Thonakal Gopi - Best Indian marathon runner

Thonakal Gopi: India’s Marathon Champion


Thonakal Gopi, affectionately known as Thanackal Gopi, is an accomplished Indian athlete who has made his mark in the world of marathon running. Born on May 24, 1988, in Wayanad, Kerala, Gopi’s journey from a small town to becoming an Olympian is nothing short of inspirational.

Early Life and Entry into the Army

Gopi’s early life was far from the world of sports. He hailed from a modest background in Wayanad, where his parents were farmers. Gopi, an only child, assisted his parents in cultivating rice and ginger on their small plot of land. His athletic journey took shape in school, thanks to his physical education teacher, KP Vijayi, who identified his talent and encouraged him to take up athletics seriously.

Transition to Long-Distance Running

Initially, Gopi participated in shorter distance events, such as the 600 meters. However, it was Vijayi who recognized his potential in longer distances. He switched to the 1,500 meters and soon began winning medals in inter-school competitions. Despite his success in Wayanad, he faced stiff competition at the state level.

After completing Class XII, Gopi joined Mar Athanasius College in Kothamangalam, Kerala. His exceptional performances at the university level earned him a spot at the Army Sports Institute in Pune in 2009. This move significantly enhanced his training and coaching opportunities. However, it also meant rare visits home, as he could only return once a year. Gopi made the most of the Army’s top-notch facilities and coaches, which became a turning point in his career.

Gold at Asian Marathon Championship

Notably, Thonakal Gopi created history by becoming the first and, to date, the only Indian athlete to win a gold medal in the Asian Marathon Championship. This victory at the Asian Marathon Championship in 2017 showcased his remarkable prowess on the international stage.

Record of Achievements and Personal Best

Here’s a summary of Gopi’s notable achievements and personal best marathon timings:

2014National Open Athletics Championships10,000 meters29:32:26
2016Mumbai MarathonMarathon2:16:15
2017Asian Marathon ChampionshipMarathonGold Medal
2016Summer OlympicsMarathon2:15:25
2019Seoul International MarathonMarathon2:13:39

Life and Dedication

Gopi’s life is a testament to dedication and hard work. His story resonates with sacrifices made for the pursuit of excellence. As the only earning member of his family, Gopi sends his savings home, except for purchasing specialized running shoes necessary for his training.

Despite his remarkable achievements, Gopi was un-sponsored by corporate endorsements as of mid-2016. He continues to train diligently, spending the majority of the year away from home, away from his family, to compete on the world stage. His journey exemplifies the resilience and commitment of an athlete who has transcended obstacles to represent India on the international stage.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

Gopi’s journey to the Olympics and his subsequent victories reflect his mental fortitude. The uncertainties of the pandemic have disrupted schedules and made qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics a complex endeavor. The postponement or cancellation of events worldwide has presented challenges for athletes. However, Gopi’s determination and grit have been his companions throughout his journey.

As he trains and works towards his dream of participating in the Olympics once more, Thonakal Gopi’s story is one of unwavering spirit and perseverance. His journey from Wayanad to the Olympics serves as an inspiration for aspiring athletes in India and around the world.