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On the Run | Neville J. Bilimoria

Neville J. Bilimoria, 44, a Chennai-based immigration consultant, is a popular man in the city’s running circuit. An activity that he took to for maintaining fitness grew on him and he found himself running 14 marathons in 14 months. Running is now an integral part of his life—this former national-level rower and avid cyclist has been organizing the annual fund-raising endurance race, Dawn to Dusk (, since 2012. The proceeds go towards treating children with cerebral palsy. The third race will be held in January. Edited excerpts from an interview:

What got you running?

Fitness was never too far away for me. I took to running in January 2010, when I started running short distances of 6-10km. Eventually I picked it up and ran my first marathon in August 2010. I was motivated to do more. I set myself a target to do 12 marathons in a year and break loose. I ended up doing 14 in 14 months since my first in August 2010.

Chennai is a busy city. Where do you find the space to run?

I love the IIT (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras) campus, it is my favourite place to run. The Anna University is another beautiful campus that I enjoy running in. I also run at the Madras Boat Club Road. On Sundays, (I take) my long runs, which I run from the YMCA at Nandanam to Elliot’s Beach and back, trying to cover a distance of 30km.

Your favourite running gear and soundtrack.

I was a Nike boy. But this year I switched to Adidas. I use a Dri-Fit T-shirt, cap, compression socks and shoes from Adidas. I used to listen to all types of music while running. Of late, I have dumped the iPod.

What’s your favourite part about training?

I enjoy running long distances as my schedule for training. Also cross-training. It allows me to enhance my fitness by working muscle groups that are activated while running. I also do yoga, which has improved my breathing, and spend considerable time cycling, which has strengthened my quadriceps.

What is your training regimen like?

Some of my days begin at 4am. I get ready and head for a run. I generally run long distances, anything from 90 minutes to 3 hours. My typical work day stretches from 9.30am to 6.30pm after which I do yoga. The days I miss my morning run, I run around 9pm. I especially love running at night. Sundays are my favourite days for I get a chance to run with my running buddies who belong to (running groups) Chennai Runners and Cool Runners.

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

I try to stick to the same diet that I follow on normal days. I take a lot of fibre, choosing foods which are low on fibre the night before and the morning of the race. I also consume carbohydrates during before and after the race, they can be in the form of rice. I eat oatmeal as it is packed with complex carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes and beetroot juice are my favourite. Also, I take low-fat milk and tofu, which are rich in calcium. I concentrate on hydrating myself 48 hours prior to the race. Post-race my food intake is lower than usual.

Which has been your favourite race and why?

My 13th marathon in Colombo, Sri Lanka. I had tears in my eyes when I finished because it was the toughest for me till date. I had to stop at the 29th km due to an accident that happened in front of my eyes. A fellow runner was hit and run by an auto. While I was trying to help her, I was also hit by a scooter and ended up with bruises on my left arm, elbow and left leg. It took nearly 19 minutes for the ambulance to reach us and I thought this was the end. I had an option to opt out or run to the finish line. I chose to complete it.

Which marathon next?

The Wipro Chennai Marathon on 1 December.

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

I would love to run the Berlin and Boston marathons and run again in Dubai to set my personal best in full marathon.

I also plan to run Arizona’s Mount Lemmon Marathon, New York Marathon, Alaska’s Equinox Trail Marathon, Lake Tahoe Marathon, Badwater Ultramarathon, China’s Great Wall Marathon, UVU North Pole Marathon and then Antarctic Ice Marathon which takes place in late November every year.

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

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