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In the long run

Shrenik Avlani | Updated on February 15, 2019 Published on February 15, 2019

Running helps Mansi Madan Tripathy clear her mind and keeps her energetic through the day

One Mother’s Day, Mansi Madan Tripathy asked her elder daughter to run a half-marathon as a special gift. What’s jaw-dropping is that Sanskriti wasn’t even 10 years old then. And it becomes even more interesting when the MD of Shell Lubricants India reveals that her daughter ran the half-marathon twice. For the first race — the GreyLock mountain half-marathon in Massachusetts in 2012 — she had her ultra-runner (a person who runs longer distances than a marathon, which is of 42.195 km) father Sidharth as company but there was no medal to show for it. When her classmates rubbished her claims of having run a half-marathon, the child, then nine, put their doubts to rest by winning a medal in a certified race (organised by a body and recognised by a local or global athletic board).

This memory still brings a smile to the face of Tripathy, who started running during her job with Procter & Gamble in Singapore. This was right after she gave birth to her second child 12 years ago. “I was becoming unfit and fat. Running is a part of Singapore’s national culture. I got hooked to it soon and have not looked back,” she says.

 

Tripathy started with short runs and, with every passing week, increased her mileage till she was able to run faster and longer. While she has never had a trainer, she found guidance from the running groups she later joined.

Since then she has changed cities and jobs but running has been a constant. That’s because the sport has a significant impact on all aspects of her life. “It helps me be more disciplined, be more thankful to ‘forces’ that give me the strength to keep going, helps clear my mind, keeps me energetic through the day and makes me just tired enough to get good sleep,” she says. She trains five days a week and does yoga on Mondays.

Pre-planning is key

As running holds many benefits for her, Tripathy is mindful of not missing her daily workout even during work-related travel and with long hours in office. “My work involves travel, engagement with external stakeholders, official dinners and unpredictable schedule. This puts tremendous pressure on training schedule. I try and mitigate it by pre-planning the week. When I travel, I try to take flights that allow me time to train either in the morning or evening,” she adds.

Tripathy, who has 56 half-marathons and one full in her legs (Tata Mumbai Marathon, the Solang Ultra, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, for example), gets going first thing in the morning — “without checking my phone, so that I can remain undistracted… A wrong mail can put you off.” She doesn’t stress if she happens to miss a day’s training. Instead, she focuses on picking it up the next day. She adopts a similar principle at work.

She trains with multiple running groups in Gurugram, all of which are an important part of her journey: “All runners share their experiences, plan trips, discuss areas where one is getting stuck. They encourage each other and, most importantly, the fact that others are waiting for you early in the morning motivates you to get out and make it on time for the training. It’s a full ecosystem that enables you to grow.”

At Shell, where employee fitness and safety are important themes, everyone focuses on being active. They get external speakers for topics such as nutrition, meditation and yoga, organise in-house fitness contests (for example, one-minute challenges, during which participants have to do sit-ups or hold plank), and maintain a leaderboard to track a participant’s progress.

Leaders, athletes are gender-neutral

Running has played a vital role in shaping Tripathy’s leadership, as well. Some of the important lessons in running that she applies to her work-life, too, are:

Goal setting: On a given day you can run 3 km or 30 km depending on what goal you set for yourself… Likewise in business the goals we set are critical to stretch and achieve those.

Discipline: To get strong, one needs to make sacrifices in order to adhere to his or her running schedule. In the same way, achieving success in business needs discipline, managing priorities, working on what’s critical and daily rigour.

Inspire and be inspired: Both running and leadership are about inspiring others and also a lot about being inspired by others to do better.

Dealing with setbacks: Work pressure, injuries and many other things prevent you from achieving targets. Running teaches you to take them in your stride.

Give and take: There are many people who help you in your running journey. I am always thankful to them. It’s no different at work. “It’s always about multiple people who help you achieve the goals and one has to always give back,” Tripathy says.

The key tenet that defines Tripathy is her firm belief that business leaders and athletes are gender-neutral.

“The focus is on core capacity, capability and competency to take others with you — that the responsibility is the same for a man or a woman in delivering the task assigned, and do it to the best of one’s ability,” she explains.

With the mileage in her legs and business acumen in her head, Tripathy inspires her team to “leave behind the excuse of too much work for not being physically fit.” This, in turn, “inspires me to do more”.

(Keeping Pace is a series on business heads in India and their passion for running)

Shrenik Avlani

 

Shrenik Avlani is a freelance journalist and author based in Kolkata

Published on February 15, 2019
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