Toshal Shenai took to running as a way to get back on track after he found out that his triglyceride levels were quite high. This came as a shocker given that he was just 28 years old then. What started with a simple nudge from his physician to take up brisk walking became a full-blown passion as the years progressed. Toshal now has several marathons and triathlons to his name and aims at expanding his wall of marathon medals. A co-founder of What Clicks, a digital marketing firm, it’s a daily struggle for Toshal to juggle work, family and his health. So how does he do it?  Here’s an insight into this marathoner’s life.

Since when have you been running and what inspired you first to run?

I started running from July 2014. Like you mentioned earlier, I did a full-body check-up and found out that my triglyceride levels were high. This made me take up jogging and I incidentally read about Puma Urban Stampede, which looked like a really cool event. That was the first time I started training for a full 5K.

What keeps you going on a regular basis? Any particular motivation or person who inspires you?

There was a quote somewhere which said:

“Look into the mirror and think about what you wish to do.”

Either be happy with how you are right now or imagine a better version of yourself. Some of our body features (external and physiological), cannot be altered much. But from the inside, we can work on the muscles, stamina, body fat, core, etc. So my motivation is to try and look healthier, leaner and maybe someday, like an athlete. There are many sports personalities, celebs that keep inspiring me. My aim is to age gracefully by being fit; organically and without any unwanted supplements.

Is it difficult to maintain your daily routine with running? What about your work? How does that get affected?

I usually train on weekends, as my work life is hectic from Monday to Friday. So my typical week has a couple of strength, flexibility, agility sessions, or a cycling ride and maybe a few swimming sessions. I schedule running on the weekends. Being a co-founder of a small firm, the workload can get very hectic. But since running is a must-do activity, I try to prioritize it and ensure that I achieve my weekly mileage.

What has your experience with Mobiefit been like? Can you say something about your favorite features?

Mobiefit is very dear to me. I have been associated with the team as an app reviewer (athlete side, not as a techie). I finally subscribed to the 10K plan to train for a 10 km. I have to say that the program is well-structured and the diet plans that comes with it it is equally effective. Besides this, I love the challenges and I don’t mean to brag, but I have won a few of them. The prizes that come with these challenges is one of the main reasons for me to be hooked to the app.

Do you have any icons and inspirations?

I look up to a lot of sports stars. Out of these Milind Soman and Kilian Jornet stand out as the most inspiring people when it comes to running.

Let’s talk about your achievements now

I usually run for fun and to enjoy the events without paying much heed to set a new personal best. I recently completed my first Full Marathon at Tata Mumbai Marathon. My Half marathons have been across the country and include the Airtel Hyderabad Marathon, Auroville Marathon, Cherrapunji Marathon, Chennai Marathon, Kaveri Trail Marathon, etc.

I have also done an Olympic Triathlon at Hyderabad (1.5km swim, 40km Cycling, 10km Run), and a 200km cycling at the Bangalore Randonneur’s 200 BRM.

Wow! That sounds amazing! But do you have an ultimate marathon goal?

My Ultimate (short term) marathon goal was to complete a Full Marathon, which I did at Tata Mumbai Marathon in 5 hrs 44 mins. My next goal is to try and better my timings.

How do you prepare and train for marathon days?

I usually work on a 6-8 month calendar, with priority races (or A Race), which have some targets set. To get to this A Race I participate in other events leading to it (or B Races).

The training is a mix of running (interval, tempo, long slow distance) and with strength and yoga sessions added to the build up. 1-week before the race is all about mental readiness and fine-tuning the effort to ensure the body reaches its peak on the race day. There is a specific diet, hydration and stretching routine 2-3 days prior to the event, mainly clean eating, high carbs, fresh fruit juices and adequate rest.

What kind of strength workouts do you do? Tell us about your warmups and recovery process.

The strength training is minimal – about 8-10 different sets comprising kettlebell, deadlifts and dumbbells. Along with that a lot of body weight exercises to strengthen the core, back and legs. Warm-ups consist of mostly dynamic stretches, focusing on hamstrings, glutes, calf, knee and ankle. Exercise ball and foam rollers are essential tools to help me recover.

What does your pre- and post-run diet comprise of?

I am a big time foodie! Usually, post-event is about eating Biriyani to celebrate the achievements. Pre-event usually consists of the following routine:

Night before – Dal rice / Pasta in white sauce
Morning – Peanut butter and bread, Beetroot Ginger Pudina juice
During the event – Almonds, electrolytes, 5-star or Munch bar.

Post-event includes chicken, fish or any other high protein food. I also consume 1 litre of electrolytes daily for 2-3 days depending on the exertion levels.

What are some of the challenges you faced as a first-time runner?

Being a newbie, I found a lot of jargons difficult to understand. Terms like Fartlek, Negative splits, Speed vs Pace, Cadence, etc. would bounce off my head as I was not part of any running group for the first 2 years to understand these terms. Other challenges were the ones that all beginner runners struggle with: Finding the right shoe, discovering events, monthly training plans, practical target setting, finding cracks in my training, etc.

Do you run with any clubs or groups?

I do attend a few free training sessions since, in Bangalore, we have a lot of groups (paid and free). I have attended 6-8 sessions with the Asics running club, 5 sessions with Skechers Go Run Club, a few training runs with Soles of Bangalore, 2 months of training with Runners 360, and some training runs with Adidas runners. These engagements have helped me make friends, try new drills and learn from the experts. The team at Skechers Go Run Club gave a 3-month customized training plan for the full marathon training, which was immensely helpful.

We hear that many of your family members are avid runners now. Were you the reason behind this? 

Yes, apart from me there are 14 other runners in the family. Three Half marathoners, four 10K runners and seven of them have done multiple 5K runs. My brother-in-law completed the half marathon at SCMM in 2013.
My regular updates across 50 odd events and forced registrations have helped a few of them take up running as a sport. My wife has done more than 20 events and she has actually inspired a lot of women in the family to take up running, especially with her participation in Pinkathon across Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Bangalore. We love to participate as groups, travel to destinations like Auroville to run as a family and have tons of fun. I would also like to mention that my father completed his first 10K at the age of 67, which was a huge achievement for him.

Last question, what’s your favorite running location or spot?

Initially, I loved to run on roads, but slowly the love for trail running took over. For my training, I go to various parks, nearby trails and agricultural college campus’ (GKVK in Bangalore). When it comes to running events, I loved the Hyderabad, Cherrapunji and the Auroville Marathon (Pondicherry). But being a runner, give me a pair of shoes and some time off and I’ll be happy to run any time of the day, anywhere.

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