Running Story – Nihal Gopinathan

 a. What motivates you as a runner?
The feeling of freedom and sheer exhilaration that comes with running. Running is one of the most fulfilling exercises, both mentally and physically. Even though your body is dead tired by the end of the run, your mind is as fresh as a daisy. It’s that feeling that motivates me to run.

b. Marathon inspiring story. Your first run experience.
Honestly, I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to complete the half-marathon. It was my trainer who pushed me to do it. When I reached the starting line at around 5:40 in the morning, I saw a person with a prosthetic leg. I also saw many middle-aged, old people. Their enthusiasm inspired me to complete the entire 21 km.

c. Training for your first marathon. Tell us your running strategy.
It was initially a weight-loss exercise. I didn’t even think about the marathon till the last minute. I took up running to lose weight (I was obese in 2011). Seeing my good progress, my trainer suggested that I run the half-marathon. At first, I was aiming for only the dream run (7 km), but my trainer put in a strict diet (during the year, I went on a totally liquid diet 3 times) and fitness regime that involved cardiovascular exercises, and LOTS of running. I used to run 4 days a week, and exercise 2 days. Once a week I used to take an off. Once a month, I would do the long run – I started with doing a 6 km run, increased it to 10, then 12, 14, 16 and finally 19. I completed 21 km on the day of the marathon itself. During the winter, I would go to Juhu beach every Sunday morning at 5 am to run on the sand and do functional exercises.

On the day of the marathon itself, I ran the first 8 km at a decent speed. Then I slowed down just a little for the next 8 and decided I would put in the hard yards for the last 5 km. However, the two inclines near Peddar Road took the wind out of my sails (I hadn’t accounted for them during my training) and I completed the marathon at least 25 minutes later than I originally expected to.

d. Age does not matter…Spirit does!
Of course. There were so many middle-aged runners (and Pace setters). They really inspired me.

e. Fitness first: How has running and marathon shaped up your life. What are the benefits of running?
Running has really changed my perception of health and fitness. Earlier, when I was obese, I was very cynical about health and training and didn’t really think I could be a ‘fit’ guy. I lost 41 kg in a year – I think that has been the biggest benefit of running. My medical tests (cholesterol, BP etc.) which were all borderline are now well within limits. Also, I had a very high thyroid count but it’s also reduced considerably and is at normal levels now – thanks to running (and of course medication).

f. Beyond the finish line!Your favourite quote that inspires you.
More than a quote, it’s a piece of music – the ‘Titles’ track from Chariots of Fire. I just feel like running when I listen to it. You must watch the movie if you haven’t – very inspiring. I have another favourite running track – Zinda from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

g. Mental training for Marathon.
Mental training? You either do it, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. I was fortunate to have a trainer (name: Raju) who pushed me beyond limits I barely thought I could reach, let alone breach.

h. Journey between Start and the Finish line.
The best 3 hours of my life (yes, I took 3 hours to complete the half-marathon).

i. What’s on your Playlist? (running)
For running, I’ve already answered that question (Chariots of Fire and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag). I also have the soundtrack of various superhero movies.

j. Three things you Carry on race-day
Just my iPod and the will to run. In any case there are very helpful people along the course who offer fruits, energy drinks etc.

k. One essential secret tip for aspiring/novice runners?
The one secret tip is that there is NO secret. To quote Yoda, one of my favourite characters from the Star Wars movies – Do, or do not. There is no try. You just have to cast aside any aspersions or cynicism that you may have and take on running with an open mind.

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About the author: Nihal Gopinathan


Nihal Gopinathan a.k.a. Kung Fu Panda (don't ask me how that moniker stuck, it's a long story). 28 years old, a copywriter with a digital advertising agency, passionate about film, sport (cricket and football mostly) and food, of course. Right now on a health spree - I'm a converted marathon enthusiast. Family guy - I live with dad, mom, grandma and my younger brother - my life support system.


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