Happily married to Bharti with a seven-year-old Naman, Dinesh Heda looks unassuming and the fact that he is a seasoned marathon runner would not strike you immediately. Originally his family was from Rajasthan (Chiottorgarh and Udaipur) but he has been brought up in Goa. Nowadays he’s a chartered accountant who manages time for other things in between his running! Dinesh is currently running The Great India Run in which he is covering a distance of 1480km in 18 days along with 18 other ultra-runners.

Dinesh is basically a gadget free runner, and has never intended to race at any event for a podium finish. Running is a personal joy and meditation to him.

When did you start running and what are some of the highlights?
I started running in 2011, with the first Half Marathon at the Goa River Marathon in Dec 2011. Since then I have participated in 22 Half Marathons, 10 marathons and 4 ultra-runs including a 24 hour run.

What were the challenges you faced and overcame to be where you are today?
Time! The biggest reason many don’t really take care of their health is time. To be honest, we in the family took away our time from the ‘Idiot Box’ and invested that into running.

Do you have any coaches or mentors?
I have many mentors with the original ones being members of the Vasco Sports Club (in Goa), thanks to whom I got introduced to this sport. To name just one would be injustice to the ones I miss mentioning, hence no names. I’ve been training with Daniel Vaz and I personally regard him as the best coach and someone who I can surrender to.

Goa's Dinesh Heda on Day 2 of the Great India Run
Goa’s Dinesh Heda on Day 2 of the Great India Run

Are you a full time runner? If not, how do you make time for running in your everyday schedule?
I am a Chartered Accountant by profession who puts in about 12 to 15 hours and at times 20 hours a week into running. I guess that’s the time an average person spends on watching TV or movies per week so I think I manage it pretty well

Describe how running changed your life:
It’s brought in a sense of discipline and helps me prioritise. It has taught me to say ‘No’ to things that will take time away from running.

What advice do you have for amateurs who want to to run marathons?

  • Don’t ever compare yourself with “another” runner
  • Your training runs are NOT races. Don’t try to beat yourself on every training run
  • Don’t stress and only set reasonable targets for yourself

Five things to avoid if you want to run long distances (habits, food, etc.)

  • Inadequate rest. This will surely harm you in the long run, so a minimum of 7 hours of good sleep is a must
  • Not warming up and avoiding post-run stretches. Could probably lead to running related injuries
  • Wrong shoes. The latest shoe from a big brand is not necessarily meant for your feet
  • TMTSTF: Too Much Too Soon Too Fast. This is a typical syndrome with new runners in my opinion. Trying to get high mileages too soon and/or running too fast.I went through this too but the mentors of the Vasco Sports Club did well to salvage me.
  • Over or Under Hydration: Over-hydration could lead to side stitches and under hydration to cramps and both are detrimental to your health

How long should a beginner prepare before running their first marathon?
I personally did my first half marathon after 1 year of training and my first full 2 years after I started training.

What do you eat before, during and after your runs?
Before a run: a banana and sometimes an apple (but the apple is usually much before the run, at least an hour before the run)

During the run: Bananas, oranges, dates or figs.

After the run: Nimbu pani – lemonade – with extra salt, preferably rock salt. I also try to get egg whites or sprouts or paneer.

How has being an ultra runner affected your life (family and work)?
I was and am lucky to have the family support me so, not really much has affected. Though, yes, there have been issues of being labeled ‘unsocial’ by friends and extended family! Running has not come in the way of professional work though.

Three hacks you have discovered which help you run long distances?

  • Don’t plan too much
  • Go by the fact that the weather will be terrible; if it’s good then that’s the bonus
  • Always end the “long run” with a relaxing swim or paddle in the sea. It’s the best recovery

One inconvenience/challenge you faced in your first run which no one warned you about?
I was probably one of those lucky ones to have been mentored at the right time by the right people. So I didn’t come across any challenge that I wasn’t warned or told about. Though at my first full marathon I did cramp and that was the ‘first time’ in many years that I ever cramped!

Which are your three favorite songs which help you during the run?
I don’t listen to music while running. I would rather hear the sound of birds chirp or leaves flutter or the falling rain and water flowing. And sometimes silence is bliss!

How should a runner keep his busy while running long distances?

  • Run with a buddy. Trust me sometimes we can talk a lot and it really helps!
  • Explore the city. You’ll surely see things for the first time that you have never seen while driving the same roads

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