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The morning run declutters my mind, says Sumit Sharma

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-06-2017 Shrenik Avlani

A brand founded by a sportsman needs a few sportsmen to lead its operations. That explains why Sumit Sharma, 41, a runner for 14 years, is the chief operating officer of Lacoste—the brand founded by French tennis player Jean René Lacoste—in India. A management graduate from the All India Management Association and an Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, alumnus, running came to Sharma as a professional hazard.

In 2004, he went to the Athletics Federation of India to complete a business tie-up, when he got a chance to see some elite runners in action at a half marathon in Delhi. “I was so inspired that I started running. Initially, it was very difficult but I kept pushing.” He ran his first half marathon in 2005 after five months of preparation and has never stopped since. Sharma believes it is important to have a fit and healthy team in the office because it not only improves performance at work but sticking to a fitness activity also helps de-stress.

“Honestly, I can’t imagine one reason why any employer or company wouldn’t encourage employees to stay fit,” he says. This year, Sharma, who has run 18 half marathons (fastest run; 2 hours, 20 minutes), four full marathons (fastest run: 5 hours, 25 minutes) and one triathlon, aims to run an ultra-marathon and complete a half Ironman triathlon. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Does running affect your performance at work?

Indeed, running definitely enhances performance. My work schedule typically requires long working hours and travel. Running gives me the endorphin boost which keeps me energetic and in a great mood the entire day. The morning run declutters my mind and helps me make mindful decisions.

How do you balance your training and work?

Passion finds space for itself no matter how busy your daily routine is. I start my day early, train at 5am and return at 7.30am in time to head to work.

How does leading by example as a fit leader affect your team members?

My team consists of passionate colleagues, most of them indulge in their own fitness regime. Although, no one in my team is a regular runner but they have their own fitness mantra. We encourage them to participate in physical activities and sports, which not only (help) develop a healthy body and a beautiful mind but also help them stay focused, work as a unit and always stay awesome.

Are their any leadership lessons in distance running?

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Your speed doesn’t count. It’s your resilience, inner strength, unshakeable conviction and discipline that define success. Also, it’s not just about reaching the finish line but what one becomes because of the experiences in the quest of reaching the finish line defines oneself. I have realized from my running that no matter how difficult things get, it is only your inner drive that can push you through. It has also taught me how to face the unknown: break up difficult tasks and take one step at a time and have a solution-oriented approach. One of the guru mantras I treasure is: “Sulking never helps.”

Has running changed the way you work and network?

Since I started running, I am more in control of my work while respecting timelines. As for networking, I am able to strike an instant connect with other runners even if we meet for business.

Who are your training buddies?

My newest running buddy is my 11-year-old daughter. Of late, she has started running 3km with me at a time.

Describe your training regimen.

I train six days a week. Since I aspire to complete half Ironman this year, I have included some variation in my training regimen. I swim twice a week, run thrice and one day is dedicated to a long cycle ride.

Your toughest race.

My toughest race was the Ladakh Marathon. Low oxygen levels played havoc with my breathing and the terrain was the toughest I have ever run in. Nevertheless, it also happens to be my most memorable run since the backdrop of Ladakh was breathtaking.

Running With The Boss is a series where CEOs, MDs and senior executives talk about leadership lessons, management mantras, the importance of a fit team and striking a work-life balance through running.

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