On The Run | Gagan Banga

A sprinter in the corporate world, Gagan Banga, 38, became the CEO of Indiabulls Housing Finance Ltd (IBHFL) when he was just 29. Outside of work, though, the current managing director and CEO of IBHFL is a long-distance runner who discovered running by chance. Surgery for an in-grown toenail forced him to go for a check-up in 2004. The findings were startling. If he did not start exercising, his health would go into a downward spiral, the doctors told him based on his reports. That’s when Banga decided to put on his running shoes. Starting with the half marathon in Mumbai in 2006, he progressed slowly and ran his first marathon in Mumbai in 2010. Since then he has run four marathons, two ultra marathons and six half marathons. Today, running is his meditation and he does it three-four days a week. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

When you started running, how was the experience?

I started running in 2004 more out of necessity than anything else. In the first few days, I found it very difficult and could not run even 100m at a stretch. For a good two years, I practised running on the treadmill, and then finally I felt comfortable running on the road. Between 2006-07, I started running on the road. I set targets for myself—I used to run from traffic signal to traffic signal—to increase my stamina. I slowly built it up.

You say running to you is like meditation. How?

While I am running, I am able to cut myself off from everything else. My mind tends to focus solely on the sport. I get to focus on myself and it becomes a time for introspection. Though I am physically exerting myself, it refreshes me, giving me the burst of energy to face a new day.

Your favourite running gear and soundtrack.

I use Nike Vomero shoes because I am comfortable in them and they suit me. I usually run in a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. I also wear my Garmin watch, which helps me track the time and distance. I don’t listen to music, I let my mind focus on the running instead.

What is your training regimen like?

I prefer running in the mornings. My running season extends from June to January, which is when Mumbai’s weather is pleasant and conducive for running. I hardly run in May when the temperature shoots up, allowing myself the time to recover and prepare for the next season. I try to run for 2-3 hours every day. A long run on Sundays is followed up with a slow 9-10km recovery run on Monday. On Wednesdays, it’s either speed or hill training, and on Fridays, I run for about 90-120 minutes.

Have you had to make changes to your life and diet since you started running?

I have stopped going out on Saturday evenings. I try to wake up by 5am at least four times a week. I have completely stopped eating fried food. I do some carb-loading on Saturdays and have pasta for dinner. I have also restricted my drinking to Fridays.

Your work requires that you travel. How does that affect your running?

I travel for two-three days every week. Domestic travel takes a significant toll on my running. That’s when I have to compromise on my schedule. But when I travel overseas, I actually get to run more because, more often than not, the weather is favourable and the infrastructure is fantastic.

What is the difference that you find between running in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore?

In Delhi, one has to fight the menace of brutal street dogs. But Lutyens’ Delhi is one of the most beautiful places in the world to run. Mumbai has the advantage of being the home turf and the weather in the city for the eight crucial running months is nice. Bangalore is the most conducive city for running, with its long stretches of parks and gardens. It also has the friendliest weather.

Is there some personal goal that you have set yourself in terms of races, time, etc?

By the time I am 45, I want to run marathons in at least 10 different countries.

On the Run is a monthly series that profiles India’s most enthusiastic marathon runners.

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