Run, Mohan, run. We ‘like’ you!

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What is it that keeps a 55-year-old motivated to run 42 km? Pat comes the reply: “It’s the lure of those ‘likes’ on Facebook!”

Meet Mohan Iyer, who travelled all the way from Chicago to run his 101st marathon at the Auckland Marathon last Sunday. Neither his sense of humour nor his energy would let you guess that he just finished running  42-odd kilometres.

At the finishing line, in Victoria Park

It all started when Iyer, at the age of 48, was diagnosed with high cholesterol and blood pressure. “I used to weigh around a 100 kg and I had to make some serious lifestyle changes to shed the extra weight. So, the most obvious thing to do was to go to a gym,” explains Iyer. The treadmill runs lead him to join his first 5k run and he realised he “actually enjoyed it”.

Ever since, he has run marathons in all the 50 states in the US. He ran the 6 World Marathon Majors in Tokyo, Chicago, Boston, Berlin, London and New York. “I could not enter Boston Marathon, initially. Then, I learned there was another way to qualify. I raised about 5,000 USD for a local South Asian charity to run the Boston marathon,” says the technical head of a Chicago-based financial company, adding, “Social media helped a lot with online appeals to raise the funds.”

Iyer has always worked for banks and financial institutions, whether it is in India, the UK or the US. As a true-blue professional, he lists the following numbers:

  • In the past 7 years, he has run marathons in all 7 continents, including Antarctica
  • This includes the 50 states in the US and the 6 World Marathon Majors
  • He started running in 2010 and every year plans to run as many marathons/ races as the year number, and invariably beats his own goal. For example, he ran more than 16 races in 2016 and the Auckland Marathon was his 17th run this year
  • New Zealand was the 26th country he ran in, and he plans to run in a 100 countries worldwide

“When I travel to an international destination to run a marathon, I take the evening flight. If possible, I run the day I land, and take the evening flight on the same day to return home,” says Iyer, in an attempt to explain how he balances his professional demands along with his recreational runs. But what about the jetlag? Iyer brushes it aside.

Masala Runner after his 101th marathon

There are enough researches that show that cardiovascular diseases are very common among the South Asian community, “because of the diet and lifestyle that we follow. You need to make a conscious effort to keep the physical ailments in check. That’s the prime objective that I try to promote to the wider community,” says the ‘Masala Runner’.

“It is not just physical fitness. You will be surprised how much the endorphins help you cope with mental stress and work-related anxiety. Those endorphins are an amazing stress buster” he adds.

Born into a vegetarian family, Iyer had to change his diet to non-vegetarian to increase his protein intake. His wife, Alamelu, who continues to be a vegetarian, learned to cook meat to prepare the right kind of meals for the family.

“It’s not just the meals, Alamelu is very supportive. It’s only because of her that I can pick up and travel overseas so often. She is always there to take care of the household. If it’s an exotic destination, then definitely she comes along with me,” says Iyer, as his wife who  accompanied him to Auckland, shares an indulgent smile.

Like father, the couple’s sons are also into marathons. The younger son, who is 27 now, “ran at 7 seven destinations in 7 days back-to-back”, narrate the proud parents. These destinations were Chicago, Sydney, Cairo, Istanbul, Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, and back to Chicago.

The Masala Runner’s next run is in Athens, in Greece, another exotic destination. That would add “another country” to his already commendable list.

“By the way, the reference to Facebook ‘likes’ was a joke,” is his parting shot, as we wrap up our chat. Never mind, Mohan. Keep running for your cause. We ‘like’ you!

The couple at the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata
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