The year was 2007. Anku Jain, who had led a sedentary life till then, started suffering from frequent mind-numbing migraines that got worse with each passing month. After taking prescribed medication, his migraines were taken care of, but its side effects of fatigue and tiredness made the situation worse. This made him realise that he had to get physically active. “I started walking, and then running, beginning with as short a distance as 100 meters. Slowly, I built up the stamina and, there was no looking back after that,” recalls the MD of MediaTek India.
Jain’s first official marathon was in the year 2009, when he ran 21 km in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Couple of months before the run, he ran several practice laps of 5 km and 10 km stretches to boost his endurance levels. On the day of the marathon, when Jain crossed the finish line, he felt like he was “on top of the world”. “Once you cross the line, you do not care about who is behind you or ahead of you…It is just you and the finish line,” he says.
Ever since his first time in 2009, Jain has participated in nearly every edition of the marathon. His unstoppable feet have conquered several half marathons in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Gurugram. “I also had the opportunity to participate in a half marathon in Taiwan, in 2016,” he adds proudly. A few weeks before an organised long-distance run, Jain trains intensely by doing sprints and altitude running. Meanwhile, on a regular basis, he runs 5-10 kilometre stretches and tops it off with some strength training. “It is a way for me to keep fit and remain active,” he says.
In 2015, Jain recalls, he hit a roadblock. “I had accidentally stepped into a pothole while running and twisted my ankle severely,” he says. Luckily, there was no bone fracture, but he was advised to take a break from running. Normally, such incidents can cause a lot of trauma. But, owing to his unbreakable spirit, Jain was good to go again after three months. He did take another break when he developed knee pain due to muscle tightness, but that too was dealt with.
Of all the tracks covered, Tata Mumbai Marathon remains Jain’s favourite. As the route passes through several residential areas of the maximum city, many people including children line up along the roads to cheer the participants and offer refreshments. “The camaraderie makes it a very enjoyable experience,” says Jain, who also prefers to run with a group of friends whenever he steps out to train. In fact, for budding runners, his advice is to start with some company to make the process more fun.
When running alone, Jain prefers to listen to music. Equipped with a heart-monitor, smart watch, small portable music player and headphones, he dashes in the Leisure Valley Park of Gurugram. “One thing I do not carry on my runs is my phone as the incoming messages and calls are a distraction. I prefer staying in a calm and positive zone while running,” he says. All these years of disciplined running has taught him perseverance, patience and mental toughness. Apart from taking these qualities to work, these have also motivated Jain to take on extreme physical challenges. In 2018, over a span of 10 days, he successfully trekked 150 kilometers to reach the Everest Base Camp. Next on his bucket list is completing a full 42km marathon.
Born To Run, a book by American author and journalist Christopher McDougall, greatly inspires Jain. A famous passage from the book reads: Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.
As Jain abides by this, the day doesn’t seem far away when he checks off everything from his bucket list.