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with Piyush Gudka

June 26th 2019. TOKYO – LONDON.

Meet ACE Charity Ambassador

Piyush, a Six Star Finisher and 100-plus marathoner, ran as a Charity Runner for ACE last year and is eager to return next year – bringing with him an international team of runners, excited for the opportunity to run the marathon in the same year as the 202 Olympics games. This time around, he is also one of our Charity Ambassadors.

Piyush’s journey started back in 1994 when he crossed his first finish line at the London Marathon. Since then, he has gone on to run races in over 30 countries and across 6 continents. Nevertheless, he is still far from finishing his journey.

With the application process for charity runners for Tokyo Marathon 2020 approaching, we spoke with Piyush about his passion for fitness, social equality, and for any words of inspiration for fellow runners and social justice advocates.


ACE: Thank you for your time! You completed your 100th marathon this year, how are you feeling?”

Piyush: Good, fine! I am actually always training people, so I am still running on a regular basis, so nothing is that different!


ACE: How are you feeling about coming back to Japan for the Tokyo Marathon?

Piyush: Super excited! I haven’t been there since March last year. I love Japan, ever since the first time I visited for the Amagasaki Marathon in 1997. That marathon doesn’t exist anymore but I am very excited for the second round of the Tokyo marathon.


ACE: Is there anything you will be doing differently, or hope will be different, for Tokyo Marathon 2020?

Piyush: The weather! It was pouring it down and so cold last time so I hope that will be different.


ACE: In your Tokyo marathon ambassador message you mentioned that you are passionate about fitness and fair opportunities for all human beings. I think that is an amazing ethos, what inspired this mantra?

Piyush: In terms of fitness, there is an old saying that to be mentally alert you should be physically fit and I totally believe this is the case. Mind and body need to be in sync, they come hand in hand. I now see that my upbringing played an important role in my life; I grew up in Mombasa, Kenya where the climate is always temperate so I was always out playing sports. Yet perhaps I only realised the impact of good fitness and health when starting my career in London. It really helped. Equally, fitness is as much psychological as it is physical and I have found that, when training others to run, I actually had a greater psychological impact on their daily life than anything. But it’s not like I give them anything new, I always tell them that it’s something within them that I manage to bring out to the surface. In terms of human beings having fair opportunities, that comes from my Jains beliefs that uphold the notion of respecting all human beings equally. Do the best for yourself and for others.


ACE: You mentioned that mind and body must be sync to be fit. In your opinion, is that the most important thing to complete a marathon?

Piyush: I guess it’s the frame of mind where you don’t think of the pain. You have a target, a purpose for which you are running the race. Be it self-satisfaction, a worthy cause or charity and when you keep that in your mind the pain is minor – relatively speaking. Marathons are a journey, it’s not just about the day but the training required to run it. It is a journey where you learn so much about yourself and that really helps form the foundations of the attitude you need to complete the journey. The high you get when you finish your first marathon is incomparable.


ACE: In that case, how is the high after a hundred marathons?

Piyush: (laughs) Yes, I guess it’s not the same but you know running these marathons has meant that I have explored 30 countries across 6 continents. That can’t be bad can it?


ACE: No not bad at all! So, you mentioned that training others is one of your personal achievements. I’m sure that everyone has a different approach to their running and are motivated in different ways; however, do you have a go-to technique to help you inspire and motivate other runners for a marathon?

 Piyush: In term of the physical training, I am a qualified personal trainer too so I can go through the marathon training step by step. Psychologically it’s about keeping up morale amongst the team. I usually do that by telling funny stories, inspiring stories and so on and keeping people distracted. For example, on our usual running circuit there’s a hill 1.5 miles in that everyone dreads. Yet when you have each other and you start engaging the runners in your stories they get distracted - and before you know it you’ve past the hill!


ACE: As someone who is currently thinking about applying to be an ACE charity runner - as a first timer who has never ran a marathon - do you have any words of advice?

Piyush: A marathon is a totally different ballgame to other sports and once you have done the training necessary to get to the fitness level required, you will thoroughly enjoy the whole journey. It’s addictive, look at all the runners – including people coming with me to Tokyo 2020 – who keep going out there to get those six medals. And the atmosphere of marathons is completely different too- people who don’t know you cheering you on – standing right by your side. That’s a completely different experience from being 200 meters away from a crowd of football fans in a stadium. The sense of achievement you feel as well, it is really a unique experience.

ACE: Marathons seem to be a breeze for you now but what was the biggest challenge you have faced in your life and how did you get through it mentally?

Piyush: Hmm… there are many challenges in life. You do need to be strong yourself but you also need one other person to believe in you too. People can be strong but there is always a breaking point and that is when you need that person. Someone who will say, I will support you. Do not lose faith in yourself. I am sure that CEOs, and top executives of massive international organisations have a personal life coach. Someone they can confide in. We all need a support network.


ACE: This year we are fortunate enough to have you as our ACE Charity Ambassador! Why is it that you chose us?

Piyush: ACE’s work in particular resonates with my beliefs. I am particularly passionate about charities for children because they are our future and securing their education is fundamental to solving poverty. I met with Yuka (Founder of ACE) at the race last time and I knew I had picked the right charity.


Tomoko Shiroki, Vice President of ACE (left) and Piyush Gudka (right) at the ACE Lounge at the Tokyo Marathon 2019

ACE: Is there any particular part of ACE’s work that stands out for you and why?

Piyush: Well, let’s take for example ACE’s SMILE Ghana project. When some children are given a chance to do something better, to get a decent living and a better future, it gives others hope. You need role models who show it is possible. When you are stuck in the poverty trap, it is impossible to get out by yourself. You just do not have the means to do so. You need someone to reach out to you. That is why you need organisations that provide that awareness that there is hope. Knowing that there is someone out there to reach out to. Who do these children have? In some cases, it is their parents who have sent them away to work. They are left thinking, who can I turn to? Who can I go to? There are no social welfare structures in place. Knowing someone is out there is crucial.


ACE: ACE aims to get children out of situations of child exploitation and labour and into education, to enjoy their childhood and build a brighter future. This cannot be achieved overnight as it requires both long- and short-term legislative, economic and social change. As someone who has run over 100 marathons in your life, I think that perhaps you have something to say about stamina and perseverance - do you have any words of motivation to people keeping moving when the goal post may seem impossibly far?

Piyush: Belief. If you believe in something and keep your hopes high. That is the key. If you believe in justice, if you believe in humanity, that love and belief is what drives you forward. Do not lose sight of your belief.


Interviewed by
Alica Harada, ACE Intern




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