What can the chief coach and mentor of the largest running group in Bengaluru teach you about how to train and prepare for your next marathon? The short answer—absolutely everything! discovers Deepthi Velkur.
In this interview, we’re going to pick the brain of Mr. Pramod Deshpande, a reputed coach and mentor for the Jayanagar Jaguars and a technology innovation head with a leading MNC who over the past 4 years has trained more than 2500 athletes complete Half-Marathons, Full-Marathons and Ultra-Marathons.
Apart from coaching, he has also managed multiple running events as Race Director notably the Oracle run and in his spare time addresses corporate forums in the city on motivation and staying competitive.
Pramod shares with us his running story and transition from sprinting into a marathon, and how a coach could help achieve your running goal.
To get us started, can you please share with us a little about your personal running background?
My early running life was that of a sprinter and not a long distance runner. I took to running in my school and college days back in Pune. I was a competitive athlete specializing in the 100m sprint in the 80’s all the way through to 1990. Post that until 1994-95, I did a fair share of coaching people for track and field events.
Later on, life happened and I went on to build the professional career that kept me away from competitive sport and coaching. It was in 2010 that I finally got back to running with Jayanagar Jaguars but this time moved on from sprint to covering longer distances – half, full and ultra-marathons.
When I started with Jayanagar Jaguars, it was more of a social running group of 8-10 people with no structured training in place. Fast forward 8 years and today we are a group of 700 runners located across 10 centres in the city all following a standard training program.
Sprinting to marathons – those are the extreme ends of the running spectrum. How did you make that transition?
I’m not a marathon runner per se. Even though my passion lay in sprinting, I had to make a call at some point. As you grow older, sprinting is not a sport you want to associate yourself with as your pace slows down drastically and it takes a significant toll on your mental and physical health. Also, there is only one sprinting event a year for veterans so continuity is a challenge.
In long-distance running, you can still maintain and manage your pace. Given the numerous races across a year, it helps you participate more and therefore be more consistent. From 2010 – 2014, I took part in several marathons being a podium finisher in 3 runs and also won the best debutant award in the city. Having won my fair share of accolades, I moved into full-time coaching in 2014.
When did you first decide to begin coaching?
I started coaching with Jayanagar Jaguars in the year 2014 on my own accord. When I started, we were only around 20-25 people. I was responsible for restructuring the club and putting in place a more formal and structured training program and the results are there for all to see. Today, we see more and more runners wanting to be a part of this club.
Our standardized model is now in place and followed across all our 10 locations in the city. Every individual is given an overall brief about the training program and the training schedule is shared with them right before they kick-start their workout. Additionally, we use our mobile app to handle all our communication around workout and training schedules.
What’s the hardest part about being a running coach?
Honestly, I do not find anything hard being a coach. I like what I do and enjoy the challenges that the job brings.
Your running club has people from a varied age group, different individual goals and varied levels of strength? How is your training plan built to cater to this?
The overall program is obviously customized keeping in mind certain parameters such as strength levels, amateur or seasoned runner as well as individual goals. We typically break down the runners into 7-8 categories (count could vary based on the program need) and we then allocate captains who have been directly trained under my guidance in the ratio of 30:1.
A senior group would typically have 30 members while slower groups are much larger (100 – 150 runners). Each category of runners will have a customized training schedule built for them. I am responsible for training the group captains who in turn will train their respective groups. I create a training schedule and communicate this to the group captains who implement the plan and follow the schedule.
Given the 2 styles of running are different – what elements from your sprinting days have you brought into the world of marathon running?
While sprinting and long distance running are two completely different styles of running, the one constant is how an athlete trains. Parameters such as off-season, on-season and types of workout changes but the overall structure remain the same for both.
The type of workout performed by a sprinter will, of course, vary to that of a marathon runner. A sprinter does not run more than a 5k and requires a little more strength training while a long distance runner is focused on distance and endurance.
Everyone talks about the importance of strength and weight training. What specific workouts do you think help improve marathon running?
There are a few elite runners who do not need strength training but this is few and far between. Majority of us are leisure runners and definitely need to go to a gym to do some strength training. Looking at off or on season as well as which part of the training schedule the runners are in, they will undergo 1-2 days of strength training at the gym.
Apart from the gym-based training, we conduct a twice a year on-ground strength training for runners program that lasts for 2 months. A typical training period will be 90 mins at the most considering time constraints that the most of the runners face. The training day routine will involve running exercises, strength training exercises such as Plyometrics as well as flexibility exercises.
Do you think it is important for a serious runner to have a coach? If yes, what are the benefits of having a coach?
The outside perspective is very important to your running life. Everybody needs a coach to take care of your workout and to build discipline. Look at leading sportsmen around the world, Roger Federer for instance – we all need a coach!
What’s your coaching philosophy?
Trying to get the best out of a person’s ability is what a coach must do. Apart from coaching someone to be the best runner there is, I also try to imbibe the spirit of being a good and responsible citizen.
I would like to take this opportunity to put to rest a misconception that the coach is everything – NO, a coach cannot be a nutritionist, a physiotherapist or a doctor. These are three distinct roles and every athlete needs to have access to them as well.