Varadan Yogeshwaran @ Yogesh is a good friend and colleague of mine where we were part of the same ToastMaster club. Another common passion we shared was running, but I quickly realized Yogesh was a different league of a runner than my dilettante of half-marathons. He was then running Full Marathon and 50KM runs at the drop of a hat and was practicing for his first 100Km run, which he later completed successfully. Yogesh truly ran an extra mile in everything from work to play and everything in between. Yogesh was running 100 Km, leading a critical project at work, championed corporate safety initiatives, headed an active toastmaster club all at the same time and remained grounded and humble after all of that.
His story is a great example of what can be accomplished by doing the right things consistently. Here is a snippet of our discussion for your reading pleasure.
How active a kid were you while growing up. Was Sports and running always an important part of your school life?
I spent most of my days in villages of India. So sports during my early days was just street sports. Until my 5th grade, sports in school was just the Physical Education and Training. After my promotion to 6th grade, everything got changed. I got a new English teacher, not PT master.
Yes, a new English teacher who trained me for sprint. I was good in mathematics/science subjects, but not on language subjects. My English teacher, who was my class teacher as well, wanted me to score good marks in English as well. I could not score good in languages, because of my poor handwriting. I was punished to write in four liner notebook to correct my handwriting. As I wasn’t completing my imposition, I was told to run the track of 400 meters four times. That was my first 1600 meters run.
After that, I was told to do many 1600 meters run by my English teacher. Those training helped me to perform better on the track and field events in my school.
As an adult, when and why did you take up long distance running?
Most of my sports activities stopped with my middle school itself. I hardly visited the play ground during my high school and college days. I spent most of my time with electronic circuits and software programming. I weighed 81 kgs, when I was in my college final year. After 2+ years of professional life, I was looking for a challenge in life. It was the time, the marathon fever was spreading all over Chennai. It was 17th of July, 2012, I was turning 24, I decided to challenge myself to finish a marathon. I enrolled for the Chennai Marathon 2012 sponsored by my company, TCS.
On my first day of training I met my trainer Suresh. There were two other folks with me. Suresh told us to run a 3000 meter loop. We all started to run. We ran fast, actually very fast. But, our energy did not last long. I could run only 1400 meters. Yes, not even half of the target. Suresh made an excellent quote on that day, “With self-discipline, all the things are possible”. He suggested that I run 3000 meters for a week, before I advance to the next level. On the next day, I reduced my pace and could run 3000 meters.
I followed the schedule he suggested and with-in six weeks, I could run 10,000 meters every morning. I strictly followed the schedule Suresh gave which had half marathons, 25 kilometers and 30 kilometers runs. The constant training from July to November helped me to complete the marathon. I did my first marathon on December 2nd, 2012.
Most ambitious people I know including myself dream of running one Full Marathon in our lifetimes. You have run 21 Full Marathons, three 50 K runs, and two 100 K runs. What drives you to do the impossible?
People. Yes, the people around you bring the change in you. After my first marathon, I found many running buddies across India and world. Every trail/track has its own uniqueness. When I read the posts and blogs of different runners, I got interested in running the trails. Interest is the main driving force.
Anyone can become a marathoner. All it takes is the discipline to practice every day.
What is your training regime like on a normal day, before a full marathon or 50 K and before a 100 K run? Does it differ based on the trail you run and/ or any other factors?
During my initial days, I needed long distance running training. I used to run 10 to 15 kms every day. Once I got good stamina, I reduced the daily running distance to 7 km. I usually run half marathon on Sundays. I do at least two 30 k, if possible three or four, before a marathon. I follow a special training plan for 50k and 100k run.
I was a road runner in the beginning. Chennai Trail marathon-2013 was my first trail marathon. It was not a very tough trail, so it was a great practice for me. We should be little more careful in choosing the running gear for trail marathon.
What forms part of your runner’s kit?
I love to do skipping for my core strengthening. My kit always has Shoe, Socks, Dry-fit Tee and Shorts, GPS wrist watch, headlamp, leg weight, Gatorade and a skipping rope.
Even when I was running my willpower depletes vastly from the time I set the alarm late at night to the next day morning. How did you manage to win this battle every day? Was it a battle at all for you?
It was hard for me as well in the beginning. Just like everyone, I too loved to sleep. After two months of waking up at 5:30 AM, it became easier for me. Battle is a very strong word. An early bed will lead to early wake-up; early bed can be achieved by self-control. For many who work in the morning , evening run can help. Running in the evening is an advised option for late night workers as well.
I remember while you were training for your first 100 K, you were also heading the Toast Master Club as the President of the club, Active member of a corporate initiative on safety, hectic project schedules and also your sister’s wedding preparations. How did you manage to multitask so many diverse responsibilities?Any Productivity tips for the rest of us, who want to get more out of life.
There is a famous quote, “When you love what you do, you never work“. I love to run, Toastmasters, taking initiatives, my work and of course my sister. That made me to do more in each area.
During the 100 K training, I was leading an important data migration project from offshore for my client. We had strict deadlines to meet. My project team was and is always my strength. They are always eager to accept the challenges and learn new things. This made me to focus less on team and more on my work alone. A month after my 100 km run, we successfully implemented the project as well.
HR incharge for Corporate Safety initiatives Sai was very strict, and he used to expect 100% attendance on all the meetings. We were provided with enough liberty to come-up with innovative ideas to establish a safe corporate environment. So I spent quite a good amount of time on this initiative.
I was blessed with a great executive team when I held the president’s office in Orators toastmasters club. Sometimes, I didn’t even visit the club, but the meetings went on well. Guests would email me about the excellent meetings. Sometimes, I had to call the executives at 12:00 AM or 04:00 AM, and they never hesitated to attend my call. They were true Toastmasters and born leaders.
I truly spent more time on my 100 K run training. I ran more than 10 half marathons per month. I needed cross training, so started biking and swimming every night. It was tough but needed and I enjoyed doing it.
If you ask me to give a productivity tip, it will be, just love what you do.
How have you benefited personally by pursuing long distance running?
Running gave me a lot. Literally a lot. I work in a corporate with hectic project schedules. Running is the best way of offloading my mental stress. I got solutions for many complex problems during my long run. Running helped me to understand my strength. I enrolled for 100 K, but I wasn’t sure, whether I could complete it. I got the help of a few running experts to come-up with a training schedule and I strictly followed it. That helped me to nail-down the 100 K run easily. It gave me a feel that one can achieve anything with consistent effort. After I started long distance running, I could clearly see changes in all of my activities.
I stopped giving up on failures. I started to look for options to achieve the target. More than anything, the feeling you get while crossing the finish line is worth a million dollars.
What would you advice someone who wants to run their first full marathon?
Practice, practice, practice… have enough bandwidth to train. Get a proper training plan from experts. Give highest priority to running, rather than any other activity. Try to run two half marathon and at least one 30+ k before your marathon. This will give you great confidence to finish the first marathon.
How do you find a supportive community in a world that is often dismissive of people’s ambitions that don’t bring in financial returns.
Just ignore the unwanted. My dad always says
“Our life is what our thoughts make it. You should not allow others thoughts to make your life”.
So far, my life is very beautiful and I did not allow others thoughts in it.
What next in your running career?
I am entering into the new world of running – barefoot running. I will run the Honolulu Marathon 2016 with barefoot and am training for the same now. I have people running with barefoot for years to train me. It is exciting and hoping to finish the marathon with good timing.
Talking to Yogesh has spurred the runner in me and I’m going out for a run now. Hope you enjoyed the interview and feel as inspired as I did.