Impulsive, Whacky and a Brilliant Ultra Marathoner – Adil Nargolwala
When I met Adil Nargolwala for the first time last week in Gurgaon, what struck me was the energy he exudes. It had been a long day for him. He had cycled 45 km in the morning, followed by a full day at work post which he spent talking to me for more than an hour in the evening. There were no signs of fatigue. In fact he had plans to drive down to Delhi to attend a close friend’s birthday celebration!
Adil wears multiple hats. Apart from being an active runner and cyclist, Adil has a full time demanding job as a senior professional. He is involved in charity work and is the President of the building association where he lives.
During our conversation in his beautiful apartment in Gurgaon, browsing through his medals and certificates collection with his two dogs lying at our feet, I discovered there were many more impressive things in store.
Tell me about yourself.
Adil – I am 46 years old, Parsi, born and brought up in Delhi. I moved to Gurgaon a few years back so my circle of family and friends as well as activities is spread across Gurgaon & Delhi. I wasn’t much into sports during school days. However, during college I got into motorsports where I had a pretty successful stint. Later I gave up competing in motorsports due to other priorities but continued as a senior steward of the motorsports federation. I have two sons, both away in college now. I am lucky that my wife runs as well.
On the work front, I am the Talent Acquisition head for of a large global BPM company. I am fortunate that my organisation wholeheartedly supports my passion for running by allowing me to combine my travel around running events at times. I also head the Sports function in my organisation.
How did you start running?
Adil – My introduction to running was accidental. In 2009, I was in Pune for an office meeting when I read about the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (SCMM) scheduled for the following Sunday. Out of nowhere I decided I should run the half marathon. Registrations were closed a long time back. Fortuitously, the medical director for the event turned out to be a friend of mine and he helped me secure an entry. That Sunday I ran the SCMM half marathon in 2 hrs 26 min.
Wow! You ran a half marathon for the first time without any training in such an impressive time! How did you manage that?
Adil – I have always been very impulsive. There have been events where I changed to a higher distance category minutes before flag-off. In the 2nd Nilgiris Ultra, I had registered for 50K. Five minutes before the start I pleaded with the organizers and got myself upgraded to 70K. I went on to complete the new distance and stood 2nd overall. On another occasion I ran in two events on the same day – half marathon in the morning and 10K in the evening.
Why do you run?
Adil – Running for me is the purest form of individual sport. When you run, you are with yourself. Anyone can run, there is no structure or company or tools required. Human beings are natural runners. Pre-historic human beings ran to find food or ran away from predators. Running helps me lead a healthy lifestyle. I go to bed on time and wake up early. I eat right and avoid packaged food. I am a teetotaler and gave up smoking over 15 years ago. Since my wife is also a runner it is easier to maintain this lifestyle. I love the feeling of crossing the finish line and collecting my medal and certificate.
How has running changed you?
Adil – When you run in events, no matter how well prepared you are, there are times when your body cries but you need to go on. It’s like looking deep inside an empty barrel and still finding something. You ask yourself why are you doing this when you could be sleeping that very moment. Running makes you tough. Once you start running, work challenges seem trivial. There is a huge sense of achievement every time you complete a race.
Tell us about the running events you have participated in.
Adil – So far I have completed over 90 running events. The longest distance I have run is 74 KM (as part of 12 hr Trail-a-thon in Gurgaon). I have run marathons abroad in the US, Canada & Bhutan. In India I have run in Leh, Shimla, Chandigarh, Panchkula, Corbett, Kathgodam, Mukteshwar, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Jaipur, Mumbai, Alibaug, Goa, Hyderabad, Vizag, Bangalore, Ooty, Pondicherry, and Chennai.
Any DNFs or injuries which impacted you? (DNF – Did not finish)
Adil – Thankfully, no DNFs for me yet. I have completed all the runs that I have participated in. Being injury free has certainly helped. I ensure that I never over-train.
Did you ever feel you hit the “glass ceiling” in running?
Adil – Every runner goes through a plateau phase when you feel there can be no further improvements. However, I have never run for time. I run because I enjoy running. The fun part of running is more important to me even if it takes extra time. When I ran the New York Marathon, I ended up running 2 km extra! I took more than 200 pictures on the way. It was a huge party and I was thrilled to be a part of it. There were 50 thousand runners and about 500 thousand supporters. For me the fun I had in that run was far more important than my finishing time.
Are you into any other other sports besides running?
Adil – I am an active cyclist and have been an Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur thrice (for completing a series of 200,300,400 and 600 kms within the same season). I have participated in Duathalons and Triathalons, an Ironman 70.3 distance event. I’ve also been pacer in some running events.
What is your typical training schedule?
Adil – I do not follow a structured training schedule for running. In fact I don’t do many training runs. I mostly run only in events. I do a lot of cross training (cycling and swimming) and weight training.
How do you balance your running and cycling with your personal / professional time?
Adil – I train before people wake up. Most of the events happen on Sunday mornings and start early, which means I am back home while everyone else is still in bed. When I travel, I use the gym or swim in the hotel pool. If you want to do something, you can. If not, there will always be excuses.
Who is your inspiration for running?
Adil – There is no single person or athlete I draw my inspiration from. When I was growing up I drew inspiration from Muhammad Ali and the Indian cricketers. I admired Lance Armstrong until he admitted to doping. I find movies like “Chariots of Fire” highly inspiring. Eventually all runners are heroes and we inspire each other.
Do you mentor anyone?
Adil – It’s interesting that you ask that. I was recently approached by the New York Marathon organizers and have signed up for remote mentoring. I am hoping to get selected. Apart from that, my younger son is the youngest Super Randonneur in North India. I believe I have helped him reach there in some ways. I am also the Sports Leader for my organization. After I took up this responsibility, a few hundred people in my office started running. I also have lots of followers on my Facebook page. Many times they put a post or write a message quoting me as an inspiration. It gives me a high.
Adil – Right now, I am focussing on completing the 6 major runs in the next 2 years. Having finished the New York Marathon already, I am running the London Marathon in April followed by Berlin Marathon in September. Next year I will run Tokyo and Chicago, finishing off with Boston in 2017. I will continue to run all over the country including the 100K Chandertaal ultra this year in August.
Do you have any message for our readers?
Adil – It is never too late to start running. I started when I was 39 and Fauja Singh started much later. Having said that, I believe sports should be compulsory in schools. There should be marks sports, say 10%. Such steps will help improve the culture of sports in the country.
Thank you Adil, it was wonderful talking to you.
Adil – Same here. Thank you too.
Rajni Singh is a running enthusiast and IT professional based in Gurgaon.