Taru Mateti- Marathon Runner Breaking Boundaries at age 50+

Bhag Taru Bhag! This is what her inner voice keeps telling Taru Mateti.

How to introduce this highly spirited, intrinsically motivated woman? She has seen more than 50 springs of her life. Her sports career is just four years old. Yet, the first introduction of Taru Mateti that comes to mind is that of a Marathon Runner who just can’t help running and winning accolades.

Proud Indian Woman- Taru Mateti

Despite being an engineer, Taru Mateti took pride in working as teacher in schools and colleges in the prime years of her career before stepping into the corporate world. Presently working as the Head – Documentation and eLearning at Cybage Software, Taru is now more popular as a runner. She has participated in a number of national and international marathons and won more than 40 podiums in her runs. She also plays badminton and table tennis. She is fond of gymming and does strength training as well as Yoga. She is, in fact, a bundle of inspiration from whom one and all can take some or the other motivation tips, be it about balancing work and life or pursuing career in sports when the rest of the world says, you must retire!

Let’s get inspired from this fabulous sports-woman, Taru Mateti!

Q. Hi Taru, please tell us about your childhood. What was your student life like?

Until my Class 9, I studied in Jabalpur; and then in Pune until I finished BE from COEP. I was a typical nose-to-the-grind, top-ranking student for most of the school years, and to some extent in college too. I am also a recipient of the then-prestigious National Talent Scholarship. Other than studies, I took part in various plays and speaking activities such as elocution, debates, plays, and extempore speaking. Never really interested in sports, the only physical activity I got was cycling to college for four years and one season of rowing because COEP has its own rowing club and regatta.

Q. After studies, what career did you choose?

I have had a checkered career that started as a lecturer in an engineering college, took me through teaching in various schools all over India, and then finally brought me to the IT industry in 2000. I believe in constant learning, so even though I had done BE (Instrumentation and Control), I completed BEd and MEd while I was teaching, did some courses such as Diploma in Information Systems Management and Diploma in Microsoft Office to get back into IT. Subsequently, in the IT job, I completed PMP certification and also became a Certified Scrum Master besides doing other courses as needed. I am currently the Delivery Head at Cybage Software, working as the Head – Documentation and eLearning, with a cross-functional team of about 250 professionals.

Q. How did you get interested in running? Were you passionate about this since beginning or did it develop later in life?

I was a regular brisk-walker, but wasn’t into running. I started running four years ago, at the age of 49. I often did well and won most competitions in the gym in the preceding few years (not related to weight-lifting), except running on treadmill. So I decided to take this as a challenge and train to do a 10K at an event that year. That’s when I really took to running.

Proud Indian Woman- Taru Mateti

Q. What special training or coaching did you take for running? I mean how did you learn the techniques etc. needed for running marathon and other forms of running?

When I had just started, I joined a running group called ‘The Pune Marathoners Club’. I learnt a lot from my coach, Michael Francis, and other senior runners at the Club. This group took me through my first half marathon and my first full marathon besides many other runs. Thereafter, we branched off as a smaller group Dhakkan Athletes that I am a part of. I now run with FreeRunners too where I have been extensively trained by the founder-mentor Commander Jeetendran Nair (Retd.) and Wing Commander Parag Dongre (Retd.) leading to my first Ultramarathon of 50 km. I also attended a training workshop conducted by the illustrious Ash Nath. All this training help put the correct techniques in place.

Q. As if it was not enough an achievement to start running professionally at the age of 49, you also won many running events. We would really like to know about your achievements regarding running.

Besides my training runs, I have run three 50 km ultras, five full marathons (42.195 km), and many half marathons and shorter distances. I have run a half marathon in Melbourne too. I have won about 40 podiums in my runs so far in various categories in Pune, Mumbai, Goa, Kolhapur, Hyderabad, Delhi, and Kolkata. I was an Event Ambassador at the first edition of FICCI FLO Half Marathon and a Running Ambassador at Tiger’s Hill Challenge Run. I was the Race Director for the second edition of FICCI FLO Half Marathon.

Proud Indian Woman- Taru Mateti

Q. That’s quite a list of achievements! Do you also involve yourself in other sports?

Prior to running, I used to play badminton and do aerobics besides gymming and playing a little bit of table tennis. I still play badminton sometimes, go to the gym twice a week, do yoga once a week (and post run stretching), and do occasional cycling or Zumba.

Q. I am sure you might have won awards in these sports too?

I have won many trophies at Inter Corporate and Inter IT badminton tournaments as well as at the Cybage Badminton tournaments in women’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. In the earlier years, I won some badminton and table tennis tournaments in the Army internal tournaments/social circle. I have won some TT tournaments too at Cybage.

Q. Other than sports, what are your interests? What keeps you busy when you are not playing?

I believe in continual learning. I have completed three levels of Spanish, which I have completely forgotten, but would like to revive. I like to read online. There was a time when I was very fond of conducting training workshops at Cybage. I have also attended Salsa dance classes and some more of Latin American ballroom dance classes. I hope to be able to do more of that too. I have conducted talks and motivation sessions in some Corporates on topics such as Fitness and the Corporate Professional, Work Life Balance, etc.

Q. Work, home, family and high intensity sports- how do you manage all this?

Prioritization, balance, time management, load sharing, setting expectations, shortcuts. What also helps is that Cybage believes in work-life balance and I have excellent support in my Husband!

Proud Indian Woman- Taru Mateti

Q. How do you keep yourself so fit?

Running and strength training are two things I am regular with besides occasional other activities too. In addition, I have brought about a lifestyle change in terms of how much and what I used to eat. One thing I need to tweak further is my sleep time, and I am working on that too. Also I don’t drink or smoke and I am not too fond of sweets, so that helps too.

Q. What’s the secret of your enthusiasm?

I guess it is some innate motivation and the desire to stay fit, healthy, and strong as long as I can. After all we live only once!

I have always been highly intrinsically motivated so there was never a push required for anything; rather, there are times when my spontaneity and enthusiasm need to be curbed! If ever I am hesitant or reluctant my Hubby gives me the required courage to take on things.

Q. Was there a time when you were not working?

I have been doing some job or the other! The only time I didn’t work is from the time my daughter was one year old until she turned three. I was too busy then traveling with my Fauji hubby in that time and adjusting with the army way of living as well as taking care of my daughter.

Q. What were the challenges that you had faced or face even today? Internal as well as external.

Some of the challenges I faced in early life were related to decision-making considering that I got married in the final month of college. Change of jobs, locations and career path; having to prove oneself at a different jobs every 2-3 years; timing decision to have a baby; buying the first house; staying away from husband during field postings and managing home and daughter alone; financial constraints considering army salaries back then – these were some of the challenges then.

Internally I am challenged when it comes to driving a car, although I make it up by riding a two-wheeler all over the city! Also, I am sometimes resistant to change. Probably comes from seeing enough change!

Q. Was there any challenge related to the fact that you took up running late in life?

As far as running is concerned, because I started so late in life, probably the right muscles weren’t developed. Also because I was too eager to run more and more, I had a lot of break time in these four years to recover from running injuries, until last year it was found that my one leg is two cm shorter than the other. The doctor recommended that I wear customized insoles. This, and careful training, has helped in staying injury-free for the last eight months. Also, because of the leg issue, there’s a little scoliosis of the spine, so I need to do some correction and strengthening exercises regularly.

Additionally, I have irritable bowel syndrome so I have to be careful now about what I eat, especially on the days leading up to an event.

Q. Were there certain specific challenges due to your being a woman? 

Other than my small size and limited physical ability while lifting boxes and also reaching high shelves, I have never faced any specific challenge due to being a woman. Or maybe I have just been bred to ignore some of them. Before I got married, there was this restriction to be back home by 7 PM. Considering the times, it was fine I guess!

Q. Would you like to tell us about your family?

My father was an officer in Indian Ordnance Factory Service and my mother taught Mathematics in Senior School. Both very honest, simple, disciplined, and upright people, ensured that we three siblings got the right values and education – all three of us became engineers. My husband, Chandan, is a retired Colonel from the Indian Army and currently works with CBRE as Associate Director. My only daughter, Prakriti, and her husband, Chandan (yes, we have two Chandans in the house 🙂 ) are both into IT in Melbourne.

Proud Indian Woman- Taru Mateti

Q. Did you get support from your family members?

I have been blessed that it might have taken some convincing, but I’ve always had support from my parents and my in-laws in whatever I choose to do. While my Mother-in-Law is my biggest fan, my husband and my daughter are my biggest critics and supporters too! My mother and siblings too take great pride in talking to friends about my running achievements. When it came to long distance running, everyone was very concerned initially, especially because of the injuries I would get off-and-on and considering my age. But eventually everyone has come to accept and my family is proud of whatever I am doing.

Q. When have you felt most satisfied in your life?
I believe that satisfaction is a state of mind and is related to expectation and accomplishment. Small joys give me a lot of satisfaction; achievements of anyone in the family give me a lot of satisfaction. I think now, even though I feel I am the most satisfied in my life, the best moments are probably yet to come!

One of the high and extraordinary points for me was when Cybage featured me in a hoarding on work-life balance. This hoarding was up at Mundwa bridge, Ramwadi, and Kalyani Nagar/Koregaon Park bridge in Pune for more than a year.

Proud Indian Woman- Taru Mateti

Q. Do you have any regrets? 

Maybe I should have started running a lot sooner! Otherwise, No Regrets (This is what Taru wrote way back in 2013 about having no regrets in life!)

Q. That’s inspiring. What advice do you want to give to other women? 

Get educated and strive for financial independence because therein lies at least a part of the solution. Don’t curb your instincts and desires. Be bold and ask! Get out of your comfort zone to try new things. Make allies. Strive to stay healthy and fit – it is very important for a woman. Live life!

What’s the best part of the next thing you’re doing? What’s that you are excited about?

Ah, the next thing I will be doing is to retire from the corporate world very soon. I am excited about doing different things and slowing down the pace of life just a little to give more time to hobbies. I also want to get involved with some NGOs, do some teaching again, and also facilitate the cause of fitness.

How can readers contact you?

They can write to me at taru_mateti@yahoo.com or connect to me through my Facebook profile
Please feel free to contact me for running and body weight strength training.

What is that one habit of yours that you think has helped you a lot in becoming a success? 

Dogged determination, enduring persistence, and intrinsic motivation … take your pick 🙂

What is that one sentence/ word/ quote that describes you the best?

I am in competition with no one, I run my own race, I have no desire to play the game of being better than anyone, in any way, shape, or form. I just aim to improve, to be better than I was before. That’s me and I’m free.”

Taru has proved, age is just a number and anyone can take up anything at any point in life. There is no dearth of help and assistance or mentorship and guidance when you want to achieve something. It’s just about deciding in mind and taking that first small step that can make you reach stars from where your life looks beautiful and you feel happy and satisfied. Taru’s life is a fine example for any woman who wants to become free from all her apprehensions, even late in life.

If SHE Can, YOU Can!

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