Running Gives Me Peace Of Mind; It Helps Me Clear My Head - Atul Daga

Atul Daga
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Atul Daga, CFO, Ultratech Cement in conversation with Sunayana Nair on Running the Mumbai Half Marathon since almost its inception! 

How and when did you take to running the Mumbai Marathon?

I missed the first Mumbai Marathon; I wasn’t aware of it. I used to only do short distance runs until then. It was only after hearing my friends’ experiences that I got motivated to do long distance running. I began my journey participating in the Dream Run (6 km) only to realise it was child’s play. Then there were also the corporate relay races. I was part of a corporate team and we stood second. I remember LIC had clinched the first spot and they have state-level athletes – nobody can compete with them and that performance motivated me to take it to the next level. Within two years, I started running the Half Marathon (21km). 

How many years has it been now?

I have been running the Mumbai Marathon for close to 15 years.

Haven’t you felt the need to step it up and go to next level – run the Full Marathon?

No. I feel it gets a little boring. The fanfare is not there unlike the half marathon. I have run Half marathons across the country – in Goa, Delhi, Coimbatore. I have also run in Hong Kong, Bangkok but haven’t really felt the need to run the Full Marathon. The audience participation eggs you on in a Half marathon. In fact, even in the Vasai-Virar (Mumbai suburbs) runs – there are kids virtually all across the street cheering you. So that’s exciting. Audience participation keeps you motivated. 

What do you derive from running personally and professionally? 

I get peace of mind. I don’t carry my phone when I run. It helps me clear my head. It just gives that adrenalin rush and keeps the energy levels high throughout the day. I love running especially during November – February, since the weather is cool. 

Professionally, it has helped me network. I have made many friends from the corporate world whom I got acquainted with while running the marathon. The starting line of a race is a great place to connect with people. 

Where do you run in a place like Mumbai?

There are lots of places. The best time to run is early mornings, so you get to avoid crowded streets. I wake up between 4.30 – 4.45 a.m. every day and by 5.45 a.m. I hit the road. I often go to Juhu beach. So that is an 8-km running stretch one way. The Worli Sea Face is another great place and so is the Mount Mary Hill at Carter Road in Bandra, where we do our training runs – the hill run helps you strengthen the muscles. Another lovely place is the Mahalakshmi race course. 

Do you listen to music while running? 

Yes, music is a must. I like listening to fast paced tracks. Boney M continues to remain a favourite. 

How do you train for a marathon? 

I run at least three days a week or four days if I am training for marathon. Typically, long runs are reserved for Sundays. Since I only do 21km, a long run would mean covering 14-18 km and occasionally 21-25km runs. For corporate trainings, we have a trainer who handles our training schedule, keeps a check on our fitness levels, flexibility and endurance. 

What do you think the role of corporates and business community has been in terms of elevating the sport to the stature that it is today – the biggest participative sporting event in India?

I have observed many business leaders, entrepreneurs, corporate honchos who run and I think apart from it giving us the personal drive to push our limits, it also helps us motivate our team. I am 50-years plus and in my office, I walk the fastest! At work, I always stress upon the importance of having some kind of physical activity to keep fit physically and even mentally. It need not be running. But what makes running so attractive is that it is the cheap and it is readily accessible. You just need a good pair of shoes and step out!

So, what is your favourite running gear? 

My shoes which I change every six months. I prefer Asics Gel-Kayano, Newbalance. 

Which have been among your favourite runs so far? 

I enjoy running the Delhi Marathon due to the airconditioned-like environment that you get to run in. The Goa marathon is also another favourite since I had achieved a personal best timing of 1hr.55min. So, that gave me a high. 

What advice would you give someone who dreams of running a marathon? 

Don’t lose hope. Get started at the earliest.  It is best to start slow and build stamina.