Sunday, June 26th 2016, I went to St Mary's College at Yousufguda. There was supposed to be a talk by Anu Vaidyanathan, India's first Ultraman. Now, I didn't know what Ultraman means.
Anu is a triathlete. She runs, rides bike and swims. She has finished several marathons, iron mans (2.4 mile swim, 112 miles bike ride and 26.2 miles running). In 2009, she completed the Ultraman, which is swimming for 10k, bile riding for 425.6k and running for 84.4k. Now, you may be thinking that she is an adventure sports junkie.
Well, she has a graduation and post graduation in computer science, a PhD in electrical engineering, and she has been a professor at IIT Ropar and IIM Ahmedabad. She has her own consulting firm operating in the patents field. Also, she is a daughter, wife and a mother!
Now, that's some list of achievements that can make any one proud. But she is all about humility.
I had read about Anu earlier and knew about her achievements. So, when HR Runners decided to host her talk in the occasion of the 10 years celebrations, I registered a slot for myself.
Though I had been to St Mary's College at Yousufguda earlier, I was and still am not familiar with the way. Google maps have become my best friend and they guided me to the destination. There were few cars and bikes parked outside the college compound. As I entered the gate, the security staff told me to go to the 4th floor.
Near the lift, I met Amulu, a Toastmasters friend who was also there for the talk. There was a small auditorium, with capacity of around 150 people on the 4th floor. Rajesh Vetcha, founder of Hyderabad Runners, along with Shiv Kosgi, the operations manager, were there at the door of the auditorium, welcoming people as they walked in.
The auditorium was dimly lit. There were about 50 odd people inside the auditorium. Some were seated and some were milling around the stage. On the stage, there was a small table to the right with a pile of books neatly stacked. There were 2 standees on the stage, one announcing Hyderabad Runners 10 years celebrations and another for Anu Vaidyanathan' book, Anywhere but home. Anu was standing there talking to anyone who wanted to, signing the books for anyone who bought it.
After some time the talk started. Rajesh gave a welcome speech and invited Anu to take over. Anu passed on a feedback from and a post card with a lucky draw instructions before starting the talk. She was very calm and composed. She spoke in a natural style, spoke very fast and had lots of humor baked into her talk. She started with her connection with Hyderabad and especially Rajesh. Then how there were many Telugus who were part of her life and the contribution by them in her journey. She told about her childhood, school days and college days at USA. She apparently used to be a chubby kid during school. Is was the college that one of her friend introduced her to running.
Post her engineering in the US , she started pursuing a PhD there. Somewhere in between, she got frustrated and decided to come back to India. She came to Bangalore and started a start up. Running was her anchor during that time. She felt most comfortable while running.
Then one after the other, she started taking up bigger challenges, culminating with the Ultraman in 2009. Later she got married to a person who also supported her ambitions. Then, she became pregnant and continued long distance walking till almost the end of her pregnancy. It was during that time, someone asked her to write a book. The book project took about 2-3 years to complete. Now, it was being released.
If you look at her now, it will be difficult to believe that she was once a triathlete. She has gained weight. But there is one thing that she said which I liked. Her overall message was to keep passionate goals and achieve them. She said, people like to brand themselves as something. Like you may say you are a runner. Then you become imprisoned with your own definition of yourself. You have to prove to yourself and to others that you are a runner. You have to beat a certain time. That is dangerous. She said, do not cubby hole yourself. Do whatever you are passionate about. Reinvent yourself based on the time and circumstances. You define yourself. Others definition of you doesn't define you!!
Finally, there was a question and answer session and a prize distribution ceremony of HR Relay Run.