Emerging Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on April 01, 2019

Naveen Tewari, Founder and CEO,   -  N. Ramakrishnan

Ramesh Srinivas, CEO, Worxogo Solutions   -  N. Ramakrishnan

Vilva Natarajan, Founder & CEO, Karomi Smart Solutions   -  N. Ramakrishnan

Running provides founders the time and space for a clear mind

Being an entrepreneur, you are told, is a long and lonely journey. It is not a sprint, but a marathon. You need to have passion and fire in the belly to succeed as an entrepreneur. You trip and stumble, you need to get back quickly on to your feet and resume running. As an entrepreneur, you need a lot of stamina to stay the course. And, ask founders about their journey, a lot of them tell you that it is like running a full marathon.

No wonder then that when you ask entrepreneurs, or even venture capitalists, what their hobbies are, running would top the list. Of course, they need to find the time, given that an entrepreneur wears many hats.

What is it that attracts entrepreneurs to running? Kalpathi Suresh, serial entrepreneur turned investor, is not sure of the link, but says, “running and especially running long, builds mental stamina and a confidence that you will be there at the finish whatever the task at hand.”

According to some founders, running helps them get into what they call a zone and clears their thinking. “Definitely it does,” says Suresh, and adds, “I run my long distances alone and that is the best time to ideate and work through complex issues; and, since I run pretty early in the morning and in a university ambience, the quiet and the natural setting tremendously aid the process.”

Vilva Natarajan, CEO, Karomi Smart Solutions, says he loves running. “I am a marathoner. Mornings, 5 o‘clock every day. I try to do 40-50 km every week. I love running. One, health. (It gives me) time for myself and a lot of time to think. It gives me tremendous amount of time for myself. Typicals runs week-days are an hour, an hour and 15 minutes. Week-ends are much longer, about 2-3 hours.”

Naveen Tewari, Founder & CEO, InMobi, the first Indian start-up to become a Unicorn, says there are two-three things about running and entrepreneurs. One, it is the time when you get to think. When you are running, you are the clearest in that time. You have no distractions. Typically you are running early in the morning, so you don’t have that many distractions any way. You are fresh off. “That half an hour or 45 minutes or one hour that you end up running is the best thinking time that you get. I actually think of it as the best way to start work is to go for a run. Because you come out of it and you have figured out, two-three things,” says Naveen.

Vilva says he has finished 30 full marathons so far, while Suresh has been running for about 25 years, more or less coinciding with the time when he was an entrepreneur. “The highlight of all my runs is completing the big six – London, Tokyo, Berlin, New York, Chicago and Boston,” says Suresh. What is it that attracts people like you to running? Says Suresh, “I guess my love for a challenge that can put to test my resoluteness, perseverance and persistence; it was the same qualities that drew me to entrepreneurship itself.”

Fitness reason

Many took to running for fitness reasons, but have eventually moved on to running for fun, the camaraderie with fellow runners or as a challenge. For Ramesh Srinivas, CEO, Worxogo Solutions Pvt Ltd, who has been running for 15-20 years, running is a de-stresser. Second, he says, it is time to yourself. “Third,” he adds, “there is a certain thrill in pushing yourself to doing a little more than what you actually can. Which is tough, but when you complete it or finish it, there is a deep sense of satisfaction.”

Anant Mani, CEO, Report Bee, who has run part-marathons or 10Ks and aims to run a half-marathon, says the exertion calms the mind. All other physical activities, there is constant noise and conversation. Not so with running when you are all by yourself and the physical exertion makes sure you do not have the energy to think of anything else. You stretch a little bit, the end goal you keep pushing, the adrenaline rush, you have the runner’s high, he says.

Suresh, who runs about 300 km a month, says his training varies before a marathon. Between big runs, it is usually regular fixed distances and at an easy pace. Before a marathon, he scales up the distance gradually, with big runs on a Sunday, and does a 35+ km run a week before the marathon. He also builds strength and speed by doing shorter runs at higher speeds and generally starts winding down the training a week before the marathon and build up capacity for the D-Day. Also, binge on pasta/similar carbs a day before the run. For him a typical training for a marathon would be about three months.

With more people taking to running, there are many runners’ clubs in each city, giving the space for networking. As a venture capitalist termed it, running is the new golf, meaning it helps in networking, like businessmen used to meet on golf courses to discuss and strike deals. The only thing is running is more democratic and light on your wallet.

Published on April 01, 2019

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