Once in a blue moon, when I land up in the gym at an insanely early hour, I find him running on the treadmill at godly speeds with ungodly grunts…
Well, you may expect that out of a seasoned marathoner. But what I did not expect was the news he broke to me: that he had recently finished an international sprint triathlon at 14th place. And he is only 44! But his age was not my only cause for concern! 🙂 Not very long ago, I had seen him starting to learn swimming! From swim lessons to completing an open sea 500 mts stretch at the triathlon on an abnormally windy day… now that got me awestruck!
Amit Gupta, the man in question, is the CEO of Asianet News Network. He is a gifted vocalist, a weekend chef, a mountain-trekker, a self-proclaimed workoholic, besides being a father of two equally talented teenagers. He is also fit as a fiddle.
The great thing about blogging is that I get to uncover stories of real-life heroes like Amit. More than fitness, his tale is about his personal transformation and personal learnings. I decided to pick out some pearls of wisdom around his passion of racing, marathon running, fitness, and more.
A boss can make you run…(literally!)
His journey of running started in childhood with him trying to outrun the last couple of runners in his school running competition. 🙂 But took a sharp turn when he entered the workforce. Well, we all know that a boss can make you or break you. In his case, his boss made him run. A decade ago, the motivation for running got rekindled when his boss (a marathon runner himself) pushed him to try it. He has never stopped running since.
As you can expect, there have been lots of ups and downs in his run.
“Darr ke aage jeet hai”…There is victory beyond your fears.
At the 18th kilometer into his first marathon, his knees started cramping. He somehow managed to finish but if he wanted to run again, he would have to go through an arduous knee surgery. (it was not due to the running per say, but due to a prior untreated injury.) He had almost succumbed to the fact that his running would have to be stopped before it could even start. But thanks to his wife, Shivali, who couldn’t see his dreams go unfulfilled and made sure he went through the surgery. He went on to run 11 marathons after that. But the incident made him very diligent in listening to his body.
Don’t stop when the pain starts….Stop when the pain gives up.
At another marathon, many moons later, he got severe stomach cramps and threw up at the 16th km. But he pep talked his way into finishing the race, even though he was completely dehydrated and overdosed on salt. He surely learnt the importance of electrolyte balance that day. 🙂
It’s not about winning; it’s about finishing the race!
There was also the life-threatening feat at the recently participated triathlon. Having never swam in open sea before, he almost lost his sense of direction during the race. The drift of the wind was not in his favor either. He had gulped too much water and was almost hallucinating directionless. But something in him did not let him give up. Not only did he manage to complete the swim, he finished the race at 14th place.
Now, you’d think he’d slow down after the last episode?! But he tells me that he is already training for the Olympic distance triathlon next. Clearly, his passion of running/racing goes beyond fitness and goals.
“My passion for fitness/running has by far been my best personal teacher!”
According to him, It has made him a better person overall…more organized, more time-conscious, empathetic, and much more open to new experiences and learnings. But most importantly, it has taught him a great deal about failure…
“I have realized that failure is just a self derived definition of your outcomes being a tad short of the expectation. So now, I focus on the cause and not the consequence.”
To me, Amit’s account signifies that fitness, above all, is a state of mind. Your own drive and commitment is the most important gear in your journey towards fitness. And whatever your marathon…(and no, it doesn’t have to be of the running kind, it can be of a body-building kind, or the yoga kind or any other fitness activity that you entail) shed your inhibitions; drop your fears; run that extra mile and see where it leads you.
If his story has inspired you to try running, here are few tips and advices from him to get you started:
Firstly, can anyone do it?
He quotes from his favorite book, ‘Every Human is “Born to Run”’ by Christopher McDougall.
So…absolutely (as long as you don’t get sweaty palms or palpitations while running).
What are the basic requirements to start training for a marathon?
First and foremost, you have to commit to drinking lots of water, maintaining a good enough BMI and taking care of your legs (he is gungho on ghee and oils his knees like a bicycle chain every Sunday :)) .
Before you start training, you need to get to a proper warm up and cool down routine and start sleeping for 7 hours.
He suggests to start running at least 3-5 times a week to test yourself. This is also the time you need to train your brain. Positive affirmations, self-talk, visualization, music, running buddies….you can try any or all of these to prevent the cliched motivation fades. Once you get comfortable, you should try longer runs (more than 10K) once every week. If you are consistent in this approach, you should be ready for a half-marathon in about 12-15 weeks.
Any diet restrictions?
Absolutely none. According to him, dieting is criminal when you are burning up so many calories. Over the recent past though, he follows the V-figure when it come to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And of course, minimal junk and processed foods.
Some of the biggest myths about marathon running?
That running is bad for knees! You need overall fitness, not strong knees to race. You need to focus on your running style, muscle strength, and endurance if you want an injury-free run. The secret to happiness is right at your feet, once the overall body runs in sync.
What kind of shoes would you need to invest in?
The general rule of thumb is that your shoes should match your current fitness level and your future aspirations. You should ideally get a shoe expert to help you with the right fit…basically they should nicely hug the entire feet while leaving some headroom to move your fingers up down and sideways. Nike Vomero, Adidas Ultra boost and Barefoot Vibram are all good choices.
How do you weave this into your already busy lifestyle?
You have to act like a petty time thief i.e. steal a few minutes from each of your daily routine: getting up, getting ready, breakfast, etc. Plan, Plan, Plan! Every aspect needs to be planned in advance, from taking work calls during your commute to planning your workout the nite before. His biggest time-savers come from a very minimalist and disciplined approach to social media usage and devices. If you let go of your FOMO (fear of missing out), you will be gain back your MOJO 🙂
Any parting advice for non-marathoners and wannabe marathoners?
Before every run, is a race between your mind and an excuse. Your motto should be to make your mind win. Your body will follow.
And he signs off with one of his personal favorite quotes:
Everything in life is a marathon of different time, distances and tracks; don’t dash it. Run it per your abilities while improvising it in style and form constantly.