One look at his fresh face, and no one would guess that V Vaidyanathan just ran 14 km the morning we met him at his Elphinstone Road office in central Mumbai. He leans back on his chair, closes his eyes and thinks back to the time he ran his first Standard Chartered Bank-sponsored marathon at the age of 34, way back in 2004. “I participated in my first marathon with very little preparation. I covered 42 km in 5 hours and 45 minutes,” says Vaidyanathan, chairman, Capital First, the Mumbai-based and Warburg Pincus-controlled NBFC that specialises in retail and MSME financing, as he opens his eyes. “I’ve been able to reduce this time to 4 hours and 9 minutes over the years,” he exclaims. Vaidyanathan developed an interest in running marathons back in 2000, when he was the managing director of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, and has always run for charity. “My ICICI colleagues always encouraged me to follow my passion. I think it was fantastic branding for the company as well.” Since then, Vaidyanathan hasn’t stopped running and recently completed his 21st run at the Delhi marathon on November 29. “I was never a long-distance runner. I liked playing cricket and volleyball, like any other kid,” recollects Vaidyanathan.
He has been a regular participant in marathons and has completed about seven full marathons and 14 half marathons (21 km). Vaidyanathan says he prefers half marathons to full, as preparations for the latter end up compromising family and work. “Preparing for 21 km doesn’t really consume too much time — you spend half as much time practicing and get the best of both worlds,” he says, adding that the practice process requires a lot of discipline. “You have to set a fixed time for when you sleep and eat and also watch what you eat.” Apart from being a teetotaller, Vaidyanathan also keeps away from junk food. “I personally prefer a diet that is rich in protein and carbohydrates. Eat as and when you want to, but not junk.” Case in point: his evening snack is comprised of five boiled eggs and a sandwich. “People obsess about diet food, but in fact you have to stick to a normal diet. I’ve realised that being disciplined about your food habits keeps you happy and healthy.” He prepares religiously for every marathon and believes that the discipline of running a marathon every year ensures that he keeps fit. “I follow an extremely regular pre-marathon practice routine. Throughout the year, I wake up at 6.30 am and leave for a run by 7 am. I prefer running about 5km per day on normal days or up to 15-18km per week. I try to cover about 25-30 km per week three months before a marathon,” he explains. Usually, Vaidyanathan runs three days a week and makes his longest runs on Sundays. “On the rest of the days, I set aside time for weight training,” he adds. He says that there are times when he stays up late at night but never does he sacrifice his run.
Vaidyanathan also believes that music — he listens to English songs with fast beats — has a great impact on his speed. Although he has stopped using his iPod during his weekly runs, he confesses that he can’t do without listening to music on marathon day. “I’ve learnt over a few instances that running with music can be very risky. I listen to it only when I’m participating in a marathon,” he adds. The one thing — apart from his iPod — that he does not forget to carry during marathons is his phone. “I keep coordinating with my wife — she meets me en route once or twice,” he smiles. Every marathon, Vaidyanathan says, is about 70% of regular practice. “I believe that anybody who can put in regular effort can run half marathons easily. But one should not get so obsessed with sports that you forget everything else. It’s a fetish and should be kept under control. Too much of anything can be bad,” he quips. In his free time, Vaidyanathan also loves to play the guitar and sing songs. “Being a father of three little kids, I have to match their energy levels. It is therefore essential for me to remain fit, fresh and energetic,” he says, closing his eyes once again, trying to remember something. “When I joined Capital First, the workload was a killer. It was around this time that I started my regular running regime and I have not taken a single sick leave since,” he says, vouching for his running habit.