Ram Baboo
Ram Baboo celebrates his national record. Photo: Twitter/Sports Authority of Gujarat

MNREGA worker Ram Baboo breaks national record in 35km race walk

Uttar Pradesh’s Ram Baboo, who worked as a MNREGA worker, shattered the national record in the men’s 35km race walk event en route winning the gold medal on the concluding day of athletics competition at the National Games in Gujarat’s Gandhinagar on Tuesday (October 4).

Baboo, an unemployed physical education graduate, won the event in 2 hours 36 minutes 34 seconds, bettering the earlier national record of 2:40.16, which was in the name of Haryana’s Juned Khan who finished second on Tuesday with a time of 2:40.51.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Baboo, who hails from Bahuara village in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadradid, did odd jobs, working a waiter at a hotel in Varanasi and also as MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) worker.

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“I worked in MNREGA digging ponds with my father. My parents had a card so I would work on that. During the lockdown, I couldn’t train so that was the work I did. We had to make a road or dig ponds. We worked for two months. They didn’t pay us daily. They calculate how much earth we removed and then pay us based on that. I made around ₹200-300 a day,” Baboo was quoted as saying by Sportstar.

“Coach used to send me the training on WhatsApp. During the lockdown, I had to train on the road outside the campus. I didn’t have facilities for gym, swimming or massages after training,” he said.

He said he had applied for a job in the Army in 2021 and now he has to submit a fresh application under the Agniveer scheme.

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“I applied for a job in the Army last year. There’s a change in the duration of recruitment and the person in charge of recruitment says I must submit a new application under the Agniveer,” he said.

The 35km race walk event was introduced in India only last year in the wake of World Athletics’ decision to do away with the 50km event after the Tokyo Olympics.

“I will keep working hard to replicate such time on an international platform too,” Baboo said after the event.

He was the inaugural champion in the National Open Championships in Warangal last year when he won in 2:46:31.00.

Though he clocked a faster time of 2:41:30.00 in the National Race Walking Championships in Ranchi in April this year, he was unable to match strides with Juned Khan who set the then national record at 2:40:16.00.

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