We at ABFRL, present stories excerpted from our internal newsletter ‘In Touch’, where we celebrate stories of our people and their contributions.
In a world that often equates age with limitations and declining physical abilities, there are individuals who defy these stereotypes and serve as an inspiration to us all. Meet Mr. Anil Malik, President, Company Secretary and Compliance Officer of Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited, a remarkable man in his 60s who not only challenges the notion of aging but shatters it entirely as an avid marathoner. His journey is a testament to the indomitable human spirit, proving that age is indeed just a number when it comes to pursuing one’s passion and leading a healthy, active lifestyle.
Apart from his achievements in running, Mr. Malik has also been a high performer in his professional life, with an impressive experience of over 30 years with Aditya Birla Group. He took many initiatives throughout his career and successfully implemented compliance tool, document management system, Risk Management Framework and publication of Integrated Reporting. He also, along with GHR team, implemented and rolled out ESOP Scheme through Trust Route across the Group, which is doing very well now. He is recipient of ABG Exceptional Contributor Award in 2009 and ABG Accomplished Leader Award in 2022.
We sat down with Mr. Malik to understand his passion for running and how he overcame hurdles to live this dream run.
What got you started on this marathon mission?
Growing up, as a teenager, I was always an active student during school and participated in around three sports in college days. As it’s the way of life, golden years passed by the fun and games turned into work and timeline.
After moving to Mumbai and as time started ticking for my professional career, my fitness regime at one point reached a total standstill. All the momentum I had as a youngster was lost in the challenges and stress that come with a high-demanding corporate desk job. The results started to show on my body, and it wasn’t pretty!
It’s said, “Either you choose the pain of toil, or eventually the pain of suffering will choose you!” Health-related problems started, such as acidity, etc. Until one fine day, I decided to take charge of my fitness regime and answer the calling my body so desperately needed.
By 2014, I took up to running baby steps. It was painful, boring, and unspeakably plain during the initial days. But I hustled through those dark days to see the light at the end of that dark tunnel. To my credit, the foundation of my body was always strong. I was very active growing up, so the adaptation process was tough but a lot smoother. But I had to pay my dues, just because you have a good foundation doesn’t mean automatic success if you’re not willing to put in the hard yards.
Sports was always my passion and I always believe that when you work very hard on your passion, it becomes your strength. So now my passion for running has become my strength.
What is your favorite thing about running?
Running motivates me to improve myself. Fitness or wellness is a journey and not a destination. Sustainable and incremental progress is the key! Early success is a scam, great things do take time. I always strongly believe that every human must have a goal, and to achieve that goal a person should work every day. It will engage you mentally and physically. Hard goal, worked harder to get it. I wake up fresh and motivated to check off the small goals I set for myself. Consistency and hard work turn your passion into addiction, and it almost becomes second nature. I put myself to bed by 10 PM and arise at 4 AM, the day feels so productive and uplifting.
How has running opened up the world for you – personally, professionally, and socially?
Running didn’t help me just with my health, it taught me lessons far more than just competition. It’s said that one runs alone. But if you go for a deep dive, it teaches you team strength. We learn to leverage one’s strength with another’s weakness. You get to make running buddies, we create bonds over and above the competition. The biggest learning that I believe I learned was going out of my comfort zone on a daily basis, it makes you a fighter mentally and physically both in sport and in profession.
I learned about planning defense strategies, implementation, change in strategies within the game, and evaluating the situation at every point in time.
After some time, defeat becomes non-acceptable. Falling and standing back again to win becomes not just your routine, it also becomes your way to life.
My basic habit of taking initiative and going out of my comfort zone, which was sleeping, got activated and resulted in wonders in my professional life. I took many initiatives at my earlier Company, i.e., Hindalco, and successfully implemented a compliance tool, document management system, publication of Integrated Reporting, and also implementation of Risk Management Framework. I also, along with our GHR team, implemented and rolled out the ESOP Scheme through Trust Route throughout the group which is doing very well now.
I was part of the core team at Hindalco, which was part of all major operations, including the Novalis acquisition, and initiated a large number of initiatives at Hindalco, including the Greenfield project.
Throughout the way, my passion created energy not just personally but also professionally. I kept moving ahead with my passion, and it kept me ahead professionally. I believe, that when we move ahead with passion in one aspect of our life, other aspects start to fall in place automatically.
I have been recognized at the Group level as so many leaders have had good things to say, including our Chairman, who keeps inquiring about how my running is going, what’s my next target, how am I keeping fit, what diet or training regime I follow and so on. Dr Santrupt Misra calls me Mr. Marathon, which gives me immense energy and motivates me to do even better. Mr. Vishak Kumar, CEO, MFL, told me he looks up to me and considers me a role model.
Running has worked wonders for me in all aspects, it has introduced to me so many wonderful people all around the globe, who are transforming their lives and enriching others around them as well. I have met people I would never have met unless I had taken up this passion. To earn their respect and acknowledgment has given me immense satisfaction. When I meet senior leaders, I feel a sense of respect and recognition, which is incredibly humbling and satisfying.
Today, I’m among the top 5 runners in the country in my age category. I even got a podium finish in my last three marathons and was the first among Indian runners in my age category in the Berlin marathon this year.
To see the results that running has had on my life mentally, physically, and psychologically, I feel taking up running is one of the best decisions of my life.
How do you deal with the lack of civic infrastructure for runners in our cities?
To be honest, I never needed sophisticated or state-of-the-art infrastructure for running. As I said, I grew up running and playing in the fields and mountains. For the majority of my running training, I go to Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali. Mother nature is the best training ground to hone your skill for running, there is no better place. You certainly do not need treadmills, or elliptical, in fact, I would strongly recommend not to use them if your goal is to run a marathon.
All you need is discipline, consistency, and indefatigability. At the end of the day, if we see, there is a lack of space not just in Mumbai but in most of the cities, but one who has passion, one can find the solution anyhow.
Which has been your Most Challenging Run?
Without a doubt, the Comrades, Ultra – Marathon, which is a 90 km behemoth of a run on the hilly terrains of South Africa, pushes even the best athletes to their absolute limits in terms of endurance, resiliency, grit, and determination, it boasts of elite runners from all across the globe. In terms of preparation, I had to train consistently for four months with a weekly mileage of 100 – 120 Km per week, including two runs of 30 – 35 km each week. To simulate the hostile and hilly conditions the terrain had to offer, I frequently visited Lonavala and Lavasa to run 65 – 75 km practice runs.
What advice would you give to running enthusiasts?
Preparing for a marathon is not a one-time activity. It involves training throughout the year, eating the correct food, being healthy, and always being ready to run. The attitude of going out of your comfort zone, setting targets, and working on the same, and of course. Being passionate is very important, otherwise, your desire to run would be short-lived.
Be prepared for failures and learn, that no matter what is the challenge, in whichever walk of life, to begin with the first few steps would help pave the way for growth. Learn from failures, leverage your past mistakes, and strive to make amends the next time. It would be a long way to achieve your goals.
When you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll be amazed at how beautiful the human anatomy is and how well it rewards you for all that hard work. I am seeing my life transform right before my eyes, the health issues, and now I professionally believe that I’m a better leader.
Anil ‘Mr. Marathon’ Malik
- He has participated in over 25 marathons and 10 ultra-marathons in the last 10 years. He stands among the top 5 armature runners in India in his age category.
- Mr. Malik ranked 70th across the globe in men in his age bracket (above 60 years) in Comrades up-run, which is a 90 KM behemoth of a run on the hilly terrains of South Africa, clocking an impressive 9 hours 33 minutes and 36 seconds.
- In his previous Comrades up-run, he clocked a time of 10 hours 33 minutes.
- Mr. Malik is a podium finisher in all 4 marathons he participated in
from November 2021 to December 2022.
- First runner-up in the age category of 55 – 60 years in Tata ultra 50 KM marathon, Lonavala in November 2021;
- Bangalore marathon held in April 2022;
- First among Indians in his age category in the Berlin marathon held in September 2022 and
- First runner-up in the age category of 60 – 65 in the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation marathon held in December 2022.
- Mr. Malik consistently completes a marathon in sub – 3 hours 45 minutes and his best timing is 3 hours 36 minutes achieved in the Vasai Virar marathon and the Tata Mumbai Marathon in 2022.
- Mr. Malik aims to achieve a sub-3-hour 30 minutes time in the upcoming marathon season that starts from November 2023.