Hidden Gems of ABFRL

Masters of the Mumbai Marathon

by ABFRLadmin | February 5, 2024

Anil Malik, Shobha Ratna are some of the notable contenders who took to the streets on 21st January 2024 for Asia’s Prime Marathon event. Here’s how our stable from ABFRL took on the challenge.

Considered the highlight of Asia’s Marathon Events, the Mumbai Marathon has been an indicator of the rampant rise of popularity in running, as both exercise and an outlet for India’s young and old alike. Make no mistake despite the event carrying the name of our city, it is a truly global event, with participants traveling from far and wide to be part of the race. In 2024, the event crossed a threshold of 59,000 participants (Source: moneycontrol.com), with over 11,000+ registering to take on the entire length of 42.1 km. As Aditya Birla Group partnered with Ujaas to raise awareness for women’s menstrual health in India, ABFRL were represented by seasoned runners who took on the stakes and faced them head on!

This writer wanted to understand what it takes to consider participating in a physical feat that feels so, for lack of a better word, torturous. In my personal opinion, running is certainly not the most joyous activity and involves a serious commitment from body and mind that can seem unfathomable to those of us with rapidly receding attention spans. Naturally, the first person that came to mind was ABFRL’s in-house Marathon Man – Mr. Anil Malik, President, Company Secretary.

Heading down to his office to speak to him and understand the psyche of a long-distance runner was truly enlightening, and the key learnings I gathered from him applies to a lot more than just your experience on the track. His pedigree is matched by few, as one of the top 5 runners in India in his age category, he has honed his expertise in long-distance running over 20 years, spanning events across the globe, while maintaining an exceptionally successful professional career.

Here’s what he distilled down as the 3 key teachings of the marathon track from his 20+ years of experience:

  1. Marathons are a mind game more than they are physical. Focus is such a key element of running it’s a surprise that a lot of beginners take it for granted. As you keep levelling your skills up, scaling longer distances, it’s natural to reach a saturation point at the 15, 20 or even 30 km mark that makes even seasoned runners quit. Pushing past the mental barrier is what makes a marathon finisher.
  2. Reconcile with how your body reacts. We might all believe that we are perfectly equipped to take on any distance without preparation. That is entirely wrong. Even a 5 km run could feel like hell without the right preparation. Take note of how your lungs feel, which part of your legs and feet flare up the most. At what distance does the ‘burn’ kick in? Vital info like this will help you stay on track. One must also be mindful of how their diet affects their results on the track. The right food is pure fuel for a runner.
  3. Develop a sustainable mindset. The journey of a long-distance runner is peppered with failure. Make peace with it. Let it drive you. The one success you achieve by crossing the finish line will diminish all other failures. However, for that one must finish the task first.

Extremely enlightening no-doubt, but not words that fill a rookie like me with confidence. Surely there must be benefits to this painful physical task as well? As race day got closer, I got the chance to meet other runners from ABFRL whose interesting and varied insights gave me a lot more to think about on this journey of understanding the psyche of (and perhaps someday turning into) a marathoner.

For some, this isn’t a run that’s simply about achieving a medal.  There are more evocative reasons to run that exist and deeper lessons found in this practice. I found this to be best articulated by Mrs. Shobha Ratna, CHRO. Participating in her 4th half-marathon, to her the feeling of running transcends physical boundaries. Almost like a reward unto itself – it requires no preparation or anxiety, simply the will to do and dare.

“Running a marathon for me is about exploring myself and reaching for the skies. I don’t practice or prepare for the run in advance but just run …I feel absolutely free, liberated and full of hope and optimism when I run. I run to be with myself and to celebrate my life. I hope I can run consistently in the years to come.” 

To experience this feeling consistently after 4 half-marathons means there must surely be a minefield of benefits to extract, and it’s what motivates Shobha to ensure that ABFRL fields a much larger team of runners in the upcoming 2025 marathon (yes, that is a hint to all readers of this article).

Speaking to Rohan Powar, Manager, Central Procurement Cell, for instance, gave me a clearer view on the mental benefits of running to conquer the marathon. A seasoned runner who incorporates it into his daily routine, he believes that it is an exercise more for the mind than the body, helping build tolerance and willpower in a way no other form of exercise can.

“I normally run at least 10 km daily and up to 25km on the weekends. But to do it in a marathon setting is hard, it’s out in the open and of course there are other competitors. So, while a daily run can be physically tasking, when you’re in the marathon mindset, there comes a layer of mentality one gets to earn as well. The thrill of finishing a race is like no other”

For others, like Pallavi Singh, Asst. Manager, Sourcing, Pantaloons, this is a practice that has become regular to them, the act of finding peace in a state of motion.

“Running to me is like meditation. It helps me achieve a state of flow in body and mind that brings me a great level of peace. It’s something that I absolutely must do every weekend now and running the marathon now just helps add something special to my routine.”

With the drive for ABFRL to field a larger group of runners in 2025, I naturally began to feel the pressure to get myself in shape, what with all the time I now have to prepare.

However, if much like the writer of this article, you too are terrified to take on the track due to a slovenly record of physical upkeep or a general (and acceptable) hatred of cardio – fear not, because we return for solutions in the best possible place – our very own Marathon Man extraordinaire, Mr. Anil Malik!

Here’s a crash course from an expert on how one can claim the mindset and physicality of a marathon master.

  1. Begin Early, End as a Winner: 24 weeks is the least amount of time your training will take to allow your body to adapt to the demands of a full marathon. Take your time, train efficiently and regularly to stay on top of the challenge.
  2. Sleep is Key: Fixing your sleep schedule and routine is an essential part of marathon training. Aim for a full 8 hours and try to compensate for the hours missed earlier for whatever reason.
  3. A Balanced Diet Keeps You All Right: Your diet will prove to be a key marker of where you finish, especially in the 2 weeks before the marathon. Eat a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods, rich in complex carbs to build up your body’s glycogen stores, which will be essential to maintain energy levels while you’re on the move. Try to avoid excessive protein intake if you’re on a weight training diet, gaining new muscle can weigh you down and slow your roll on the track.
  4. Research Your Gear, Stay Sure: Try different fabrics for your attire and different shoes as your gear as training reaches higher levels. Be aware and mindful of how they make you feel, as opposed to opting for athletic gear purely based on marketing buzzwords. 

So go forth and conquer, because we’re expecting YOU to be lined up and raring to go at the starting line of Mumbai Marathon 2025. Here’s the list of complete runners who lined up in ABFRL colours to take on the Marathon – make sure to give them a cheer when you see them!

Anil Malik – President, Company Secretary
Shobha Ratna – Chief Human Resources Officer
Pravin More – Senior Executive, Category, Pantaloons
Ankit Tambi – Group Manager, Finance & Commercial
Nitesh Shetty – Senior Executive, Legal, ABFRL Corporate
Sanya Sajjanhar – Manager, E-Commerce, Pantaloons
Rohan Pawar – Manager, Central Procurement Cell, Pantaloons
Ashish Verma – Manager, Category KW, Pantaloons
Nikita Devde – Assistant Manager, STRIDERs
Puneet Bansal – Manager, Finance & Commercial
Pallavi Singh – Asst. Manager, Sourcing, Pantaloons
Akshay Dhavade – Senior Executive, SCM, Pantaloons
Mahesh Chavan – Assistant Manager, SMU, Pantaloons
Ravindra Phulpagar – Deputy Manager, Company Secretary, ABFRL Corporate
Aditi Atreya – Manager, Visual Merchandising, Pantaloons
Abhishek Hegde – Assistant Manager, Company Secretary, ABFRL Corporate
Sandip Gurav – Assistant Manager, Sourcing MW, Pantaloons

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