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

One of the pioneers of the running movement in Navi Mumbai, he helped form the active running community Navi Mumbai Runners, 44-year-old Srivatsan Mambakkam, is one of the most technically sound runners, well read on running and a mentor to many beginners. A financial services professional, an IIM Grad, ever-smiling and ever-improving, here’s Srivatsan for you.

How did you start running?
Narain Mahtani, a friend, had completed 2 Half Marathons at the SCMM and inspired me to complete one myself. I had also put on a lot of weight and hence was looking for some fitness routine. This was sometime in April 2010. He introduced me to Hal Higdon’s program and I started following that. I did not know any other runners and hence I was training alone. In July 2010, I applied for the half marathon at SCMM 2011 and to my luck, I was given a slot. A couple of months before the event, I became aware about the Mumbai Marathon Runners group being moderated by Daniel Vaz on Runners For Life. I started visiting the group page and benefited from the words of advice there. However, my training for SCMM 2011 continued to be governed by Hal Higdon’s routine and I successfully finished my maiden half marathon in 2:14.

Subsequently, I met a number of runner friends in person and as a result, I started taking part in the Bandra NCPA training runs on a regular basis. Meanwhile, a group of likeminded friends came together to encourage running in the Navi Mumbai region under the group name Navi Mumbai Runners (NMR). They organised regular runs and that made my training consistent and disciplined.

When the registrations for SCMM 2012 opened, I was persuaded by some runners to register for the full marathon. Another factor that helped me make up my mind was the enjoyable run I had at Lonavala– my first 30 km run. So, I successfully completed my first marathon at the 2012 SCMM in 4:11.

Tells us about your various runs in events
Now, I have finished 6 marathons, a 37.5 km run, one 25K and around 20 Half Marathons at various events. Three of those Marathons came at SCMM, and two at Hyderabad, along with another at Auroville. I did the 37.5K at the 2010 Bangalore Ultra, ran 25K at the Tata Steel Kolkata event in December 2014. Apart from that, I have completed Half Marathons at Auroville, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, Kaveri Trail, BNP, Vasai-Virar, Thane, Pune among others.

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How do you train?
A typical running week for me comprises 4 running days – a tempo run, a hill run, a long run and a recovery run. Two days would be for strength training or yoga. One day would be a day of rest.

I keep tweaking my training routines depending on what my running goals are. Typical weekly mileage would be in the 50-60 km range. I have experimented with Maffetone training as well where one runs below a stipulated Heart Rate level for 3 months or more to build one’s aerobic fitness.

I design my own training routines but I happily absorb knowledge from wherever possible – from coaches, from experienced runners, from younger athletes, from running related websites, books etc.

What are some of your running goals?
I have been out of regular training for nearly a year and a half since I was away to pursue academics and hence my running fitness and mental toughness have dropped several notches. So my short term goal (over the next 6 months) is to get back my confidence and improve my fitness. I would be delighted if I can run a 1:45 half marathon and a 4-hour marathon over the next 6 months and a 3:30 marathon and 1:30 half marathon in the next two years. Over the really long term, I would like to remain injury free and enjoy running for as long as possible.

Any tips for someone who wants to take up running?
Firstly, I believe that we should all take up an activity that we enjoy and hence are more likely to sustain over the long term. If running fits the bill, go for it. The joy in running will help one celebrate the journey rather than just the destination.

Secondly, it is important to move to longer distances in a gradual manner. Hence one needs to be realistic in his/her aspirations. These days, I see many people jumping to do ultra-marathon distances without having a solid running base of several years. A few genetically gifted people can manage this transition but the vast majority are likely to develop injuries which will take away the joy of running.

Thirdly, train with a running group since the group energies will rub off on you. This will help you fight your self-doubts, push yourself to your limits and also learn from the experiences of others.

Lastly, remember to congratulate yourself for every small improvement that you make. You will realise only much later how far you have come on the back of these small improvements.

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

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