Manoj Kuriakose
Manoj Kuriakose

On The Run | Manoj Kuriakose

How a love for cricket led this man to marathons, and why he prefers sandals to shoes

A minimalistic runner

Manoj Kuriakose, 46, a mechanical engineer who runs a valve-manufacturing business in Dubai, ran his first marathon in January 2011, at his childhood friend’s insistence. Since then he has run nine marathons, 11 half marathons, a 50km ultra and a 32km hill run. In late 2012, the father of two was off the mark for his Boston qualification, but in Mumbai earlier this year he came pretty close, finishing the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in 3 hours, 33 minutes, missing the cut by just 8 minutes. One of the founder members of the Kochi-based running group Soles of Cochin, he has no use for shoes when he runs, preferring sandals instead, and loves his beer at the end of a good race. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

How did you start running?

I started taking cricket seriously once I reached middle school. I wanted to become a fast bowler and that requires a lot of stamina and strength. I took my late father’s advice and took up running. I used to do 4-5km almost every day before school. Since then, running has become an integral part of my life. Even after relocating to Dubai in 1993, I continued to play cricket and to run. Then, in 2009, I bumped into my childhood friend, Ramesh Kartha, and he introduced me to marathons. I ran my first full marathon in January 2011 in Dubai.

Your favourite running gear and soundtrack.

Running shorts, running vest, Oakley shades and my favourite Luna sandals. I prefer not to listen to music when I run. I use the time for introspection, to think about and organize the various aspects of my life for the days ahead.

You are neither a barefoot runner nor a runner who uses shoes...

I am a minimalistic runner. From 2010-12, I tried 18 pairs of shoes from different brands, but none of them could give me a trouble-free running experience. After the 2012 Dubai Marathon, I started training barefoot and with sandals. For the races I always use sandals, which protect my feet from any hard or sharp objects on the roads.

What is the difference between barefoot running and running with shoes?

Freedom! I like to let my feet breathe.

What is your training regimen like?

I do not follow any specific training plan or structured regimen. I run in the mornings at least four-five days a week. While the weekday runs are limited to 10-15km, I try to run 20-30km on weekends. Whenever I travel to India, I make sure that I run with Soles of Cochin, a running club started by Kartha to promote a healthy lifestyle through running.

What changes have you made in your social life and diet since you started running?

My social life revolves around running. Most of my friends are runners who share the same passion. I always run early in the mornings so that I can spend the evenings with my family. I stick to the typical Kerala/south Indian diet, but I try to stay away from fried and processed foods and any form of refined sugar.

How does travel affect your running?

I do travel a lot but being a minimalistic runner I need to carry only my running sandals and two running vests and shorts and I am good to go. Wherever I go I run early in the morning so that my work schedule doesn’t get affected.

What is the difference between running in India and overseas?

The main one is safety. Overseas, most streets have dedicated tracks for cycling and jogging. In India you have to be wary of street dogs, uneven roads and rash drivers.

How do you cope with the hot summers?

During the peak summer months I start my runs a couple of hours early and by 6am I usually get back home.

Is there some personal goal you have set for yourself?

I try to set realistic goals. My current target is to qualify for the Boston Marathon, for which I need to complete the run in 3 hours, 25 minutes for my age category.

Your toughest race till date and why.

The Hyderabad Marathon was undoubtedly the toughest one so far. Being used to the flat roads in and around Dubai, the rolling hills of Hyderabad really took a toll on my quadriceps and ankles.

On the Run is a monthly series that profiles the most enthusiastic Indian marathon runners.

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