In his close to two decades of work life, Edelweiss Retail Finance Ltd’s chief executive Anil Kothuri, 45, has found himself in several boardrooms. In January 2012, however, he found himself in one where 10 of the 20 board members were talking about how they planned to run the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon later that week. It got him thinking, “Maybe, I can run some distance too.”
The very next day, he went for his first run. “Since then I have not stopped running,” says Kothuri, an Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, alumnus who used to have a very sedentary lifestyle. Since he started running, the Mumbai-based executive has made several changes to his lifestyle, run 17 half marathons, and believes it is important for an organization to have an environment that reinforces the importance of staying physically fit. With a personal best timing of 1 hour, 47 minutes for the half marathon, Kothuri hopes to inspire his wife, Rekha, to join him for a run—“but that hasn’t happened yet”. Edited excerpts:
Does running affect your performance at work?
Running has made me a healthier person. I’m active and in a positive frame of mind when I get to work. It has also helped me become more alert and focus better.
How do you balance your training and work?
I always run in the morning and finish running before starting anything else. Also, I get to bed by 11pm to ensure that I’m up for the next day’s run. This automatically means that I finish work and socializing by that time.
How does leading by example as a fit leader have an impact on your team?
A leader is always looked upon as a role model. The team strives to emulate all his actions regardless of whether they have a bearing on work. Some people in my team have taken to running. A number of others have expressed the desire to do so.
On leadership lessons in distance running.
Running is a metaphor for life itself. Everyone runs the same race, yet everyone’s race is different. My experience with running has underscored the virtues of discipline and persistence. Magical things can happen: One just needs to give one’s best always. There is no point blaming the weather or the environment; if the conditions are tough for you, they are tough for everyone else too. It has also taught me to live in the moment and maximize it. Like Rudyard Kipling said, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds worth of distance run, yours is that world and all that’s in it.”
Who are your running buddies?
I’m part of a running group called Striders. It consists of amateurs like me who want to build running and fitness into their lives. We run four days a week, starting at 5.45am. However, I normally run alone, pacing up and down as I want to.
Your toughest race.
My first Vasai-Virar half marathon in October 2013. The late (7am) start meant that the sun was beating down within an hour. It was so hot that the 2-hour pacer didn’t complete the race.
Does running with colleagues help improve understanding in office?
A number of employees of Edelweiss are runners. Running helps us connect as individuals, on a platform different from our roles at work. Very often, the conversation to break the ice at a meeting revolves around running. It is difficult to not see a fellow runner’s point of view.
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