A section of Cubbon park can be converted into sports park’

He started running because it was the most convenient and simply accessible way to work out. But today, Ashok Nath, 49, has been awarded the most inspiring runner of the year award.

The Boston Marathon qualifier from namma Bengaluru, who stays in Koramangala for over 21 years now, writes on running and fitness. He is now planning to set up a venture that will primarily focus on educating runners on proper running form. He talks about running, inspiration and what goes into it to be a good runner.   

What inspired you to run?

Like any other youngster, I was more into team games like football, cricket and so forth. But once I started working, I decided to switch from contact to non-contact sports to minimise injuries and yet get a workout. Running, swimming and cycling became the natural choices and of these running was the most convenient and became the more regular activity. I have never looked back as running kept me fit, high on confidence and full of energy, all traits that served me well in the corporate world.

You have received an award for the Most Inspiring Runner in Applause 2012 – the Bangalore first ever Runners’ Award Ceremony recently. How does it feel?

I always tell a person that anything they decide to focus upon should be done well, with passion and sincerity. My own running achievements are a result of exactly this approach as I have paid my dues, and made the necessary sacrifices to reach this level. But there is still some distance to conquer.

What do you do to inspire and encourage runners?

Quite simply, I lead from the front, by example. I believe that fellow runners see a steely determination in me; a fighting spirit that showcases what is possible if there is heart. At another level, I openly share my knowledge about running technique and training through the spoken and written word so that others may learn and improve.

Where have you participated in running apart from Bangalore?

Last year I decided to raise the bar for myself and test myself at global races. Presently I am a three time qualifier for the iconic Boston Marathon, and going forward plan to participate in the other global races that comprise the Big 5 in Running – namely New York Marathon, Berlin Marathon, Chicago Marathon and the London Marathon.

Overall runner of the year. Pic: Applause 2012

How is it to run on an international ground?

You truly experience a big race fever at the global races, as the fervour levels are high. At Boston, the whole city comes alive supporting the event and the crowds stream the course. Even the Mayor of the city runs the race to showcase his support. Your running mates at global races are truly of cosmopolitan nature with representation from many countries.

With a lot of running associations, do you think it’s a fashion/trend to run more than the health quotient?

I don’t subscribe to that view. Of course there would be a minority who come into running for the "social angle" as running allows you to meet like-minded and attractive people. But very soon they too are converted as they feel endorphins run through their bodies that give them a "runners high". And, they also love their new streamlined look.

How have you seen the running capital of India (Bangalore) emerge?

It has been a slow process but a positive one nevertheless. Our salubrious weather makes running an easier sport to adopt than in other cities and we have the benefit of having several players in the running ecosystem here. Just come to Cubbon Park on a Sunday, or even visit Kanteerva Stadium in the mornings, and you will see runners of all ages running to stay fit. I only wish we could retain our green belts and not concretise everything as even Cubbon is going that path.

How do you find Bangalore compared to other cities when it comes to sports and athletics?

At the end of the day we are all Indians, and it is only the pace of the city that creates some degree of difference. Rather than just compare Bangalore to other cities, I think that overall Indians sportsmen must be more competitive, more driven and more hungry so as not to settle for just any standard of achievement.

If you compare the Indian athletics with international standard, how far have we scored?

You must remember that success is not always in the hands of the individual athlete. In today’s competitive sports, an athlete depends on scientific personalised coaching, access to the right accessories for his specific event, proper training facilities also the reassurance from the higher authorities that his career shall be looked after so that he can focus on his sport.

I will add another two facets, namely the support from society in general and the mindset of our athletes. Elaborating on the former, only when we respect our sportsmen will sports truly thrive and I look forward to the day when a girl feels comfortable to bring home a boy and introduce him to her parents as a budding sportsman. As for the mindset, our athletes need to think beyond merely national levels, think positive and not worry about being aggressive in their pursuit for success.

Indian standards have improved no doubt, the gaps have narrowed but there is still some way to go. It is not fully correct to lay blame on our smaller physique, as there are shining examples of Chinese athletes who have struck gold in this field.    

What is that one thing you would like to change about Bangalore and its sports activities?

As a former Brand Consultant, I see a marketing opportunity for a Private-Public Partnership in establishing "sports parks". For example, our Cubbon Park, or at least a large section of it, could be made a Sports Park where a private developer manages the property which will have well laid out cycle paths, jogging and walkers tracks with proper bathing and refreshment space. And the facilities are charged, daily or membership option. This scheme could be done across Bangalore where green space is available.  

Presently the public expects everything to be free, and given the limited resources allocated to sports by the authorities, it’s no surprise that we have sub-standard facilities, with no discipline.

What are your hobbies?

I like reading, watching movies, engaging in intelligent conversation and generally absorbing life happening around me. As an ex-brand consultant, the field of consumer behaviour has always fascinated me and it’s interesting to observe people and brands. I adore dogs and seeing me feeding stray dogs is a common sight.

And, as I have decided to enjoy the journey and not focus exclusively on goals, I am able to approach my running career as a hobby. So my run training and strength sessions are not a chore but actually enjoyable activities.

What is your favourite hangout in Bangalore?

Hmmmm. I think it’s more the right company than the venue that is the deciding factor for me.

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