Diet and Fitness of a Marathon Runner [Interview]
35 year old Bombay based endurance athlete, Girish Mallya, loves travelling, movies, coffee and red wine in no particular order. While his day job is that of a media professional working with Next Gen Publishing Ltd, Girish is an avid marathon runner. Today, he helps us understand the details of what it takes to run marathons not only in terms of diet, fitness and discipline, but also in terms of funding, equipment and opportunities available to Indian marathon runners. Read on...
How long have you been running marathons? What made you start?
I have been running 3-5km since my college days. I got into marathons about 8-9 years ago (about 6 months before the first edition of Bombay marathon) and Ultra marathons about 3 years ago (after doing The Great Tibetan marathon, where I met a few ultra marathon runners). I have always believe in pushing the boundaries and have always been fascinated by endurance sport (marathons and Triathlons)
What was your biggest challenge when you first started running?
Waking up early in the morning for my run (evenings are not an option given the traffic in Bombay and I am not a gym person, can't run for more than 45mins on a treadmill, it gets very boring). and it continues to be an effort even today after so many years. Everything else is not an effort as I enjoy running.
Did marathon running involve any lifestyle changes in food and workout habits for you?
Yes. I could not afford too many late nights, especially over weekends, as I usually have long runs scheduled on Saturday or Sunday. Plus some 3 years ago, since I got involved with ultra running, I decided to run to work at least twice a week as it meant I could sleep for an additional half hour. I had to increase the frequency of my meals (move from 3 meals to 5 meals) and had to increase my carb intake. I now eat 2 breakfasts, lunch, evening snack and dinner.
What's your take on endurance sports and their viability in India?
I think endurance sports will continue to be niche for quite sometime, plus its a rich man's sport. The shoes, gear, events, travel, can get quite expensive and sponsorship is very limited. This is especially true for ultra endurance events (globally) and that is the primary reason why most participants at such events are usually around 40 years.
The Indian market for endurance sport is very small, which means runners like me don't have easy access to specialty running shoe brands like Saucony, Asics, Solomon, etc, or speciality food suppliments, endurance sports drinks, running accessories, etc.
What would a novice need to do to get started with marathon training? What do you consider the biggest hurdle for the average Indian - discipline, dietary habits, lifestyle.
Set a target, register for a marathon (preferably) or half marathon and then follow a training program. Among the popular is the Halhingdons.
The biggest hurdle I have observed among Indian running enthusiasts is mental toughness and discipline. The best way to counter this is to join a running group/club. Most big cities in India now have multiple running groups which can be easily discovered by searching through Facebook or Twitter.
What fitness goals have you managed to achieve because of this extreme hobby?
I have never set any fitness goals for myself, as I have always been into sport since childhood. I have always been fit and have never been overweight. Running has helped me meet some very interesting people and taken me to some wonderful places (I love travelling!). The biggest influence on my wanting to take up ultra running and multi stage marathons is Brigid Wefelnberg and more recently Sharon Gayter and Ray Sanchez.
How difficult is the money involved in running marathons internationally, for the average Indian? Is funding a big issue?
Running marathons internationally is not very difficult and it is not very expensive (as registration fees are low) and one can always stay at youth hostels or try couchsurfing. Airfare is the main cost. Its ultra running, adventure marathons and multistage marathons (stage races, 240km over 5-6days) which are expensive as registration fees are between USD2,000-3000, plus airfares to these exotic desitinations and speciality gear and food for these extreme races. Total cost for this comes to about Rs.3-4lacs per race. Very few sponsors would come forward to support participation in such events, unless one is a celebrity or one can really package and market self.
With several full, dream and half marathons held annually in most Indian towns and cities, do you think that marathon running is evolving well in India?
I would like to believe so, but so far I have not seen any real evidence. The primary indicator for me is the number of full marathon finishers. From what I am given to understand Bombay marathon has about 2-3k entries for full marathon and about 700-800 finishers within the official time of 6hrs and maybe another 200 after that. Which means it's just about 1k finishers for the premier marathon in the country. This number is very small and we have a long way to go.
What is your training routine like?
I run all year round. I try and do 50k a week all year (around 4 runs a week) and increase the mileage gradually before a race and try to cycle once a week (to cross train), and if possible add a swim once a fortnight or so.
What role does diet play in your running regimen?
Diet and sleep are very important for any endurance athlete. I try and avoid skipping meals and like to have my meals at the same time each day, I like to eat healthy and have a balanced diet. I do not binge on anything (food or beverages). I do not take any special food or diet supplements (eg Whey protein). I try and sleep for at least 7hours on all days and 8 hours if I am not running the next day. If I have less than 6 hours of sleep, then I skip my run the next morning.
Girish Mallya's image courtesy © Bob Van Zant Photography
Cover image courtesy © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images