Define Taru Mateti in a word.
From a corporate worker to a runner?
As a corporate worker, when I got too obsessed with my job and weighted down by self-inflicted household responsibilities, I gained a lot of weight and lost fitness. My cholesterol went too high, and then I decided to take matters back in my hand. I got back into fitness, but it was more of badminton, aerobics, walking, and a little gymming back then in 2009. A little over five years ago, in 2013 on a casual run, I realized how I loved it and suddenly took to running as an outdoor activity. I had never ever been involved in any outdoor sport until then. And then there was no looking back. The number of runs increased, as did the distances.
What triggered you to quit your high profile corporate job and come into running?
High profile job it certainly was as a Delivery Head (equivalent to AVP). I have worked for about 30+ years in various jobs: school teacher, college lecturer, research assistant, education consultant, and finally in IT jobs. I have been very passionate about my jobs and given more than 100% by shouldering extra responsibilities, is what I believe. However, in the last year of my job, my role had changed a little and I was hugely distracted by my running and fitness activities. Some days, I found myself waiting for the 8 hours to get over so that I could get back home. I found myself searching for fitness and nutrition websites during work hours when I had time, instead of doing the usual professional reading that I used to do earlier. In addition to this, when I had running injuries due to lack of balance or strength, the physiotherapists would recommend icing and some specific rehab exercises 4-5 times a day. My work timings would never allow that and at times I would do these once in 3 days! I really felt the need for “me” time then. Since a couple of years, talks of me retiring from corporate life (even if in jest) were regularly cropping up at home.
And then, when I had to fill in my appraisal form that Mar 2017, I realized that the time had come. My passion had changed and I felt guilty continuing with my job where I wasn’t giving 100%. I had planned my finances to live decently, and with my husband’s unstinting support, I knew there was no compulsion to work only for money. Professionally, I felt that I had accomplished what I wanted to. That’s when – after four years of overlap between a senior corporate job and running – I decided to slow down the pace of my rushed life and focus on things that I wanted to do more.
How do you cope up with young runners on the field as you are not of the quintessential age?
In running one doesn’t have to cope with anything one doesn’t want to, other than one’s own self. It is more of an individual sport. If anything, I have the advantage of being on the other side of 50, and I am fortunate to get a lot of respect from other runners.
The most memorable running event of your life & why?
No event can be classified as most memorable, and I believe that the most memorable is yet to come; it’s the next one � But if you insist, it undoubtedly is My first Comrades Ultra last year. At the end of the run, just before the finish, I stepped out of the track, touched the ground and folded my hands to thank God, my coach, and all my friends and family who have supported me.
Past: There have been so many races that I can’t really list all of them. Some important ones are listed below in the order of distance. 1.One 100K Pune Ultramarathon 2.One Comrades Ultra (90.2K) 3.One 12-hour Mumbai Ultra (83+K) 4.Three 50K Ultras in Pune (one as pacer 50+11) 5.Nine Full Marathons (Mumbai-3,Delhi-2,Bengaluru-2,Hyderabad,Vadodara) 6.Two 25K runs (Mumbai, Bengaluru) 7. Half Marathons : 40+ 8. 10k: 35+
Personal Best: 10K: 00:50:13 Half Marathon: 1:54 Full Marathon: 4:24 50K: 5:54 Comrades Ultra (90.2): 10:53 100K Ultra: 13:54
What according to you was the one moment when your life changed its course?
Our life is made of many such moments; hence it is difficult to mention one.When my dad got posted from small-town Jabalpur to Pune when I got into COEP, when,I met my fauji hubby, when we had our daughter when I took to school teaching ,when I got back into IT, when my daughter decided to go to Melbourne to do her Masters, when I started running, and finally, when I quit my job….all these are times when my life has changed its course.
How do you raise funds for your races? Did your family support?
It was easier while I was working. Now my husband sponsors me, happily – especially for the runs that aren’t in Pune. Additionally, there is some prize money also sometimes.
I belong to a typical (upper) middle-class family with the father being in Ordnance Factory service and mother a school teacher. My father-in-law was an army officer and so was my husband until he took voluntary retirement after serving for 28 years and joined an MNC. I have a brother and a sister and so does he; we both are the eldest. I had a modest upbringing where all the necessities were provided for, but there wasn’t much indulgence. We were taught to be financially conscious and education was given utmost importance.
When I started running, as expected, everyone was concerned about the volume as well as intensity. And justifiably so, because I had (have) a tendency to get injured very easily. All the years of the kind of lifestyle most of us have led to many imbalances and weaknesses in
the body. I had to take long injury breaks at times. Initially, everyone thought that this was a fad and would pass away after I ran one half and one full marathon, which happened within eight months of starting to run. However, they realized that I was hooked and this passion was to stay.
So it went through various stages until it finally reached acceptance – I have in my Mother-in-law, one of my biggest fans. My family is very proud of our running accomplishments, but they do care about our health and possible injuries too. The principal benefit I have is that both my husband and I run, so that makes it two of us who definitely support each other!
What do sports mean to you? What according to you will be the future of running in the next decade?
For now, fitness is my passion. So I feel a little restless and cranky if I am unable to put in my workout some day. Running makes me feel alive, and I am more alive now than I ever was!
Very difficult to say about the future of running, but the way things are going, we will definitely have more people on the roads. I see more involvement of technology and better events giving runners more options. I certainly hope that we will also have some runner-friendly roads and routes. More globalization of the sport is a given. What is very heartening, is to see the number of Women, of all ages and from all walks of life, hitting the streets running, these days. I expect more women-friendly runners, races, and traffic too.
When you run a distance what exactly you think? running for hours, sometimes ultra runs, what comes in your mind.
It helps to love your own company. I talk to myself, sometimes have full, imaginary conversations with others, write blog articles in my mind (which never see the light of the day later), draft facebook posts :D, sing songs, count my steps to 100 in a loop, look around, occasionally talk to other runners, brainstorm, or sometimes simply get into a meditative mode. Earlier when I was still working, I used to even draft official emails or find solutions to official issues while running!
Any specific reason why you chose to make your career in running while there are a plethora of various sports?
I am a recreational runner, so I don’t have a career in running! I run because I like running, the challenges and the benefits it brings. Also, because I can run anytime, anywhere – there are days when I wake up late and go for a run at 11 am; or after a morning gym session, go
for a run at 2 pm. There is also the social angle; running has given me some very good friends! I used to play badminton earlier and have won many trophies in intercorporate badminton tournaments too. I would love to play some more badminton, but my running,
yoga, strength/core training, Pilates, and occasional cycling don’t leave any day for it.
Who is your idol athlete in the Indian elite category?
I am more inspired by recreational athletes than elites, and by so many of them in different ways at different times!
Top 5 best running event in India & why?
I can only pick from the ones I have run and can’t shortlist further from the following 7! A run is good due to the running experience, starting with the basics and going to the frills. All of these runs are very professionally organized with a great personal touch!
Airtel Hyderabad Marathon
All NEB events
Mumbai 12-hour Ultra
Pune Half Marathon
Bajaj Allianz Pune Half Marathon
Do you still miss your corporate life?
Surprisingly, when I left my job, I thought that I would think about the ongoing projects and clients. Besides, I had never ever been at home like this! I was always working, planning, scheduling, multitasking (context-switching), and efficiently prioritizing as well as rushing through things! However, I have been able to slow down the pace of life now; I keep myself busy by developing other interests and don’t miss my corporate job. I do think fondly about my team, my seniors and the organization sometimes but I don’t miss the corporate life. In fact, I would find it very difficult if I had to go back to that now.