From Marketing To Marathons

Ushnota Paul, August 8, 2017

Ushnota Paul profiles four top corporates in India who spill the beans on how running marathons has helped them in their professional career.

They’re the high flying corporate honchos of the country — busy implementing their marketing skills by day. But outside of the board rooms donned in sharp suits, they can be seen in their running gear sweating it out as marathoners. Interesting combination, right? We spoke to four such corporate bigwigs on how running marathons help in their professional career and how they maintain a work-life balance. Read on…

Sanjay Tripathy
Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Agilio

“Now I know I can do anything that I set my heart on.”

Sanjay Tripathy claims that he was never a runner. “In fact, I suffered from asthma since childhood and never played any sport, except cricket as a hobby. I didn’t run a single kilometre till I was 34,” he says. In 2003, Sanjay got into a major road accident that completely changed his life. “Though I was fitness-conscious, I wasn’t proactively into staying fit. A few weeks after getting out of the hospital, I came across an advertisement for the first Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) in 2004. I decided to start running to stay healthy and fit. Since then, I’ve participated in almost all SCMMs, barring only two,” he shares. Running has brought a sense of discipline and focus into Sanjay’s life. “It has made me realise that running is more about the mind rather than the body. And now, I run wherever I go — India or abroad,” he smiles.

Ask him how running marathons help him in his professional life and pat comes the reply, “I’ve always been a focused and self-motivated individual. However, running has added an extra edge to my focus. Now I know I can do anything that I set my heart on, and hence I’m more confident in my ability to face uncertainties and obstacles and turn them into opportunities. Running has made me stronger physically and mentally, and that’s impacted my professional output as well.” Sanjay runs an hour or two everyday. “Throughout the day I am conscious about what I eat and what I do, to ensure my running does not suffer.

On an average, I run around 25 to 30 kilometres a week,” he shares. Sundays are reserved for longer runs and weekdays for shorter runs. “I’m part of a runners’ group and the days I run, I get up by 4:30 in the morning. The other days, I get up by 6:30 AM. I have a healthy breakfast, typically oats, eggs, fruits and nuts. The non-running days, I either go to the gym or for a swim. And then, I’m off to work,” he says, talking about his daily routine. But doesn’t running eat into his professional time? “On the contrary, I feel I am much more positive, energetic, receptive and passionate about everything,” he reasons. Adds Sanjay, “I’d like to believe that I’ve become better at my work after I started running. Running challenges you like nothing else, and you learn to push yourself to the extreme. It keeps you agile, alert and sane.”

A work-life balance is all in one’s mind, believes Sanjay. “You can be as busy or as free as you want Having said that, weekdays are busy for me, so I make it a point to stay relatively free on weekends. On weekends, I read something, catch up on the news and some television. I go out with my family for movies, plays and lunch, or just an extended lunch with our group of friends. If there’s  something interesting and appropriate for children on television, I watch it with my daughter. On weekdays, I generally spend time with my family over meals. Once you set a routine, it’s easy to maintain a work-life balance. You just have to set your priorities right,” he shares.

Ask Sanjay if he has any advice for the young professionals about running and he says, “Staying fit, focused and motivated is critical to success in any profession. Running is the cheapest and most fun way you can learn to do that. You learn to stretch your limits, focus on your goal and give your 100%. You also learn to never give up and empathise with others. Most of all, running is a lonely sport, a physically and mentally challenging one. Hence, you learn how to motivate yourself on a tough, solitary journey.” He quickly adds, “However, remember that like any other sport, running is not for the faint-hearted. You need to set a goal, get the techniques right and change your entire lifestyle. If possible, join a runners’ group to stay motivated and understand the intricacies.”

Ameya Chandavarkar
Director, FDC Ltd

“Being a sportsman and a runner, I’ve built physical and mental qualities including stamina and a never-say-die attitude.”

Unlike Sanjay Tripathy, Ameya Chandavarkar has been running since as long as he can remember. “I used to get attention from my parents and everyone else because I used to run really well. So, I kept doing it ever since. One of my favourite childhood memories include running races with my dad in Juhu beach. I loved to challenge people to have a race. I won often and this gave me more energy to keep practicing and participating in races in school and college,”  he smiles. Eventually, Ameya ran his first half marathon in 2002. Since then, there was no stopping him. He has run many half and one full marathon. Ameya thinks running has helped him hugely even in his professional career. “Running keeps me fit and recharges me — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It helps me stay focussed, disciplined and persistent. Being a sportsman and a runner, I’ve built physical and mental qualities including stamina and a never-say-die attitude. As a professional, I’m required to use all these qualities, while working on challenging projects that are often not entirely under my control,” shares Ameya.

However, he doesn’t run every day. “I run, play tennis and do functional training on a weekly basis. Currently, I’m running only twice a week for a total of about two hours a  week,” he says. Ameya’s daily routine consists of waking up between 5:45 AM and 6:30 AM. “I train for 40 to 60 minutes each day, usually in the morning. I have breakfast at 9 AM and reach work by 10 AM. I have lunch at 1 PM, have a snack at 5 PM and leave work at 7 PM.  I make it a point to finish dinner before 8:15 PM and retire to bed at 11 PM,” he shares his schedule. Going by such a strict and healthy schedule, Ameya is confident that running doesn’t eat into his professional time at all. “In fact, it’s a great way to recharge, destress and refresh,” he stresses. Ameya has mastered  the art of a work-life balance ‘by nurturing a daily routine that is a continuous flow of healthy work and play habits’. “Running is one of the easiest and best ways to feel free and alive. It also helps you get fit and spend quality time with someone you care about and love a lot — yourself,” signs off Ameya.

Manish Aggarwal
Chief Marketing Officer, Zee Digital Convergence Limited

“Running helps me stay focused and perform better in all spheres of life.”

For Manish Aggarwal, running became a part of his lifestyle, thanks to chronic back pain and overweight issues. “Running was never in my distant dreams until those issues started becoming life threatening and I took to a strict diet and walking. Over a period of six months, not only did I lose 24 kilos but also discovered my love for nature. I don’t recall when short walks turned into running 5 to 10 kilometres to taking part in half marathons. And then, running full marathons became my goal. Today, I’m highly passionate  about running and instead of accommodating it in my schedule I try and plan everything around it,” smiles Manish, as he shares his inspiring story.

In fact, Manish claims that he owes most of my recent professional success to running. “In Bangalore, I was part of a running group called Runner’s High which pushed runners to write their run reports after every big run. Over a period, reading seasoned runners’ logs and mine, I realised that long distance running was helping me in clarity of vision, thinking and often clearing all roadblocks”, he says.

On weekdays, Manish’s day begins as early as 4:30 AM. When the world is sleeping, it is the perfect time for one to reflect,” he chuckles and adds “The clarity of thoughts at this hour is simply divine. Running also helps me travel to new places and make lots of new friends.” Currently, Manish is part of the Strider’s running group in Mumbai and they run 1.5 hours every day for three days a week, followed by long runs on Sundays. “I run for four days in a week with Striders and then run one day on my own. I also do some yoga at home,” he says. Ask him how he maintains a work-life balance and he says, “There’s an old adage that goes, ‘If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person’. I say, it’s even better if you give it to a runner. Running doesn’t trouble my work or family life, it only complements my life and helps me stay focused and perform better in all spheres of life. My work requires me to travel and all I need is a pair of shoes and a road to run and therefore, there are no excuses to skip the routine.”

Manish has learnt some key lessons from running that he insists are highly relevant for the corporate world as well. “No matter what, just don’t get knocked down and embrace obstacles. Plans seldom work out in totality and one must be ready for the unexpected and be flexible to adapt and stay committed to the larger goal. Even though your body gives up, never allow your mind to give up and keep drawing inspiration from those around you. While running, I look up to my fellow runners and in the corporate world I fall back on my teammates and ex-bosses,” he explains. He shares this story of once reading a banner from a 6-year-old boy that read — ‘You think it is difficult for you to run this race, it is more difficult for me to be standing with this banner early Sunday morning’. “That really got me going,” he smiles and adds, “There are no excuses for missing the pre-work, you miss trainings and it shows on your runs and so is the case in the corporate world. Most importantly, running helps you realise that you can do lot more than you think. I swear by this statement and keep reminding myself in every aspect of life.”

Manish has some hard-core advice for young professionals on why they should adopt to running. “If you want to make new friends and grow your network then running is the ideal sport, as you get to run with the who’s who. If you can’t run alone, then my advice would be to join a running group and you will find many in every city. I read somewhere that, an ‘hour of running increases your life by seven hours’ and I hope that’s motivating enough for youngsters to take on to the sport,” signs off Manish.

Avinash Pant
Marketing Director, Red Bull India Pvt. Ltd.

“…nothing like a nice run to get things off your shoulder and feel good about life.”

Ex-Marketing head of Nike India and currently Red Bull India’s Marketing Director, Avinash Pant, had been into sports in a big way throughout school and college. His passion for sports continued through work life as well. “As a soccer, basketball and volleyball player, I could never understand why I’d run, if not behind a ball,” chuckles Avinash. He continues, “During my business school days at Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, we had ‘cross-country’ as one of the competitions and I remember I did quite well in that race, though it wasn’t even five kilometres. My interest started after watching a clip on television about a triathlon — a sport that combined the disciplines of swimming, biking and running. I decided I had to take part in a triathlon one day. Around the same time, the SCMM event started in Mumbai and I remember taking part in the dream run on a lark. It was so much fun,” Avinash shares his journey. After that, work took him to the United States and he started training for his first triathlon. “When I started running longer distances, I truly began to experience what I now know as the ‘runners’ high’. I got into triathlons and lived in the US for a couple of years. It was there that my interest in cycling grew and I became an active cyclist. I brought this passion (and a bunch of cycles) back with me to India,” he says.

Once back in the country, he realised that commuting was a challenge every day in a big city like Mumbai. “Cycling as a transport was appealing, as it was the fastest, given the traffic. It ensured that I got some time on the bike, which I enormously enjoy, and also squeeze in a quick workout. Though, that hasn’t been the primary motivator. I have to say even today, I feel like a carefree child when I am on my bike, even if  it’s on the Western Express  Highway, looking back in anger at the honking motorist behind!” he laughs. Avinash proudly states that he has been a bike-commuter from his home to work every day, not just in Mumbai, but also in Gurgaon and Bangalore. “Here in Mumbai, I save some serious time cycling to work and back — since I live in Goregaon and work in Andheri. It’d take me much longer than my customary one way 30 minute ride to get to and fro from work. A quick shower at work and I am set for the day,” he smiles.

Avinash started running the half-marathons with the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. “The maximum distance I run or I’m interested in running is a half marathon and I’ve done a bunch of those. A lot has been discussed and written about the benefits of sports and fitness in professional life,” he says, talking about how his running has helped him in his career. He continues, “Running really clears your mind. I can’t begin to say the number of times I’ve gone for a run with my thoughts muddled and unclear and have come back with a lot of clarity. It’s also a great stress-buster; nothing like a nice run to get things off your shoulder and feel good about life. It puts you in a positive mood which has such a great bearing on the work you do. I always think better when I’m moving and that is an added plus,” he explains. Avinash feels that, overall, a fitness routine and running is the simplest one to inculcate and it builds immunity. “That translates to lesser sick days at work, unless you over train regularly! Lastly, any kind of endurance training is both an exercise in discipline as well as pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort zone — and isn’t that what we want from our work as well?” he questions.

Avinash claims that many a times, he has met someone over a run. “In my last organisation, I once had a running meeting with a colleague where we discussed our work over a run!” he grins. At the same time, Avinash makes it clear that running doesn’t dominate his work or personal life. “I run three times a week and that too for varying time and distances. I pursue active sports and running goes up or down depending on how much sports I’m playing. In an ideal circumstance, my weekday runs stretch up to 40 to 45 minutes and I opt for an hour long weekend run. This may vary depending upon events I am taking part in. Sometimes, I run to work which can take about an hour but is such a great way to get to work,” he says. Running doesn’t eat into his professional time either. “But sometimes, talking about running can! I notice that those of us who love sports and pursue them with a passion sometimes can’t stop talking about it and I’m sure it’s rather irritating,” he jokes.

Talking about a work-life balance, he says, “I’m not great at balancing things. I’m more of an impulsive personality who gets passionately involved in any of many of my hobbies at any given time. I feel that people make time for things they really like to do and in my case that’s largely sports.” Ask him if he has some tips for young professionals and he says, “I don’t know if running is for everyone but among the various sports and fitness routines, it’s definitely the easiest. You just need a pair of shoes and don’t need to find a bunch of guys for a game of soccer or a venue. You can run wherever you are and it works great with travel as well. In fact, a wonderful way to experience a city you are in, is through a morning run through the streets.” Of course, it has plenty of health benefits too. “I notice that most people put on a lot of weight in their early years of work life and that tends to stay and cause problems later in life. Running can definitely help keep that in check. It has many positives from a sense of wellbeing and positivity perspective. Though, I’d caution that I see a lot of people set overly aggressive goals for themselves and then fall victim to running injuries. Therefore, build your running mileage gradually,” he advises. Sports is undoubtedly an important part of Avinash’s life and shall continue to be so.

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