Protima Tiwary speaks to Lokesh Meena who has clocked over 250 marathons since he started running in 2015.
A government employee with a tight schedule and an interest in running, Lokesh Meena has run over 260 marathons in the USA since 2015! We caught up with him to understand how he continues to sign up for races every weekend even as a hectic career and family call for his attention.
What motivated you to take up running?
I am an employee with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India since 2009. Before I started working, I was a regular guy who didn’t keep fitness as the main priority, but at the same time, I was considered fit enough to play cricket once in a while. From 2010-2014 I was stationed at a high altitude post at Lusaka, Zambia. The altitude made it difficult to do too many exercises. I became lazy and physically inactive, a fact that my colleagues pointed out too. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I decided to join a few colleagues who’d go for morning walks. I then got transferred to Washington D.C. where I saw how people were physically active and knew how to take care of their bodies. Fitness was a priority for everyone, and it drove me to make it mine.
Inspired by the fitness levels around me, I started running too. My first jog was out in the snow, and I covered a total distance of 0.5miles. I started jogging 2-3 times a week and made it my habit.
So…is this how you took up running? Could you please share the results that you saw.
I weighed myself after a couple of months after I started jogging and saw that I had GAINED WEIGHT. Yes, even with all the running I had managed to put on weight. That is because of my diet- I’d run, come back & eat desserts because I thought I had earned them. Seeing that weight gain demotivated me. I slowly made some diet changes and got back to running, this time longer distances. I also cut out sugar, fried and fast food from my diet.
The difference was visible within a few months. I was losing 2kgs every week! I was also running 25 miles every week, with strict diet control.
I came across an 8km race in my neighbourhood and signed up for it. This was in September 2015. I finished this race in 37minutes 57 seconds. The runners high hit me and I was ecstatic. I then started running a race every week!
So far I have run about 260+ races in the USA which includes 25 ultra- marathons, Boston Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon (twice), Philadelphia Marathon, Rock n Roll Washington D.C, The North Face Endurance Challenge Washington D.C. being some of those.
March 2, 2018, was undoubtedly the best moment in my running career when I was selected to represent India at the World Trail Championship 2018 in Spain by the Athletics Federation of India.
In June 2018, I won my first ever full Marathon, Grant-Pierce Indoor Marathon in Arlington, Virginia, the United States on June 24, 2018. My timing was the Asian & Indian Best (confirmed by The Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS)) I had set an Indian National Record and Asian Record!
I also qualified for the Boston Marathon in April 2017. It is considered to be the Olympics of amateur runners and I was stoked to find out that I had qualified.
You must have a hectic schedule. How do you find time for running?
Allow me to share one of my favourite quotes by Henry Ford -“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Running has improved my productivity. Plus I understand the importance of discipline and deadlines, and being fit helps me stay focused on the task at hand. I also have the support of a lovely wife Nirma who helps raise our three beautiful daughters. My family has been an immense source of strength and support and always encouraged me to go after my dreams.
How do you train?
I usually run with a lot of people because I feel immense joy in doing this together. For trail runs, I exercise at the gym and also go hiking and outdoor cycling. For bigger races, I usually train with a coach. I hired a coach for 10 months while I was preparing for the Boston Marathon where I ran 100 miles a week.
For training, one has got to be consistent. Strength and core training play a big role. Hills training also plays a big part as hill running builds muscle strength. I do gym strength training 3-4 times in a week. A positive outlook about life also a key factor in running. “More importantly you cannot fake in running.”
What have been some of your greatest learnings through running?
- Never give up, no matter what the results say. Failure cannot dictate the rest of your days.
- Marathons are great teachers. Marathons make you humbler.
- Show up. Showing up is always the secret to success.
Any tips you’d like to share with us on how to stay strong during the race?
Stay positive! You don’t need negative thoughts clouding your judgement Also, don’t compare yourself to anyone, you’re all running your own race. And of course, train well.