The 15 time Mumbai Full Marathon finisher Girish Mallya talks to Protima Tiwary about what it takes to tackle the most prestigious marathon circuit in the country.
When you meet Girish Mallya, you see a jovial, humble and super fit man, all of 42, with the energy that will put a 25-year-old to shame. We sit down to talk to him about his passion- running- because it is no secret that running to him is as important as breathing air. In fact, he has run the Mumbai Marathon 15 times till date! Aside from being a professional runner, Girish works in the publishing industry, and is fondly known to many as a mentor and friend. Finisher Magazine caught up with Girish Mallya to know more about the science of running, with the aim to inspire all those who’re gearing up for marathon season.
When did you run your first marathon?
My first race ever was the full marathon, in the first edition of the Mumbai Marathon in 2004.
What made you take up running professionally?
I have been running since the age of 15. My earliest recollection of running would be of completing 3km-5km runs thrice a week on a jogging track in Colaba Woods (Mumbai) This inspired me to take part in all the long distance races in India that were being held back then (sadly not too many) I also took part in adventure marathons. I slowly moved on to ultra-marathons but the game changer was the Marathon Des Sables, arguably one the toughest foot races on earth. The transition from being an amateur runner to a professional one happened in 2013 when I was preparing for the Marathon Des Sables Race and hoping to be the first Indian national to successfully complete this race.
This placed me in a professional category, and I received the support of many corporate firms who sponsored my runs, and I also diversified into giving motivational and fitness related talks at Corporate firms.
What has been the highlight of your marathon career?
It most definitely has to be the Marathon Des Sables (MDS) race in Morocco in 2013.
As a runner, what is the one quality that defines you?
It’s the ability to keep charging ahead, to never give up. Even if I am having a bad run day during a race, I power on and end up surprising myself. Giving up is never an option, not in a race, not in life.
What have you learnt from your best and worst races?
Best races teach you so much, but it is the bad ones that teach you even more. Best races will show you how strong you really are, and how to maximise your strengths. Bad races are important too. I have learnt an important life lesson in my bad races, and it is that failure is important. Bad races have taught me how to deal with failure. They have shown me how failure is a stepping stone towards success, and you need to keep on charging ahead to rebuild yourself. Running teaches you to believe in yourself.
You’ve been running the Mumbai Marathon since its inception. You have now completed it 15 times! How has this marathon changed in the last few years?
It’s improved with each passing year! Initially, it used to start at 7:30 am, and today for the non-elite runners it starts at 5:40 am. I think that is a huge improvement. Even the size of the marathon has grown. From three-digit number of finishers to over 3000 finishers today, the participants have increased exponentially. It speaks volumes about the quality and management of the race.
Has your training changed in the last 15 years?
For me running is pure pleasure. I really do not run scientifically or train specifically. You’ll find me running an average of 50km per week, with 4 runs a week, all year round. Running is my stress buster, it calms me down when I am angry, and it makes me feel positive and invincible. I actually have withdrawals symptoms if I miss out on my run even for a week.
They say consistency is key. But how do you maintain this consistent pace throughout a run?
In running, a consistent pace is more about discipline than anything else. It’s about not pushing unreasonably and maintaining heart rate consistency, throughout your training runs. So that you can train your body to run better without pushing your HR. That is true endurance for me. You need to train at getting disciplined. You might have the energy to run fast, but you need the discipline to keep the energy in control in order to finish the race. This comes with practice of course.
What are the other training methods that you use to stay fit?
Strength building and core conditioning are important for a runner. I rely on free hand exercises and cross training to keep up overall strength levels.
How do you suggest training for the upcoming Mumbai Marathon?
I recommend you start with choosing your races carefully. You must aim at gradual improvement and distance and time. Choose from 10k, 21k or 42k and then start training with a certified trainer, a running group or even enroll for an online training program if that suits you because professional training will give you an insight into the technicalities that are required to run a marathon. With the help of certified experts, you can build a training program that suits your fitness levels. If budget is a constraint, check out marathon training with Halhigdon that provides various training programs based on your fitness levels and timing goals.
How does one manage training in this corporate world, with “lack of time” bringing us all down? Where do we find the motivation from?
If it is important to you, you will be able to manage time for training! Just like you have time to eat or sleep, you need time for exercise too, it isn’t optional at all! Of course, schedules can get hectic and it isn’t always possible to enjoy a long run or intense gym session, but there are simple things that can make life easier. For example, choose a gym that’s close to your house. That way distance won’t get you lazy! Also, use public transport instead of personal transport (only if it is a practical option) as this ensures you walk around a small distance daily. If budget isn’t a constraint, get a personal trainer who motivates you to get to the gym daily! Join a running group to stay motivated. Also, enjoy a workout that you like. Don’t join a gym because that’s the only way of getting fit. Do something that you love, and you will see that it is easier for you to motivate yourself. Try your hand at swimming, cycling, or try your hand at a sport like badminton, tennis, cricket etc. Experiment, and find something that doesn’t seem like you’re making an extra effort.
What’s your favorite track to run on?
I am an urban commuter, and urban roads are my favourite tracks.
How do you overcome negative thoughts while running a race?
Marathons don’t always go perfectly well, and negative thoughts do cross your mind once in a while. When the going gets tough, I usually find that the challenges have made the run interesting. I thrive on adversities, I take it one kilometre at a time but I complete the race. Never give up!
A marathon is a combination of mental and physical strength- any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race?
If you train hard and smart, that is more than half the job done. Before the race, sit down to review your strength and limitations, and mentally plan how to run the race (set your time, set distance milestones on your tracker) Also have a backup plan ready if in case things don’t go right; you might suffer a cramp or weather might not suit you, etc. Go prepared, that’s all.
Leaves you inspired, doesn’t he? Follow @girishmallya on Twitter to know more about his experiences with life, the corporate world and running.