Sudhir Shenoy: Running is a great equalizer

Running has given me the confidence and the belief that with passion, commitment and planning , seemingly impossible goals are achievable, says Sudhir

Sudhir Shenoy. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint
Sudhir Shenoy. Photo: Aniruddha Chowdhury/Mint

A foodie on the brink of obesity, Sudhir Shenoy, the chief executive officer of Dow India, a materials science company, would have continued enjoying the good life had his weight not come in the way and created health issues. He started running to manage his weight and before he knew it, he had signed up for the Dream Run at the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in 2012. The chemical engineer with a master’s in marketing management is now a self-confessed running addict who has set himself “a goal of completing 50 races (half marathons and longer) before I turn 50 and in 50 different events”. Shenoy, who is in his mid-40s, has completed 30 races (four marathons, 26 half marathons). “Running is a great equalizer, the road does not recognize titles and salaries. You have to sweat for your success,” he says. Shenoy, who has been coached by his running buddy Unmesh Nayak, senior vice-president, Reliance Industries Ltd, finds that running helps him connect with others in a non-judgemental fashion. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Does running affect your performance at work?

It has changed me as a person and my outlook towards life. I feel vibrant with positive energy and ready to take on the day. 

How does leading by example as a fit leader help your team?

In my case it was the reverse and I was inspired by my running colleagues in the organization. My team has seen my transition in the last four years from an overweight and sedentary individual to a significantly leaner and active professional.

Any leadership lessons you find in distance running?

Running has been a fantastic teacher in getting my perspectives on leadership together. It has given me the confidence and the belief that with passion, commitment, planning and, of course, a purpose, seemingly impossible goals are achievable. Running enables you to enjoy your own company and push the boundaries day after day.

Has running changed the way you network?

Absolutely. I feel a greater degree of pleasantness and a desire to reach out and be willing to help. I have become far more open and accepting of others and their limitations. The bonding and camaraderie that we generate on the road can never be replicated in a boardroom.

How do you use running to improve interaction with employees? 

At Dow India, we have a fantastic culture of participation and health consciousness. A few years ago, we came together to form a group named i2CR (I Too Can Run). This was an initiative to take fitness to everyone. Today the group has over 40 members that graduated from novices to having completed multiple half marathons and more. This kind of support system at work is phenomenal towards team-building.

How do you balance your training and work?

It has to do most significantly with discipline. There are reasons and excuses aplenty to skip a workout; however, the feeling after having beaten the blues and completed your workout makes it all worthwhile. Rather than using jet-lag as an excuse, I hit the road within hours after getting off the plane and that has been my best cure.

Who are your running buddies?

I have a lot of running buddies—from work, at home, from my Shanghai running group (he was Dow’s commercial director for the polyurethane business for the Asia-Pacific region in China from 2013-14), etc, who have partnered with me over the last four years. Two who stand out as my partners in grime are Unmesh Nayak, who is also my guru, and Ashwin Shetty (head, Bengaluru operations, Ascendas-Singbridge), who is my weekend running buddy.

In a perfect world, how would you incorporate running in the workday of all your team members? 

In a perfect world, there’s nothing I’d like better than to start the workday with a team run, followed by a healthy breakfast together.

Your toughest race.

It was the Fujisan Full Marathon in Japan in November 2014. It’s a spectacular setting, with the run going around two lakes at the base of Mt Fuji. I was shooting for a 4-hour, 45-minute race. Just three weeks before the run, I started to develop pain in the hamstring and had to abort my long practice runs. I managed the first half of the run beautifully at my target timing of 2:15; however, after that there was a steep 1km uphill climb which triggered the pain back and I had to eventually walk the second half of the run in freezing temperature. I finished with a timing of 5 hours, 43 minutes.

Your favourite running moment till date...

Undoubtedly, the Prague Half Marathon. It was my fifth half marathon and the first time I was targeting a sub-2 hour timing. I ran the race to plan near perfection till 18km but was starting to lose it when Unmesh, who was pacing me, egged me on.

Running With The Boss is a series where CEOs and MDs talk about leadership lessons, management mantras, the importance of a fit team and striking a work-life balance through running. For the video and earlier stories, visit here

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