Thomas Bobby Philip approaches his running with passion and challenges himself at every turn to stay inspired, find outs Deepthi Velkur.
Thomas Bobby Philip (aka Bobby) believes that focusing on something that excites you lets you challenge yourself and achieve great things. A wonderful line from Oprah Winfrey comes to mind,
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you”.
Bobby took to running in early 2009 and soon discovered that this was his calling. He hasn’t stopped since, never missing an opportunity to learn, challenge and improve himself in the sport. He believes in sharing this knowledge and he takes great pains to inspire and influence amateur runners in the sport and help them as much as he can.
He is a strong advocate of Barefoot running ever since he took to it in 2012. A certified ChiRunning trainer, Bobby has been organizing regular workshops all over Bangalore and helps runners run efficiently and injury-free.
On a professional front, Bobby has been with Nokia for nearly 10 years and is responsible for Capability Planning and Development.
I had a chance to talk with Bobby on his running story.
Bobby: It was early 2009 and my daughter had her school sports event that she was participating in. To help her prepare for the event, we started running together around my layout.
I’ll be honest – I have never been into sports before this, so I had to take it slow.
Initially, we started off with 200M on day 1, 300M on day 2, 300M twice on day 3 and so on. We gradually progressed and in about 7 days I could see a vast improvement in myself. I didn’t have a proper running shoe at that point and just ran in whatever shambles I was in. That’s the start to my running journey and I have never looked back since.
FM: You graduated from running your first 10k to HM and finally FM in 2 years’ time. How did you go ahead with your training and increase your distance with each event?
Bobby: I realized running was my passion because it gave me immense happiness. I decided to do something about it. The first step – get a good pair of shoes.
At the Nike store, the people introduced me to this club called the Nike Run Club. When I started training there, I was under the guidance of a professional certified coach who introduced me to the concept of warming up, how to run, how to strengthen myself, how to cool down and other basic techniques.
With their proper guidance, I ran my first Sunfeast 10K in 2009. I gradually progressed from a 10K to do my 1st half marathon in Chennai the same year. With 1.5 years of continuous training, I progressed to my first full marathon in 2011 at the SCMM (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon). I was in no hurry to rush things and took more than a year to gradually build my base miles and physical strength by doing 2 HM’s and many 10k’s. My FM was a success and personally a great achievement too as I finished it in 3hrs 49mins.
FM: How has being part of a running group shaped you as a runner and achieve what you have today?
Bobby: I think what is most important is to train under a coach whether your part of a running group or training alone. This gives you an opportunity to learn the correct method of training, a person you could consult with, learn and get an expert opinion on various training techniques.
I used to train at the Nike Run Club under a certified coach – Mr.Beedu who helped me in a lot of ways and used to train us well. I then joined the PaceMakers where I was and still am under the guidance of a very matured and experienced coach, Kothandapani. He introduced me to the scientific method of training where we are given a training plan and we need to ensure that we followed it to the T. The training plan included a mix of workouts – interval, tempo, hill runs, fartleks. A combination of all of this makes you stronger and a better runner.
Being a part of a running group is great as we train together, support and compete against each other while we continue to learn and benefit from each other’s strengths. That’s the great camaraderie shared when you’re a part of a running group.
FM: Do you think having the right coach/mentor/guide makes all the difference to your training and performance?
Bobby: Yes, Absolutely! In fact, I strongly recommend that everybody trains under a coach/guide/mentor whatever you’d like to call it. It gives a whole new dimension to your running and moulds you as a runner.
FM: You are the first Indian to complete the Boston Marathon barefoot. Why did you choose to run barefoot?
Bobby: In 2012, I transitioned to running barefoot. I personally found that it worked well for me. I did my first 10k barefoot in 2012 followed by my first HM and later a 50K. It was a success to a point where I felt that running with shoes became a discomfort and uneasy.
In 2015, when I decided to run the Boston Marathon, I had to run barefoot as I had no choice as this was the only method I could follow. It made the run difficult due to the harsh weather conditions. I also wanted to show the world that running barefoot is normal as in the western world running barefoot is perceived as something abnormal and new to them. It was a bit of a shock for them to imagine someone walking barefoot and to top it all running barefoot too. I had people come and ask me if I have never worn a shoe before. (chuckles)
Since then whenever I travel internationally, I am barefoot especially when I’m travelling alone.
Its human to be barefoot, in fact, the entire universe is barefoot. It’s just that someone invented a shoe and we are literally bombed with shoes on our feet.
FM: What changes did you make to your training plan to be able to run barefoot?
Bobby: Honestly, there is no specific training plan as such to be followed. But I would say there is a transition process involved to be able to run barefoot. It does take time and you need to be patient as this time period could vary from person to person which could be a few weeks to over a year in some cases.
Every individual is diverse based on their past experience, background, levels of fitness and one needs to identify what works best for them. For e.g. Milind Soman took almost 1.5 years to transition to barefoot running before he did his first HM as he wanted to ensure nothing went wrong in the process, while I know a couple of runners who ran over 20kms barefoot in their very first attempt.
I could have never imagined running barefoot at the first instance. I know for sure I would have got blisters which I was close to getting. I made sure I was gradual in my transitioning process and wanted to slowly add up my barefoot mileage.
A common injury that one might face is the top of the foot pain (TOFP) which causes a slight swelling on the feet and pain in the calves. These are some of the pain areas that the body has to get used to and basic strengthening of the body is also key here.
FM: What variation elements do you add to your training routine to make it wholesome?
Bobby: Firstly, there are a lot of variations in training and secondly, I introduce physical fitness workouts into my training. Apart from these, there are other factors such as nutrition, having a positive attitude and mental strength. All of these put together is one complete package. I also get regular deep tissue massages and give good recovery time for the body.
FM: You achieved your first podium at the Bangalore Ultra (37.5K) 2010 and have been on the podium ever since? What does it take to be so successful?
Bobby: It’s all about disciplined training and the guidance of a good coach. That’s the differentiating factor.
First, I think it’s very important to train right which helps to minimize the injuries. Second, I had an immense passion for the sport and spent enough time on the sport to train myself regularly and be disciplined than many other runners. I was considered the most disciplined runner at the Nike Run Club too. Hence with proper guidance and a disciplined attitude, I managed to achieve a podium in the veteran category.
FM: Consistency is the key to achieving anything in life. How have you built your pace and strength over the years?
Bobby: I totally agree with the statement. I have been training for over 9 years now and I’ve been extremely disciplined and consistent with my training. I have people ask me how do I manage to be so good – all I have to say is that I started early and we have very few runners who have this sort of experience. But the most important aspect for any runner is to continue with the same level of consistency, discipline and following a correct method of training and you will see yourself becoming better each day.
FM: Who inspires you to keep achieving pushing yourself more and more?
Bobby: Everyone who challenges themselves and competes with themselves to be better than what they were yesterday is where I draw all my inspiration from. My coach has and is still my biggest inspiration/role model. Within our running group, we have a lot of runners who are not as good as me, but I see them working very hard to improve themselves and be better. It’s wonderful to watch and learn from such people.
FM: What are your running goals for 2019?
Bobby: In general, I would like to be consistent in my performance throughout the year. My performances have already hit the peak for e.g. I do an FM under sub-3 hours and I’d like to maintain myself at those levels which is a challenging task in itself. I don’t really set crazy goals for myself. Many people like to do a higher mileage like the ultra-distances. To be frank, I don’t have such aspiration as I prefer more intensity workouts/runs such as the faster 5k, 10k and HM’s and try and do at least one FM in a year.
With respect to the events for 2019, I would like to take part in a lot of Procam events like the TSK, the ADHM which I haven’t done in two years now and maybe one or two cities more.