Soul speak with Parul Sheth

Let’s meet the incredible runner, architect, mother and author of The Running Soul, as she takes us through the journey of transforming her blog into a full-fledged book, her musings and approach towards running, and how we can all use running to help life blossom to its full potential.

Congratulations on the book coming out and on your SCMM 42K. Could you relive your SCMM 2015 for us? When do you start training in the year specifically with SCMM in mind?

This SCMM was an amazing experience as I got my PB – I worked hard for it all year round. The minute I crossed the finish line last year with 4.09, I knew that was my target for SCMM 2015. It has been a long hard year, and all my training and races were planned with this being my marquee race.

During this race I met some inspiring runners on the way. 2 runners from Delhi, who had finished with me- Akshay was one, Otmar from Germany on his 99th marathon, and Rajesh from Bangalore, on his 28th, who encouraged me and told me I was going strong and baang on pace.

All was going well until 32K, when we all know, that the marathon really begins. I plugged in my iPod. I struggled up the Peddar road incline and walked 20 steps. I gave into my weakness, but then I ran on. I fought the last 6K and my friend Mulraj paced me to a strong finish.

You have a successful running blog – when did you first think of taking the leap from a blog to a book? How did you go about envisioning what you wanted the book to be?

I had always wanted to write a book- I just never knew on what. So, last year around August 2014 on a training run, suddenly the entire format of the book flashed in my head, and that gave me the kick start I needed for the book. I had material from the last 5 years from the running blog therunningsoul.com , as well as another one which in I write on life and other things. So with that, I began to weave my story. This book is a combination of chunks of the blog, as well as a lot of new stuff.

This book represents the end of a phase in my life. The race of SCMM 2014 taught me a lot, and I wanted this book to come out before this SCMM, so that I could move on to a new place. So, I set myself the seemingly impossible deadline of 4 months. With a lot of help of my friends, everything fell in place and I had my book launch on 16th January, just 2 days before the race.

The book is deeply personal. Was the process of reliving memories and events cathartic? How did you deal with this emotional process, while still making sure that you were meeting your writing goals?

The flow of the book was organic. I had the whole manuscript ready in a month, and went through several edits. I had some friends and family reading it and reviewing it, as I was unsure. Based on their inputs, I would add and subtract from it. The final manuscript was in my hand in the first week of December. It was a lot of work, and painful too. I was writing of a time from my life which was very difficult. But, this was a story I wanted to share- I want to give courage and hope to others who are in an abyss. If we have the courage, we can all rise above our situations. If I can do it, anyone can.

As an author, I never really thought that book was perfect, but I had to meet my deadlines, so I just went with the flow. Sometimes, we are our harshest critics, and tend to lose perspective of the larger picture. That is when having friends becomes important, so that they can knock some sense into your head!

6) Your family, of course, is a big part of your running journey and this book. Did they have a lot of input into The Running Soul? How do they feel about you now being a published author?

My family has been my biggest strength all through- for my running, for my writing, and for my career. Particularly when I was writing the book, they were patient and understood the times when I have needed my space, and when I wasn’t there for my kids sometimes. Even my kids were as excited as me for the book. Yes, my kids, and a couple of my friends have been a great bouncing board, and I would get different suggestions from each one. So, I am proud to say that this book is an assimilation of all our work!

The Running Soul occupies a unique space among other running books – it’s accessible and speaks to the everyday runners. What do you wish for your readers to take away from this book?

Thanks, that is quite a compliment. This book is written to show all of us, runners or anyone, that each mountain makes you stronger. All we have to do is take small steps in the right direction and with hard work we will reach our peak. We should not get intimidated by the long road- just keep our head up high and move on. One step in front of the other. In life, in work, and otherwise. And, SMILE!

Running is now widely acknowledged as being therapeutic, and you are a great example of this. How have you channelled the psychological benefits of running into other areas of your life?

Once I saw the joy of having new things in life, and the pleasure that a non-career goal can bring you, I have taken on several new projects. I did things that I had always wanted to do- but never gave them the required time and effort. Now, I learn the piano and read English classics, along with work and running. All these are time consuming but they feed my soul. They are important to me, so I try my best to fit them all in my daily schedule. The more I ran, the better I felt. The better I felt, the more I wanted. I think it is all about making that initial breakthrough.

In the past, you have participated in the more challenging events like the Satara Hill Marathon. How do you train for such events while juggling a full time career and responsibilities at home?

Yes, any sort of training requires juggling. However, time management has now become a part of our blood stream along with multi tasking and smart phones. I usually train early in the morning, before the kids’ school time. If I do need to travel for work, then my shoes go with me. I try not to miss my workouts. Sometimes it requires a fair bit of planning – and I need to keep my priorities in focus at all times. Training like this requires support from everyone. My kids too, have learnt to become independent, as have the people at home.

Any runners – Indian and international- that you look up to?

We have so much to learn from each other. We all have our stories and coping mechanisms. So, each runner inspires another. In particular, there is Abbas, a goldsmith who runs ultramarathons and trains with us- he has a 12 hour job and runs in the remaining time! Amongst the elites, of course number one is Savio D’Souza, the man responsible for creating the love for marathons for so many of us. Also, the struggle of Wilson Kipsang, as he showed us how he created a whole new life for himself. Chrissie Wellington is a triathlete- I learnt a lot about the importance of endurance, and the real meaning of success from reading her book.

What does your 2015 running calendar look like? What are you running goals for this year? Any international events on the horizon?

 This year, I want to run faster half marathons, and eventually, make my full marathon better. So, proper training will start from June. I will just run a bit now, focus on cross training, and stay in shape so that I can push the bar up when I need to. Also, I am now doing some research on which international event I want to participate in. That will most likely be in 2016.

For those who are afraid to take their first steps towards running – any words of encouragement?

Just like anything new we start, I would tell them to start slowly. However, be regular and enjoy the runs. As you run longer, it will become easier. So, just hang in there when it seems really hard, because when you are able to push that mental barrier back, you will emerge a winner on the other side and be able to take on new challenges. The more you effort put into anything, the more satisfying is the achievement. Do remember that the runners you now see running with ease all began like you in the same place!

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