Pursuit of Happiness

Born to Run

Prasun Sikdar, MD and CEO of ManipalCigna Health Insurance and an avid marathoner, believes the sport trains him in discipline and time management

A running bug bit Prasun Sikdar, MD and CEO of ManipalCigna Health Insurance Company in 2015, and since then he has run 18 marathons — one full, three ultra and 14 half. “I fall in love with this sport deeper every day,” he says. With his Garmin watch, heart-rate monitor and running shoes, Sikdar dashes against the wind four days a week at 5 am in his neighbourhood. On Sundays, he goes for a long-distance run without fail, all the way from NCPA to Siddhivinayak Temple and back, in Mumbai.

It all started with a 10-kilometre Hiranandani Powai Run in Mumbai after his ex-colleagues at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance encouraged him to try out marathons. “I have always been a sports freak but my work friends’ enthusiasm for running excited me,” Sikdar recalls. He signed up with Striders, an outdoor professional fitness-training club that has motivated and guided him for his marathons. He also met his seven training ‘buddies’ at the training outfit, whom he fondly calls ‘the magnificent seven’.

Sikdar has since participated in several runs in India such as the Ooty Ultra Marathon, Lonavala Varsha Marathon, Tata Ultra Marathon and the Ladakh Marathon to name a few. His first international conquest was the Comrades Marathon in South Africa in June 2019 — an 87 kilometre uphill run with over 22,000 runners from across the globe. He completed the marathon in 10 hours and 49 minutes, and says, “It was a moment of delight, holding the Indian flag in a foreign country. This run is the toughest and most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life.”

He maintains that time management and discipline are key to success, and that’s what every athlete must aspire to achieve. “Each person on this planet gets 24 hours every day. Why do some people accomplish so much while some don’t?” Sikdar questions. He also believes that putting in work regularly on something is more effective than one or two strenuous weeks of training. Keeping a check on his diet and sleep are other habits that Sikdar has adopted. In fact, he completely gave up sugar and flour. He now follows a gluten-free diet with more carbohydrates and protein to build endurance.

“Over the years, running marathons has made me stronger both physically and mentally. Every time I run one kilometre extra or beat my own speed target, it boosts my confidence,” he says. The sport has taught him endurance and self-control. He theorises that the health of one’s mind and soul are as important as the body. “The body can only store so much energy. Beyond a point, the mind pushes you further in a race,” he explains.

Sikdar also acknowledges his family’s role in his journey so far. “It is impossible to take up such a challenging sport without support from one’s family. They accommodate my special dietary needs and allow me to prioritise my training over family time,” he shares.

He is determined to run the Comrades Marathon again next year and is also training for other full international marathons in Amsterdam, London and New York. Every horizon now beckons his adventurous spirit.