during the race, I always think of maintaining the accurate pace to get good timings because timing matters.
What are a few goals that you have set in the coming years? What about personal goals you hope to achieve in the long-term?
My goals in the coming years are to get good timings to compete in major competitions in the national and international level and make my country proud. My Personal goals in long-term is to become Asian champion in 5k and 10k and also make target for my dream 2024 Paris Olympics.
Now for some random, rapid fire questions for the audience… do you listen to music while you run? If so, what do you listen to? And what are a few of your current favourite songs/artists?
Yes, I listen to songs but not during when I’m running, it's not good to listen to songs during running. I listen to songs after running. I listen to many songs like Punjabi and Bollywood. Some of my favorite songs are - Khairiyat Pucho by Arijit Singh, Tum ho by Mohit Chauhan and many Punjabi songs of Sidhu Moosewala, Jassi Gill, Jasmine Sandlas and etc.