Running a marathon is never easy and requires meticulous planning, Deepthi Velkur learns this when she catches up with Vaishali Kasture.
When that little voice in your head says, “It’s too early, it’s too dark, you’re tired – go back to bed. Then, beast mode kicks in and you get up and you run”.
Dedication – that one word sums up Vaishali Kasture.
An MBA gold-medalist from JBIMS, Mumbai, Vaishali has 25 years of experience in India and overseas (Hong Kong, Tokyo) with organizations such as Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, Experian, Amazon Web Services and also started an NGO called Sonder Connect that mentors female entrepreneurs in India but the corporate rat race has not stopped her from pursuing her passion – running.
Looking to get out of the daily humdrum, she started working out in a gym in 2002 (she was in HK at the time!) but the indoor training did not fascinate her much. She had a few friends who used to run outdoors and she decided to give that a shot, “My passion started in my 30’s when I discovered the true joy of running in the outdoors and on trails. I remember the feeling of being outdoors in great weather and doing something to challenge your body on a trail. I really liked that aspect. There was no looking back since”, says Vaishali.
That year, Vaishali signed up for her first 10K race and recalls her experience saying, “ I remember my first race very vividly. This was the first time I had done something competitive physically. I’m a very competitive person both professionally and personally but the physical aspect of pushing my body to achieve the goal I had set for myself was something new”.
Running is a great way to stay fit and the ‘high’ you experience at the end of a long run is exhilarating. It was no different for Vaishali and when asked how she became so passionate about running, she says, “To be honest, it’s both mental and physical. When you run, you feel an endorphin rush. Studies have proven that there are chemical reactions that occur in your brain after a long run. It’s not surprising that people feel so good that they want to do more of it. I also think running has become like a social sport where people meet, make new friends, hang out, etc. And lastly you become very fit, start looking good and feel confident about yourself”.
Vaishali’s running journey has progressed steadily and she made sure her body was ready before she undertook a challenge. She says “It’s been a gradual and purposeful journey. I don’t think I ran beyond a 10K or a half for a very long time after I started running. When I ran my first full, I didn’t feel very good so I scaled back and told myself that unless I get faster with my 10K and the half, I’m not going to attempt running the full marathon. I ran the next full marathon after 2-3 years when I qualified for the Boston Marathon. After that, I moved on to running the world majors at a time when people didn’t know it existed. From there to running Ultra distances and Comrades and so on and so forth. The learning here was to see if my body was ready for the next challenge and wasn’t done blindly or under peer pressure because everybody was doing it. I followed a regimen and was particular about my nutrition aspect, doing strength training and not just succumbing to high mileage. I would also plan my races around work keeping in mind that I give myself sufficient rest”.
Being one among the first few Indian women to qualify and run the Boston consecutively since 2013, completing back-to-back Comrades runs (2014-15) and also the 1st Indian woman to finish the 6 world marathon majors (2017) speaks volumes of her achievements. When asked about this, she says, “All this happened very accidentally. Honestly, it’s not a great achievement. This would have been possible by any other woman who was able to give the time, effort and the expense to make it there. But to be one among the first to have qualified for the Boston consecutively, I think that is perhaps closer to my heart. Having said that, the qualifying times for women are really easy. I’m a strong proponent that we need to tighten the timings as women for the same age group are 30 mins handicap to the men. But if you look at the global standards, the elite men and women are only 20 mins apart. Though, it feels good to be one among the first few to have thought about participating in the world majors and may have been instrumental in planting the seed amongst women to go and participate in this race”.
It’s never easy
Running a marathon is never easy and requires meticulous planning months in advance. No matter how prepared you think you are, things always don’t go as per plan. “I had a couple of tough situations particularly in Boston where the weather is so unpredictable. It could be raining and freezing one year and we could be in a heatwave the next. In 2 races in Boston, it was difficult because the temperatures were more than 100 °F, people were really hovering you down and it was tough. The other time was when it was really freezing even before the race started. Both situations come to mind and you know that you’ve put in the hard work, qualified and got here. This is a race you don’t sit back and take it easy, no matter what the weather conditions are, I would really push hard from the beginning and tell myself that this moment in time will never come back”, says Vaishali.
She further adds by saying, “I think I’m far more mentally strong than I’m physically strong. I don’t have the typical things that you would look for in a runner. I’m a very petite person, don’t have a huge amount of physical strength and fast-twitch fibres. While I was training for the comrades, the first year I just did one training run of 40K due to lack of time, my second year I would have done one 30K run. My training would be only 30% in terms of volume when compared to what people do but it’s my mental strength that gets me across and that makes up for my lack of training”.
Work keeps Vaishali on the move – balancing out work, family time and training is quite a challenge. To this, she says “It is very challenging yet fulfilling. To be able to get all this done, I have to be obsessed about planning, stay disciplined and flexible at times. The things I don’t compromise on are waking up early, getting my training done in the morning (especially when I’m training for races), ensure the house is organized and the requirements are taken care of by 7:30-8 AM, so I start getting into work mode. No matter where I am I try and finish my dinner by 7 PM and get to bed by 10 PM. I obsess about my sleep, recovery, eating good quality home-cooked meals and if I’m travelling adjust my training schedule to ensure that I get some of my key runs done. I believe if your passionate about something you will find a way to get it done. But on days where you fail, I’m not too hard on myself”.
We live to learn
Running often helps us look at situations differently. Vaishali couldn’t agree more as she says, “I don’t have the luxury of time. To keep everything coordinated, it teaches you a lot about the act of balancing and at work it makes you a much better leader – you’re fitter, more energetic it makes for some pretty interesting conversations with the client”.
Running aside, Vaishali now believes she needs to focus on regaining her strength. She says, “The focus during the week is 3-4 days strength training and 2 days of easy running. I don’t have any races on my horizon and want to devote the next 12-18 months building strength. When you’re trying to do strength and running together, as a runner your strength will be always minimal to keep up and never be able to go all out to recover the next day especially when you grow older. I currently work with Ash Nath, he is my mentor who gives me the broad guidelines of my training. So I take the basics of my training plan and do the best I can with it and not obsess over every detail of my plan”.
Her message to women out there “We get so swamped with home, family and work that we don’t take out time to do things that give us joy. Invest time in yourself and do something every week that gives you joy and I call this my 3rd dimension. If you’re a happy person, that joy will spread in your family and at work. So, don’t make your life only about doing things for other people, find the time, be a little selfish in doing things that give you joy”.