You Just Have To Get Past The First 2 KM And Running Will Win You Over! - Venkatesh Maheshwari
Venkatesh Maheshwari, Sr. VP Aditya Birla Fashions & Retail, a regular Mumbai Half-marathoner in conversation with Sunayana Nair on running the Mumbai Full Marathon for the first time after climbing Mount Everest.
For a person who has conquered the Everest, what does it mean to run the Mumbai Marathon?
Though I have been running the Mumbai Marathon for quite some years now, I had restricted myself to running the Mumbai Half Marathon and other under 30 km-marathons for the past 8 years now since I wanted to take care of my knees, given my passion for trekking and climbing as well. Now that I have achieved my goal of climbing the Everest, I am running my first full Mumbai Marathon.
How did you prepare yourself for the Full Marathon?
While I have maintained a pretty decent time for my half marathon, my personal best being that of 2 hours, running the full marathon is indeed a different challenge. The second half gets tougher, as you reach 30 km. I needed to build a lot more endurance and so, for the past few months, I have been training at Juhu beach along with my regular exercises that I was always practicing, which I hope will allow me to go beyond those 30 km. Preparation is the key. I believe that no matter how strong you are in the mind, at the end, it is how strong your lungs and legs are, and that is what makes you climb or run that extra mile. Your mind definitely has to be strong but it is your physical training that will really carry you through, at the end.
So, when did you begin running?
I have been running for about 9 years now, even though I have always been interested in sports. There were many runners in my circle. Even in Canada where I had resided years ago, there used to be so many marathons, but running somehow never excited me. Until when I met someone and he told me ‘you just give it a shot and run your first 2 km and then running will take you over’. And surprisingly, that’s what happened! I started with my first 2 km run and since then running hasn’t left me. I began running different terrains, covering longer distances even though I started running when I was about 38 years. I believe I have been running better over time. Now, running is a passion. If I don’t run twice a week, I feel as if my life is not going in the right direction.
Which was the first marathon you ran and which are some of the other marathons you have run?
My first was the Mumbai Half Marathon. I also run others like the Powai, Thane marathons. I haven’t run much outside (India) because my focus had been trekking and then subsequently my goal to summit Everest. But now I do intend to do an international one shortly. I want to see how I perform in my first full marathon and then work on improvisation and see how I qualify for the bigger marathons across the world.
How do you view the role of the corporate/business community in establishing the Mumbai marathon as among the top marathons in the world and the biggest sporting event in India?
If you look at the way the marathon has evolved until today where reportedly more than 8,000 people have registered for the Mumbai Full Marathon, which is a record in itself, it is indicative of the change in the attitude and mindset among people.
Running a marathon changes you. I remember when I did my first 2km, I struggled even though I was an active sportsperson. But you learn from people around you and the groups to push yourself and go that extra mile. You think you can’t do it, but when you prepare both physically and mentally, learn to eat properly, hydrate yourself properly, you then realise that you can push yourself further. For me, as a corporate leader, it has given me the confidence to push myself more, both personally and professionally.
How do you see the role of senior leaders then in terms of motivating and encouraging youngsters and juniors to take up running or any other activity?
I do try to push the youngsters in my team and always encourage them to register for the 5km and 10 km runs. I definitely like to see people healthier and fitter around me. There is a stark noticeable difference in the energy levels when you are physically fit. You also get mentally fitter, more agile and stronger. There is more energy around you and the team gets energised.
How important do you think it is to have more such sporting events and participate in them?
For me, work life balance is the most important thing. It becomes important to see how you can finish your work within those 8 hours and get back home to pursue whatever it is that gives you joy. It is about having a very clear mindset so the 8-9 hours you are at office, it should be the most passionate hours dedicated to work and I try to ensure that my team leaves the workplace latest at 6 pm. It is all about adding something more to your life, so that we grow not only professionally but across other aspects of life as well. So, you are not only a better manager but also a better human being.
How has running helped you?
Running gives me the energy to keep going and the motivation to pursue my goals aggressively. I have developed a never-give-up attitude through running and my stress bearing capacity has increased drastically, both personally and professionally. For me, it is about being physically fit. Most of us spend so much energy looking after our homes, wherein it’s our body that we actually reside in and I love to take care of it!
Which is your favourite running gear?
I use a particular line of clothing for my T-shirts when I run – Uniqlo for their extra-dry range T-shirts. But I don’t carry any equipment or mobile or earphones. I just run. My most important equipment is my pair of shoes. I have experimented with those and I really love the GOrun Pure from Skechers. There are various good running shoes there and different brands work differently individually. It is always about the best fit. I believe in investing in the best gear and I think it is worth it.
What are some words of advice you would give people who want to run the marathon?
First of all, I would like to ask them to begin by running the first 2 km and be prepared to be taken by surprise at what your body can achieve, gradually. So, run your first 2(km), and then your first 5 (km) and then you first 10 (km) and then you will have discovered yourself!
(Post interview edit – Venkatesh Maheshwari completed his first full marathon (42km) in 4 hours and 56 minutes on January 20, 2019 at the Tata Mumbai Marathon.)