With multiple Boston Marathons under his belt, 49-year-old Ashok Nath is one of India’s most accomplished distance runners. A veteran of more than a dozen marathons, and three ultras, Bangalore-based Nath gave up his position as the chief operating officer of a major brand management company, Vertebrand Management Consulting Pvt. Ltd, to become a full-time running “mentor” this year. Nath shares his running story. Edited excerpts:
When and why did you get hooked to running?
My first distinct memory of running was when I was 14. Those years I was more into team sports like football but often I would find myself with pent-up energy and doing a run under the stars was my way of releasing that energy. I took to running more seriously when I started working as playing contact sports would leave me bruised and running was an ideal alternative. My morning run would allow me to face the day feeling great, but after following this routine for some years, I became a weekend jogger as the pace of work picked up. Then in 2005 I registered for the Lipton Bangalore half marathon on a dare, and have never looked back.
What’s your running gear?
I don’t like my running to become too technology dependent. Of late, I have started to experiment with a metronome to improve my cadence. I wear Nike Free Run shoes, which are a fine balance between minimalistic and normal running shoes.
What’s your regular training routine like?
I follow the principle of run less, run fast, and do a training programme that mixes running with cross-training, core and strength training. My weekly training mileage only ranges between 40-60km. I usually do three days of running (a mix of speed work, tempo and one long run), two days of core and strength training and one day each of swimming and Chi Walking. I also play table tennis and football.
What do you like and dislike about running in Bangalore?
The infrastructure for runners is missing in Bangalore, and in India per se. An amateur runner seeks good roads, scenic trails and some hills to allow him to train properly. Given the demands of a growing population, we cannot expect an abundance of these but I would like to believe that some astute entrepreneur would recognize the opportunity.
What kind of diet do you follow on race days (pre-, during, and post-race)?
Fuelling and hydration are a science, and each runner must find what works best for him through trial and error. Overall importance is to maintain a balanced diet year round, with a spike towards and after races. I believe in being “friends with carbs”, and my diet is roughly carbohydrate, 60%; protein, 20%; fat, 20%.
A few days prior to a race I will increase my carbohydrate intake. I have beetroot juice, a banana and an energy gel on the race morning. During the race I usually consume one energy gel every 10km, and otherwise take a small sip at almost every water stop. Post-race, I have carbs and proteins in a 4:1 ratio within 40 minutes of the finish.
What’s the most challenging or the most interesting race you’ve run?
A trail marathon is always a pleasure. My experience at The Great Tibetan Marathon in 2008 (at 13,000ft) was very special as it was literally “running on the roof of the world” and required all participants to come a week earlier to become accustomed to the thin air. My experiences at the iconic Boston Marathon have been an eye-opener as you are competing with the top 15% in your category and it’s a pressure-cooker from start to finish here. In most domestic races, the field clears after the initial kilometres but here you neeed to focus for the entire 42km stretch.
What is your dream marathon that you’d like to run?
I want to complete the top five marathons in the world—Boston, New York, Berlin, London and Chicago. I have qualified for Boston multiple times and will do New York this November, and plan to finish the balance three by 2014. Then I will take up the challenge of an ultra marathon and possibly try my hand at a triathlon.
On the Run is a monthly series that profiles India’s most enthusiastic marathon runners.