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Unmesh Nayak.
Unmesh Nayak.

Unmesh Nayak | Four down, three more to go

This marketing manager wants to run a marathon on all seven continents

On The Run | Unmesh Nayak

It’s not often that you hear about chess players who are also into boxing and sprinting. That unusual combination is what Unmesh Nayak, 41, grew up with. The Mumbai-based marketing manager (South Asia) of Dow Chemicals is an ultra runner who has completed 45 half marathons, 15 marathons and two ultra marathons, including the prestigious Comrades Marathon (89km) in South Africa. Nayak’s long-term goal is to run a marathon on all seven continents; he has run in four. Edited excerpts from an email interview:

The basics first. Why do you run?

Running gives me a high which keeps me charged throughout the day. It helps me de-stress.

Your favourite running gear and soundtrack.

I am a hard-core Adidas fan. I believe in the maxim “Impossible is nothing". It can also be read as “I M Possible". My favourite running soundtrack is Eye of the Tiger. I listen to it before the start of my long runs and races.

What is your training regimen like?

My training regimen varies based on the race I am attempting. For the Comrades and Bangalore Ultra, I was running 90km every week. For marathon and half marathon distance races, I average about 60km a week. My running is a mixture of speed workout, tempo runs on the beach and long runs on hills or trails. I also do body-strengthening routines and yoga twice a week.

What is your pre-, intra- and post-race diet?

I have a bowl of muesli or banana before the workout. During the short runs, I drink water; however, for
ultra runs I sustain myself on bananas, potatoes, oranges, chips, salts, Coke and gels. Post-race, it is primarily a heavy breakfast of eggs, fruits and milk.

How do you deal with injury while preparing for a race?

I adopt safety measures due to which I have not had any serious injury till date. In case of discomfort or injury, I practise RICE (rest, ice, compression and take it easy) till I completely recover. There’s no point aggravating the injury by taking short cuts.

Why ultra running?

Ultra running tests you mentally and physically, however well-prepared you may be. After a point it becomes a mind game. Your mind starts ruling over your body, which is protesting violently. I enjoy going into that zone and then it’s one step at a time. You need to be crazy and passionate about this sport to enjoy it.

What is the difference between running in India and abroad?

The running culture is well-established overseas while it is still picking up in India. Though some races in India are well-
organized, at many places it is complete chaos. Also, support for slower runners in Indian races is poor. Abroad, the support for all runners is much better.

Which marathon’s next?

I am preparing for the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon in February. I will attempt to run my second Comrades Marathon in June this year, after which I will participate in the Shanghai International Marathon in December for a shot at my Boston qualification.

Which is your favourite race and why?

The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon remains close to my heart as it happens in my home city and it is the reason that I started road-running. In terms of crowd support and camaraderie, nothing comes close to the Comrades Marathon.

How do you recover after a race?

I take two weeks off from gym and running after every race and then start my training afresh.

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

My goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon 2015 or 2016, for which I have to run a full marathon within 3 hours, 15 minutes. My long-term goal is to run in seven different continents.

What is the favourite part about running?

The feeling of freedom and “my time" when I am running is my favourite part about running.

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

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