A Bachelor’s degree in pre-medical and Computer science, MBA post graduate, a set business, family and friends, seems like just another story? Behold, add to it the dream of running the Ironman and you know that its a story to tell.
The Ironman Triathlon is the big daddy of all endurance races: We’re talking about a 1.9km swim, followed by a 90km bike, topped off by a 21.1km run. Let alone winning, many can’t even finish the race. Seems like it’s too much to do?
Not for Rishi Dhingra, who set out to chase his passion for running in late 30’s (kudos), and didn’t just do it for the sake of it, but reached his goals and overcame the odds with flying colors.
As a part of the #IAmLivingit series, Rachana from team Livingit connected with Rishi Dhingra. Here’s Rishi Dhingra in conversation with Livingit.
Livingit: Where are you from and have you always been in sports?
Rishi Dhingra: I’m a Dubai resident but have spent my life between Dubai and Montreal, Canada. I’ve completed a bachelor of Science degree in pre-medical and Computer science from McGill University, Montreal, Canada and have an MBA from Cass Business School, City University London.
I currently run my own business in Dubai and also have a medical IT startup venture on the side. I have always been into sports since very early in life, with tennis, swimming, basketball and cricket as sports I have competed in. In tennis, I played at various levels – varisty in university, then nationally in Canada and at a semi-pro level on the ITF (ATP) circuit for 3 years.
Livingit: For how long have you been running, and what got you started?
Rishi Dhingra: I got into endurance style running fairly recently, about 3 years ago with 10k runs etc. Then, I had set goals of completing a half and full distance ironman triathlons before I turn 40. Currently, I have completed 2 half ironmans, and qualified for the year end half ironman world championships – which unfortunately I couldn’t compete in due to a stress fracture on the second metatarsal of my right foot due to overrunning.
Wondering how to get started at 30? Check: How to run a marathon post 30’s?
I have, for some time wanted to do something useful and quantifiable for a breast cancer charity; my mother finally succumbed to the disease, after a lengthy five-year battle, in 2012. In an attempt to do so, and as a lead up to my first half ironman event, I campaigned to raise money for free pre-emptive breast screenings and mammograms, treatments, and a support structure during and after diagnosis for those women who wouldn’t normally be able to afford it.
I found that Pinkathon, created with the specific purpose of getting more and more women to adopt a fitter lifestyle, has really motivated me. This charity operates in India and organizes women-only marathons across the country. Apart from it taking an approach that appeals to me, it is also headed by actor and model Milind Soman, who himself successfully completely his first full ironman just months shy of his 50th birthday. He is someone who has been very inspirational for me.
Livingit: What makes you say that running has developed into a passion?
Rishi Dhingra: Growing up, as a teen and adult through my 20’s, I used to simply hate distance running. I found it hard, and very boring. It took some motivation, the right guidance and massive changes to my running technique which really start to bring about the change and desire for me to run.
I find distance running (along with distance biking) very therapeutic and mentally relaxing in nature. Although forced to start it due to the goals I set for myself, I now look forward to my runs.
Livingit: An avid long distance runner – what distance would you normally run when you set out by yourself?
Rishi Dhingra: So, not every run is a long, steady, distance (LSD) run. To improve speed, cadence, and strength – you need to do a lot of shorter, but intense HIIT runs to keep the cardio engine and strength in check. However, a LSD run without a specific goal in mind could be anything between 12-17kms.
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Livingit: What tips do you have for runners looking to start running longer distances?
Rishi Dhingra: Patience, motivation, and modesty.
Patience : because nothing happens overnight, and you really have to keep going at it to start running at a point where you cross that threshold and it becomes enjoyable (and tiring!) vs. feeling like a chore to be done.
Motivation: you need to set yourself some sort of end goal to work towards, and be accountable for in the end.
Modesty: because you to realize that there may be a lot you need to change your running style and technique, no matter how old you are or how long you have been running.
I did that at the age of 34. A specific book I came across that I was reading prior to my first half ironman was “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall that I would recommend to any aspiring or seasoned runner to read completely. It changed my (running) life!
Livingit: Have you previously taken part in any Marathons or Ultra Marathons?
Rishi Dhingra: My end goal is a full-distance Ironman event in April 2018, South Africa or Denmark in August 2018. This comprises a 3.8km swim, 180km bike ride, and a full distance 42.2km run.
In order to test my legs and be psychologically sure I can run that distance (due to my foot stress fracture last year), I am registered for and completing my first full distance 42.2km marathon this June in the Netherlands. Ultra-marathons I have not given much thought to yet, however, it’s on the bucket list for sure.
Livingit: From a daily routine to successfully having completed 2 Ironman 70.3 races, also known as Half Ironman – could you tell us a little bit about the journey?
Rishi Dhingra: The journey has been challenging, but fun at the same time. I was venturing into areas of sport, aspects of mental and physical abilities that I never had to face before. It was new and different, and I have to say I was enjoying (almost!) all moments of it! It was a long-time commitment and took a lot of getting used to and keeping your head in the game. Friends, family and training buddies were key to this achievement.
Oddly enough, I blogged my entire training from 9 months out to the actual RACE DAY for my first Ironman 70.3 event in Kraichgau, Germany. This included daily training logs, my thoughts, types of maintenance training done on the side and a ton of pictures! You can read EVERYTHING in the following link:
Livingit: The “70.3” of the Half Ironman refers to the total distance covered in the race, which is actually a triathlon consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile cycle trail, and lastly a 13.1-mile run. How do you train for a triathlon?
Rishi Dhingra: Training for a triathlon of such a distance is a very mathematical science. You go through major and minor training cycles that usually last 5-6 weeks, depending on the fatigue that sets in, and have a low volume 1 week “active rest” in between.
Slowly and steadily, you need to ramp up long distances over the 2 weekend days, usually, the longer (2-5-hour training sessions) where you try and maintain a low heart rate. While the shorter (45-90 mins) sessions during 4 of the workweek days you are doing higher intensity, strength and speed sessions for all 3 disciplines.
1 day is off for rest.
The other things aspects of training that get little to no importance is diet/nutrition and proper rest! I cannot emphasise the importance of these two aspects of training. You have to be very diligent and focused on how to get it right. It’s tough to comment more without going into a lot of detail.
Livingit: Based in Dubai, you’ve traveled to Germany to participate in a Half Ironman and Sweden for your first Full Ironman last year. How do you finance your passion in terms of travel and training?
Rishi Dhingra: Well, financing such ventures is always done by one’s own savings unless you’re a public figure or professional athlete where you have the luck of being sponsored by various parties.
Livingit: What is something you wish you could tell yourself before you signed up for your first Ironman?
Rishi Dhingra: Hmmm, tough question. But there’s something I perhaps should mention regarding the reason before how this training got started. Prior to thinking about my first Ironman event, I used to be an avid gym goer and played sports. Around the time when I started training (back in Sept 2015), I was going through a (rough) divorce.
One of my closest friends, who trained and completed the same race with me, was the one who suggested we start training for a full Ironman triathlon, and en route do the entire spectrum of shorter distance ones including the Ironman 70.3.
Needless to say, the distraction, both physical and mental, was right on point. Not only was I able to fuel my passion for training hard, but it also led to a very healthy means of getting the past and moving forward after my divorce. Looking back, if I wasn’t in a situation like I was, I may never have been able to motivate myself to start in the first place. In that case, I would have to tell myself – stick through it, it will all be worth it in the end.
The end isn’t even there yet since the full distance is a challenge for next year.
Livingit: You’ve qualified for the World Championship Ironman of 2017, could you elaborate on the race?
Rishi Dhingra: I never got to do the full distance in Sweden last year since it was in June and I qualified for the world championships for the half distance (after the June race in Germany) which was to happen in September of the same year.
Unfortunately, in July of last year, I was diagnosed with a stress bone fracture of my right foot and the World Championship’s Ironman of 2017 got canned and I was gutted.
Livingit: Who is your biggest support when it comes to your competitive running events?
Rishi Dhingra: Honestly, I can’t single any one person out. Post the divorce, I’ve really not had the time or inkling to have someone special as a partner in my life. My family and close friends have always been there for moral support and social distractions, which obviously helps a lot.
Livingit: How do you balance your passion with your profession?
Rishi Dhingra: It’s really all about time management at the end of the day. I know my weeks training routine in advance, and work lets me be quite dynamic about how I fit everything into my schedule. The rest is just sticking to your routine, and implementing it.
Training hours can peak to about 25 hrs a week at times. The amount of rest and proper food you need to sustain that is also very high and demanding. You can’t keep swaying from that a lot, else the results will show.
Livingit: Are there any words of advice that you live by?
Rishi Dhingra: Pain is temporary, glory is forever.
True that!Wishing Rishi all the very best for his future endeavour with running marathons, ultra marathons and more.
His plate is full with other things but still he, has managed to follow his passion. What’s your excuse?