Samuel Kuruvilla at a glance
Stepping up to the Swedish Classic
While I’m not your typical ‘superstar’, I’m proud to have achieved a cherished Swedish dream - the Swedish Classic ‘En Svensk Klassiker’ - a diploma awarded to those who finish a collection of four endurance races during a 12-month period.
The Swedish Classic features 90 km of Nordic skiing (Vasaloppet), 300 km of cycling (Vätternrundan),3 km of river swimming (Vansbrosimningen) and 30 km of cross country running (TCS Lidingöloppet). When you finally finish this exciting but grueling challenge, you are rewarded with a beautiful medal and the diploma.
With over 28000 people achieving it since its inception in 1972, this Classic is part and parcel of the Swedish psyche. However, my tryst with this task is more about companionship, mentorship and coaching from my Nordic colleagues Odd Solli and Thomas Petersen. Along with them, I stepped into the realms of teamwork and camaraderie; melting cultural borders while cultivating stamina, perseverance and resilience.
Finding the Four Faces of the Classic
With TCS being the title sponsor of the world’s largest cross-country race, the TCS Lidingöloppet, I jumped into it wholeheartedly. This race was a turning point in my fitness journey, and I’ve completed it three times since the start of our partnership. After my finish in 2019, I was approached by my colleagues Odd and Thomas multiple times to take up a tough task. As veterans of the Swedish Classic, they challenged me to pursue all the four races of the Classic next.
“Looking at the practicalities, I was not enthusiastic at all. I was least prepared or motivated to get to the cycling race location 300 kms away. Plus, I still had no bike and little experience in such competitions.”
Partnership at Play
And this is where our amazing journey of partnership came into play. My friends urged me to register for the race and supported with everything else that followed. Following their advice, I ramped up my fitness regimen, running in the mornings and working out at least an hour and a half in the night. They also helped me pick the right bike, drove me to the race venue and spurred me on throughout the 300 km bike track – meandering through the shorelines of the scenic Lake Vattern, the second largest lake in Sweden.
I also took part in the annual open swimming event Vansbrosimningen. Here, the competitors swim 3 kms, of which the first 2 km is co-current and the final 1 km is against the current. Thankfully, with Odd’s sincere and dedicated guidance, I made it safely across unfamiliar waters to the final finish point.
Struggling on the Snowy Slopes
While all the races tested my mental and physical strength, the most challenging of them was the skiing. The Vasaloppet is a steep 90 km long course with varying track gradients and terrains. When bitter cold sets in, frostbites are the norm. As an Indian with minimal experience of snow, the icy slopes were terrifying as I struggled to balance.
To prepare, I spent a week away in the mountains learning the basics of skiing and followed this up with practicing on the artificial ski tracks in Stockholm. Facing this fear of the unknown, I persevered and managed to complete the skiing part of the Swedish Classic.
Stepping out of the Comfort Zone
At the end of it, I feel that the Swedish Classic is a test of our spirt or ability to focus and finish the job. It can be considered as an experience that mirrors many of the personal and professional challenges we face in life.
For instance, I have frequently stepped out of my comfort zone to reinvent myself in various professional roles within TCS. I learned new skills and I’m grateful for the freedom and opportunity the organization creates for its employees to continuously learn, make a difference and immerse in personal and professional challenges.
Merging into the Swedish Way of Life
Having completed the Swedish Circuit, I feel a great sense of belonging to the Swedish way of life and culture. As an expat working in Sweden, talking about the Swedish Classic experience is a conversation starter that links and builds bonds instantaneously with my colleagues, customers and others.
Through this challenge, I have learnt how to strengthen connections, create shared experiences and appreciate the value of ‘learning and sharing’. And I’m motivated to help others achieve their sporting or professional goals.
Perspectives from Colleagues
Reflecting on this experience, I asked Odd and Thomas why they supported me so much. They said that they were convinced of my positivity and mindset. Apparently, they never doubted my fitness and were sure that I was up to this task. They also remember a lot of the laughs and gaffes we had along the way like not being able to unclip my feet off my new bike or not trying on the wet suit before the swimming race.
As circuit pros, they knew that I needed a push but believed in my ‘never give up’ attitude. And both say that they would do this again for a colleague if a similar level of camaraderie is reached.
A Superstar’s Message to us all
My story proves that you can achieve anything if you want it hard enough. When you set a goal, visualize your success and work towards it steadily. You may have to step out of your comfort zone, merge into a new way of life or balance yourself to do the extraordinary. While this may seem hard for you at the onset, I’m sure that the right effort will see you emerge triumphantly.