It is 10 minutes to 5:00 am in the morning. While it is still dark outside, you can faintly hear the morning prayers from a nearby mosque. The misty streets of Delhi wake up to the chirping of birds, the never-ending buzz of alarms, and the clang of cycle bells of newspaper delivery boys. For Mansi Madan Tripathy, managing director, Shell Lubricants India, the day begins with a run in the morning along the streets of Delhi. “It is more like a sacred ritual,” she says. Having participated in more than 34 marathons, Tripathy has been an active participant in sports ever since her college days.
What drew Tripathy to sports in her adolescent years makes for quite an interesting story. Recalling her student days, she says, “I was more into dramatics, dance and I focused more on academics.” During her college days in RAC College of Engineering and Technology at Kurukshetra, now known as NIIT Kurukshetra, she was active in all extra-curricular activities except sports. It was in her final year of graduation that one of her professors deliberately pushed her into athletics. The professor was cognisant that Tripathy stood the chance of bagging the gold medal awarded to the best student of the year. However that came with a caveat — it required the student to be active in all verticals of the curriculum and that included sports as well. Tripathy surprised herself with her performance on the field as she outperformed her classmates. She stuck on to it and eventually bagged the most prestigious award of the institution. She proudly affirms how she was the first female student to have that honour at her institute.
The spark, though, was short-lived as Tripathy discontinued pursuing sports once she was gainfully employed. When she moved to Singapore in 2000, the spark was re-ignited, though. This time, the drive to pursue sports again was partially external. “Everybody is so active in that city! They will be doing something or the other and keep themselves busy day and night. Initially when I used to return home after work, I used to feel low about the the fact that I was not doing anything else apart from my regular work. So, I enrolled in half-marathons,” she says. From then on, nothing has ceased Tripathy’s interest to go ahead with her endeavour.
Of the 34 marathons that she has participated in, most of them are half marathons. While the drive to revisit her hobby may have been due to an external factor, Tripathy is now equally committed to keep at it. Her daily running routine is one thing that acts as the main strategy. She follows this up with speed running, long running and tenfold running that prepares her to run long distances. Her preparation begins eight-nine weeks prior to the event. “I indulge in cardio and strengthening exercises on Monday, and I go for tempo runs on Tuesday and Wednesday. While I typically take a break on Thursday, I do yoga on Friday. A semi-long run covering 6-10 kilometers on Saturday and a 15-km run on Sunday helps me to perform better in each marathon,” she explains. She runs for five days a week when she is not participating in marathons. For Tripathy, both time and distance are equally important when it comes to her performance. In order to improve her record, she targets 3 km in a certain timeframe and after a small break, she intends to cover the next 5 km in a lesser time. “I set up few targets for myself and then try and see if I can match it up and I feel good if it is done for the day,” she says.
Her most challenging yet memorable marathon so far has been the one in Boston where she had to participate despite acute weather conditions. “It was early April in 2012 and the winter was severe with -20°C. The marathon was organised despite the rain. But thousands of people came out to participate. I was very surprised by their enthusiasm. It revved me up for the challenge,” recalls Tripathy.
Tripathy further elucidates how her biggest learning through running has been self-discipline. “Although running is ingrained in me now, it has come from a lot of effort and self-discipline. I have applied this in my work as well. I take up new challenges or risks, and I set goals for certain tasks to be completed,” says Tripathy, about how the lessons on the road have led her to conquer boardroom battles.