This is an edited and rephrased version of a post by Bijay Nair on his Facebook Page.

I pray to God that when I reach the age of 58, I want to be as fit and as lively as Ashok Someshwar.

One of the busiest executives and is GM – Legal with Tata Communications Ltd. He trains hard and is a runner who trains methodically and scientifically. An avid trekker and photographer too, Ashok always lives life to the fullest. One of the most well-known runners in the running fraternity in India, and a very known and respected face in the Mumbai running circles, here’s a quick talk with Ashok Someshwar.

Why did you start running? Tell us your running history.
I was always interested in outdoor sports, but could not follow any sports early in life due to family finances and consequently the focus being only education. I grew up in a modest tenement in the housing board colony in Chembur. However whenever schools used to shut for vacations I used to run a couple of kilometres early morning along with my building boys. Once I started working, I got seriously hooked on to hiking and rock climbing and as a part of strengthening the legs, I use to run around 5 km every weekend. I was always in awe of athletes and especially the distance runners and used to keenly watch such events on TV. I wanted to run distances, but could not sum up the guts to venture into it.

Then the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon happened and I wanted to be a part of the event, but still could not muster enough courage to register myself. Then during the calamitous cloudburst in July 2005 left us stranded in office for a day. The next day I trekked from my office at Prabhadevi to my home in Chandivali – a distance of approximately 20km – in a little over 4 hours. That is when I realised that running/walking a half marathon within that time was a feasible option. I started training the next month mostly on the Eastern Express Highway, initially 5-10 km and scaled it up to 20km. 15 days before the race I pulled a hamstring and was doubtful of completing the race, but with a bit of physiotherapy and painkillers finished the half marathon in January, 2006 in 2:35 mins. Thus began my long association with running.

What runs/events have you competed in?
I have participated in three 5K races, five 10K races including TCS, ILFS, JNM and IIT and done a 15k as well. Besides that I have done 13 half marathons in Mumbai’s SCMM, Kaveri, Auroville, Delhi, Vasai-Virar, Powai Hiranandani and Thane Hiranandani, among others. And there are the six full marathons including Mumbai and Hyderabad.

Running one of his umpteen marathons (Image: Prasad Naik)
Running one of his umpteen marathons (Image: Prasad Naik)

What is your training routine like?
When I started I had no knowledge of systematic training and for a couple of years I was mindlessly training distances. However few injuries later I came around to doing a bit of research. As I became more interested in the science of running, I started to do a bit of systematic scheduled training and maintaining logs. Due to an inherent defect in my back I developed a disc bulge in my lower back leading to severe sciatica. This was when I was to attempt my first full marathon. The doctor whom I consulted went to the extent of stating that if I wanted to continue running I will have to go in for a back surgery. The few days after that were some of the worst days of my life, full of anxiety and staring at the possibility of never being able to run again.

Thankfully after a second opinion and six months of abstaining from running and treating my back with exercises and a fair amount of acupuncture, I was back to running. This is when I felt the need to train carefully and run without the risk of recurring injury. I searched the net and got to learn two new concepts. One was Chi Running which was about correcting the running form and another a training method known as FIRST. Recently I have also read and inculcated Phil Maffetone’s heart rate based training. So my training pattern now is as follows:

In the off season (February to June) I follow heart rate-based training, which would mean all workouts to be in the 10 HR beat band of my aerobic threshold. The pace is tortoise pace and only the heart rate is monitored. From July onwards I follow the FIRST training method which goes like this:

Monday – Rest or mild stretching
Tuesday – Speed intervals at specified distances and pace
Wednesday – Full-body workout
Thursday – Tempo runs
Friday – Full-body workout
Saturday – Strength, power and core workout
Sunday – Long run; 21-32 km depending on the schedule at a specified pace

I am not a fan of mileages and at this age thrice a week is all I run, and weekly mileage during peak training period does not cross 56 km.

What are your running goals (short term and long term)?
My running goals strictly in the order that follows:

  • To run injury free and enjoy the run.
  • Concentrate on form.
  • Try and improve as much as possible from the previous year, but if it does not happen, no sweat.
  • Guide an help other runners as much as possible.

    Running tips for someone who want to take up running
    My advice to newbies and those who want to run for long is as follows:
    Take it slow and easy, because you will want to fall in love with running. If you hurry, you will get injured and then you may just be put off from running and you will miss something so divine and so sublime that you would wish you had taken your time on this one. Train safe and train sensibly, we are recreational runners and the main objective is to enjoy running, and not get tensed up about performances and comparisons.

    My favourite quote is by Christopher McDougall

    “Every morning in the Jungles of Africa, when the dawn breaks, a gazelle wakes up and knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up and knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the dawn breaks, you’d better be running.”

    Check out all the runners profiled in this series here.

    About the author
    Bijay Nair is a 38-year-old former LtCdr in the Indian Navy, and now works for the National Classification Society of Shipping. He’s been running Marathons since 1999, and in the timed events since 2008 after leaving the Navy. He’s veteran of 40 half marathons, 5 marathons and a 12 hr Ultra run, having run all over the world. In 2012, for the project 121212 (to commemorate the unique 12/12/12 date, which incidentally was also his birthday) he ran 2012km to support cancer patients at the TATA Memorial Hospital and collected Rs 1,21,212. He’s currently posting inspiration profiles on his Facebook wall with the hashtag #TheyInspire

    Main Image: Chetan Gusani

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