Ramesh Kanjilimadhom.
Ramesh Kanjilimadhom.

Ramesh Kanjilimadhom: The barefoot runner

A three-time Boston Marathon veteran, this runner from Kochi is organizing his first marathon this year

On The Run | Ramesh Kanjilimadhom

Ramesh Kanjilimadhom, 45, ran his first marathon in 2006 at the age of 37; since then he has run 39 full marathons. The Kochi-based information technology professional is always either recovering from a marathon or training for one. A prolific runner, he has run the Boston Marathon thrice, and started the running group Soles of Cochin in July last year with friends. On 16 November, the group is organizing its inaugural Spice Coast Marathon. Kanjilimadhom doesn’t use shoes or music for running, and it seems to be working for him, for his personal record for a full marathon—set in Dubai in 2010—is 3:05:26. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

Why, when and how did you start running?

I started running in my early 30s. A subconscious reason for it may have been my brother getting diabetic at a young age.

Your favourite running gear and soundtrack.

Nature and my environment provide me the best soundtrack. I don’t use shoes much, but clotheswise, I run in a singlet and shorts. Brands don’t really matter much.

Describe your training regimen.

It typically involves five or six days of running a week, almost exclusively in the morning. I try to mix it up with tempo, Interval, long runs, recovery, etc.

Why and when did you take up barefoot running?

I took up barefoot running in 2009 purely out of curiosity when a friend told me how liberating and strong she felt running that way. I enjoyed it and felt it worked well for me. Since then, I’ve been almost exclusively running barefoot except for some long runs and races.

How did you qualify for the Boston Marathon?

I had no idea what it meant to qualify for Boston, but when I finished my first full marathon in 3 hours, 47 minutes, other runners told me that a BQ (Boston Qualification) was within my reach. I failed a few times, but made the cut in January 2009 for the first time. I have done both high-quantity and high-quality miles training with similar results, so I guess both methods work for me. The most important thing is to remain injury-free and enjoy your runs.

How much difference does it make running barefoot?

It is certainly different. It brings out your natural stride and landing, uses the feedback mechanism from your feet and possibly lets your body make automatic adjustments/corrections. I haven’t had any aches or injuries running barefoot that I used to have when running in shoes. However, it may very well be that barefoot is not the best style for you. There’s only one way to find out; try both.

Is there some personal goal that you have set for yourself?

I’d like to run a sub-3-hour marathon some day. If I can transcend the pressure of performance for races and become a complete zen runner, I’d like that.

Your tips for runners on how to make it to the Boston Marathon.

First thing is to find out what works for you. For some it’s high-volume training; for some it’s high-quality training; for some others, it doesn’t matter. Once you identify the training plan, enslave yourself to it. It’s hard work, but that’s what marathon running is anyway. For high volume, I highly recommend Pfitzinger 18/70; for high quality, either Fuhrman’s FIRST or the Hansons plan. Custom plans from Runner’s World SmartCoach are also wonderful.

Your running group, Soles of Cochin, is organizing its first marathon this year. What can we expect from it?

Soles of Cochin has a fairly large crowd running regularly, training together for marathons and longer races and achieving great things in terms of race times, physical transformations and mental toughness. We felt that it was time for us to organize a full marathon in Kochi. We have named our race the Spice Coast Marathon and identified a flat and fast course that winds through the spice market, along the happening Arabian Sea coast and to a relatively calm port area. It is scheduled for 16 November, when the weather will be nice and mild. We are expecting pretty good crowd support as the runners enter the Fort Kochi area from the relatively quiet Willingdon Island. We also plan to highlight the centuries-old landmarks in the area that bring the character and heritage of the place in focus.

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

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