32-year-old Aakash Nambiar, also known as Barefoot Mallu, from Kannur ran for the first time in his life only to get a picture with Milind Soman. But that particular run changed his life for the better. It is there that he understood what his body lacked. When he saw people older than him run with ease and comfort as he struggled, he knew that he wasn’t in the best of shape. Aakash eventually did manage to finish the run, and get a picture from his idol, but he realised he had to do something about his level of fitness. Thus began his journey of understanding the art of running.
Aakash Nambiar is an Engineer and MBA graduate, currently working in an IT firm in the Marketing sector. Ever since he started to run in 2014, after meeting Milind Soman, he began to love endurance sports, especially running and cycling. He shared, “I have taken part in 10 km, 21 km, 42 km and ultra marathons, ran intercity runs like Bangalore to Mysore, Goa to Gokarna, Una to Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, Pondicherry to Chennai, Guwahati to Cherrapunji, Srilanka, Japan and UAE.” Recently Aakash Nambiar came into the limelight for running 118 km from Abu-Dhabi to Dubai in 27 hours. He took the challenge to create awareness and promote a strong message for the youth of UAE to take fitness as a priority.
We got an opportunity to speak to Aakash Nambiar, and here’s his incredible story.
According to you, what does it take to be a runner?
Anybody can run. It’s one of the oldest survival skills for humans. It comes naturally to us due to evolution. With life being more comfortable now, many prefer not to run. All we need is a willingness to start and the main challenge is to get up from bed in the morning. Running does not need any equipment or a particular facility. You can run anywhere and anytime.
You ran for the first time to take a picture with Milind Soman. Can you share one striking experience of that run?
The only motive to go for that run was to take a picture with my childhood superhero ‘Captain Vyom’ Milind Soman. Upon reaching the destination, I realised that the event was a run and not a meet & greet, so I was forced to run (It was my first ever run) to get that dream picture. It was a promotional event for Pinkathon, India’s largest running event for women. It’s there I saw so many inspiring personalities, mostly women. I also got a reality check about my fitness level. All this while, I thought that I was fit because I was lean. But I couldn’t even run more than 2 km at that point. I learned that feeling fit is what matters more than looking fit.
It’s an individual choice. I run barefoot because it is the natural form of running. It’s the natural function of the body, and how we humans used to run years ago. I wouldn’t say that it’s the ideal way of running as there are debates still going on, but I am very much comfortable running barefoot. It’s not just about running barefoot, it is beyond that. Connecting with the earth, understanding that we belong to nature, and allowing myself to feel things raw and pure is what running barefoot means to me. It’s a kind of spiritual feeling that I go through where I shed my ego, and I teach myself to stay grounded and be rooted.
When you go for long-distance runs, what do you think about?
It’s a continuous conflict between body and mind. The mind plays an important role here. Sometimes the body will throw tantrums, but the mind should not give up. It’s all about taking one step at a time, rather than worrying about how much km you’ve got to finish or how much km you have finished so far.
I always try to conserve energy till the last km. Even after finishing a run, I can do around 30-40 push-ups and go home with a smile. During long-distance runs, I always have a conversation in my mind, sometimes friendly, sometimes arguments and it goes on till the finish line. I sometimes talk to my legs, abuse them. I feel like they abuse me back too. I think about everything in this world including my own problems, work and most of the time, I feel my brain works better during runs as I get solutions to the problems I face.
What does a day in the life of Aakash Nambiar look like?
I don’t have a particular routine. Most runners are morning people whereas I am not. I make sure that I get enough sleep and run late in the morning, mostly by 8:30 or 9:30 am when the sun is bright and shining. I have flexible working hours, so once I am done with running and breakfast, I log in and start my work. I go for another run in the evening after work, which is followed by dinner and some social media browsing till late at night. Late to bed, late to rise is my motto. But, no matter what, I make sure that I run every day.
What’s the one thing you learned from Milind Soman?
Every time I meet him, there is something to learn. But the best thing that I have learned from him is to be at the moment. He is the kind of person who does not dwell in the past or think much about the future. Very much realistic. He moves on in life pretty fast and always believes in “RIGHT NOW RIGHT HERE”. It is from him that I am inspired to be a minimalist and only use things that are necessary. He is not just good looks, but very intelligent and very much updated, be it technology or things happening around us. I am his biggest fan.
Apart from incorporating fitness in your life, what else has running taught you?
Never give up in any situation, survival of the fittest, how to cope up with surroundings when things are not in our favour, how to set a goal, how to work on it and achieve. Never compare yourself with anyone, your body and capabilities are entirely different from another human, believe in yourself. How to tackle disappointments in life without giving up. Accept that every day is not the same, some days you feel pumped up, some days you need rest, always listen to the body. How self-motivation is very much required. Encouraging or cheering others gets the best out of them. Winning is not important, giving your best and finishing is important. How to finish things you started off. The level of your patience also improves. I don’t remember the last time I got angry.
The Abu-Dhabi to Dubai run must have been a great running experience for you. Do share the experience.
I didn’t have to prepare as much as I have done intercity runs before and run regularly. But all my intercity runs were with Milind Soman or with 3-4 of my friends. In the Abu Dhabi to Dubai run, I wanted to get out of that comfort zone so decided to run all alone without any support. That was a big challenge as I had nobody to talk to or cheer. So I trained myself by running at odd hours like noon, or in the night when I got bored, all just to train my mind.
The run happened at the end of January. In December and January, I clocked a weekly mileage of 70kKms. I had to carry my own food and water and rest at petrol stations as there are no shops or restaurants on that highway. Also during the run, I was carrying my Go-pro as I wanted to record the entire run, which made me look around and see things differently.
What does Aakash Nambiar aim to do in the future?
Now I focus on creating run-related content rather than just run. When we do these city to city runs, we get to see life so closer which otherwise isn’t the case. Things happening on the highway, the people, the culture, the local cuisine, the smell, the soil, it’s all different every 5 km. I also want the world to see what I see during my runs. I want to educate people about running; it’s not just about fitness but also about making a difference. I want to run for causes and campaigns I believe in. I want to run in different parts of the world and create content. I am definitely looking for brands to support my in this journey.