WRITTEN & INTERVIEWED BY YOGESH KUMAR | 20TH MARCH 2019

Four hours from Shillong, Meghalaya is a farming village, sitting atop a hill in Mawkyrwat, South West Khasi Hills District, by the name Shngimawlein.

A name in this village is bringing accolades to the region and breaking records. Tlanding Wahlang, a 40-yr-old father of 04, has lived in the village his whole life and grows paddy. He started running five years ago and little did he know about his innate talent or the endurance he has built since childhood over such a terrain that when he started running, people took notice.

His first race was a local one in the state of Meghalaya, a 42km Sohra Cherrapunjee Marathon in 2015 in which he finished 4thoverall. RUNMeghalaya, fascinated by the prowess of the farmer, took him to several other races across the country and the rest is the trail running community is aware of. For those who aren’t, The Hell Race got in touch with him to know more about him and his upcoming Trail World Championship in June in Portugal. Also, he finished 01st and broke the record by two hours at last year’s Solang Sky Ultra, Manali; our finale race in the Hell Race Trail Series, scheduled 06th October this year. Tdanling only knows and understands his local language of Khasi, so we got in touch with someone who could interpret for us. Here is his interview.

THR: What forms the major part of your diet and food?

Tlanding: Organically grown red rice from their own paddy fields, wild herbs and greens, locally grown vegetables and occasionally locally available meat like free-range chicken as well as eggs, grass-fed beef or pork.

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THR: What is your lifestyle like that your performance improved so rapidly in competitive running?

Tlanding: I have been running regularly since 2015. Agriculture is labour intensive and during sowing and harvest time, a lot of time goes working in the paddy field. As well as tending to livestock and growing vegetables, collecting wood for cooking are all manual tasks. Villagers work very hard to bring food to the table and it is this hardship in a very difficult terrain that has made me and other runners from this region stronger than others. It is probably this hard manual work that keeps me strong even with my running. Most of the villagers hardly make enough to feed themselves and life is difficult when added expenses come in. I have always had to deal with the same issues villagers have. Their income from selling their agricultural products is the bare minimum. It is very difficult to afford anything else extra besides food for the family.

THR: What was your childhood like?

Tlanding: I grew up in the village, was one of seven siblings and went to the local school and worked in the family fields. My family was poor and life was difficult. I used to play football when I was younger. I was part of my village Sports Club.

THR: How do you train and what is your training routine like?

Tlanding: I run about three to four times a week but they are long runs. I have never kept track of my timing or distance. Now I have been gifted a GPS watch and is learning how to use it, so I will be tracking my runs in the future. I do not do any cross training as little time is left after my runs where I have to tend to the field and livestock. Running distance estimation would be about 130 to 150Km a week.

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THR: When did you start racing and how fast was your progress?

Tlanding: I started taking part in local races in rural Meghalaya and Shillong in 2013. I realized that besides earning extra income, running also kept me healthy. It was my podium position at the Sohra Cherrapunjee Marathon 2015 that brought me to the national stage. That year, RUNMeghalaya, the organizers of the race, took all the local podium finishers to participate in the Bengaluru Marathon 2015 where I came 3rd in my age category. Going forward, I have always been a part of the RUNMeghalaya sponsored team and attended many more national events.

List of Achievements

RaceYearDistanceRankTiming
Sohra Cherrapunjee Marathon201542.2km402:55:21
Shriram Properties Bengaluru Marathon201542.2km32:49:23
Sohra Cherrapunjee Marathon201642,2km42:41:59
Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 201621.1km21:13:11
Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon201742.2km12:42:55
Airtel Hyderabad Marathon201742.2km2:45:48
Mawkyrwat Ultra 2017201772km15:42:45
Tata Mumbai Marathon 201842.2km12:42:57
IDBI New Delhi Marathon201842.2km12:38:31
Rotary Sohra Marathon201842.2km12:47:58
Solang SkyUltra201860km17:11:23
Mawkyrwat Ultra 2018201872km15:38:24
Tata Mumbai Marathon 201942.2km12:40:53
IDBI Kolkata Marathon 201942.2km12:35:42
IDBI New Delhi Marathon 201942.2km12:34:57

Note: Only for Sriram Properties, Airtel, SC/Tata and IDBI Marathons, rank is for Age Category Open, all others are Overall.

THR: What does your community and family think about your success in running?

Tlanding: People consider me the town hero. Running has enabled me to provide extra income to support my family. Since RUNMeghalaya organized the Mawkyrwat Ultra in 2017 and 2018 and I won both years, has proven to my village in their own eyes what I’m capable of and they wish me to succeed on the international stage. It’s good to see people taking up running as a competitive sport now.

THR: What is your general lifestyle like these days when you have to train as well and how has it changed

Tlanding: RUNMeghalaya is working with me on a schedule and method of training in order to prepare me for the World Championship trail route. It is in process.

THR: What are your future goals in running?

Tlanding: I’m ready to strive my best to achieve the ultimate. My supporters, RUNMeghalaya, believe that I can compete with international runners and I look forward to more international competitions in the future.

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A quote from RUNMeghalaya on Tlanding

Tlanding says he started racing to win because he actually wanted to buy a pair of football shoes when he was younger. His family was poor and he did not want to burden them with asking for a pair of football shoes. In his first races, he never won he said but he said he never gave up. Family and children took his time and energy, as he got older. He finally got a chance as he got into his 30’s and spent the time to train and improve himself so he could be better and it was then that he started winning podiums.

We at RUNMeghalaya, have known him for many years. He is a very humble person. We saw raw talent in him and he has always positively taken any advice and encouragement we gave him. From what we know of him, he is a hard worker, a good father and husband, a soft-spoken gentleman who can run with the wind and beat it. We think he has what it takes to compete on the international stage.

These days, Tlanding is in the process of raising funds to help him participate at the Trail World Championship on 08th-09th June 2019. He gained the spot in the Indian team earning an ITRA (International Trail Running Association) cotation of 690 points.