Mayank Vaid is always on the move. A lawyer by profession, the Bilaspur-born Indian resides in Hong Kong and is married with two kids. He works at Louis Vuitton as the Intellectual Property Director for Asia-Pacific. However, the 41-year-old is not your average Non-Resident Indian. He happens to be the fastest Indian on the planet.
In May, Vaid finished the Ultraman Australia, a three-day 515 km endurance race in Queensland. He came 12th after clocking 26:04:01 to earn the moniker of the fastest Indian on the planet. An Ultraman athlete has to compete in events that include running, swimming and cycling. His next stop is the Run the Rann 100 miler in February 2018 in Gujarat and Enduroman as a team of two in June with world champion David Gething, his neighbour and training buddy.
The Enduroman challenge is supposed to be the toughest endurance competition in the world. It begins with a 140-km run from London’s Marble Arch to Dover, then a cross-English Channel swim to the French coast, ending with a 289.7-km bike ride from Calais to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Only 24 athletes have ever completed this challenge. Now, Vaid wants to make the list.
And to think, he began his journey to be an Ultraman only two years ago.
However, before taking to fitness, Vaid was leading a very unhealthy lifestyle. Due to his job, wherein he had to travel a lot, he used to weigh over 87 kg and used to smoke and drink alcohol excessively. “I destroyed my lungs,” he said. “I started to smoke cigarettes a lot. On weekends I would smoke as much as two packs a day. I was stupid and short sighted. I was killing myself or at least getting myself to the grave way quicker. Weighing 87 kilos at the age of 38 put me clearly in a BMI range of overweight,” he added.
Vaid was convinced that he needed to turn things around.
One fine day, as he was dropping his elder son to the school bus, he bumped into his neighbour David Gething, who was in the newspapers that day for winning the “7 Marathons in 7 Continents in 7 Days Championship.”
“I walked up to David to congratulate him. David admitted being a bit sore but he surprised me saying that he was actually gearing up for his next adventure race – the Pyongyang Marathon. David asked me to join him,” said Vaid. Since then, there was no looking back. After a few weeks Vaid was standing at the start line of Pyongyang Marathon, where he completed the half marathon.
Journey from India to Hong Kong
Vaid credits his father, who was an Indian army officer and a long-distance runner, and mother for keeping him and his elder brother out of the house most of the time.
“Horse riding, golf, skiing, hockey, tennis, soccer, swimming, fishing, gymnastics among others. Basically anything that could keep us outdoor was allowed and anything that kept us indoor was frowned upon by my mother,” said Vaid, who changed 13 schools in 12 years due to his dad’s job postings. However, he recounts his time in Kashmir, where the dangers of being caught in a conflict zone taught him lessons that he still holds dear.
“Kashmir was all about climbing mountains, riding ponies on steep hills and skiing from one border post to another along the Pakistan border. The second Kashmir posting was tough because we went to school in escorted school buses which were not spared from terrorist crossfire. As school kids we would see injured, dead soldiers being rushed to the military hospital in Badami Bagh Cantonment because our school shared the same road and campus,” said Vaid.
His father would often drop him to school in his bullet proof car.
However, one day, his father had to rush to a scene in Downtown Srinagar where a few soldiers had been severely injured in an assault by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.
“I should stay put in his car were his instructions. It was a war scene. Bodies, blood, ongoing crossfire and soldiers rushing all over the place. When my father left the car and rushed towards the bridge that was receiving the heaviest terrorist fire, I was ducking in the back which was safely parked behind an abandoned Kashmiri Pundit’s beautiful home. I wasn’t sure if he was coming back. Because it didn’t look like anything could, ever, come back from that bridge,” said Vaid.
His father returned safely but this is how they stayed for two years.
Discipline is key
Vaid studied law from University of Delhi and began his journey as a lawyer the day his dad retired. He even worked in Germany where he realised the value of time. “I need to travel a lot in my job. So I try to find hotels with swimming pools or a hotel close to the beach. I always travel with my runners. If the trip is comprising of many days I will even take my bike along and ride during the business trips. My colleagues call my behavior an addiction; I call this discipline and Nigel, my coach, will agree with me here,” said Vaid.
Vaid’s day starts at 4 am. He then has a two-hour workout session which includes a bike ride or a run. During lunch time at work, he hits the pool and has quit smoking. “My parents passed away before the UM journey began. But I am confident they are really happy that I am not smoking or drinking myself to death. My father was a long-distance runner most of his life. He was a much decorated officer and super fit. So I am certain he would be pleased with what I am doing with my life right now,” said Vaid.
On weekends, his day starts at 3 am with extended running, cycling sessions and open water swimming sessions. Clearly, Vaid is not going to stop anytime soon and has his sights set on the Enduroman in June.