Taher Merchant is one of the rare Indian athletes who prove that one can follow their passion at any age and excel at it. Soon after completing his education, Taher set foot in the family business and then the regular life affairs took over. It was only in his late 20s that Taher began to run and in no time he fell in love with it. Countless marathons later, in 2018, Taher became the first Indian man to complete the very challenging 60km long, Everest Base Camp Ultra Marathon.
Taher Merchant’s journey has inspired many to live a healthy lifestyle. He is an ambassador of marathons and is always happy to help those who want to follow a similar path. Taher is now also sponsored by multiple brands who have helped him grow in his career trajectory. We had the privilege of speaking with Taher and asking him a few questions about running and his experience with brand associations. Scroll down to read what he said.
“Running is my time and my space.”
What does running mean to you?
Running is my time and my space. It is something I look forward to and I enjoy. Running is also a stress buster for me. It gives me time to think about a lot of things for which I would not have had the time. Mountain running is life!
When and how did you decide on becoming a professional athlete?
My running journey started 8 years ago when I would train by myself. As time passed, I realized I was very passionate about running, and it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. In 2015, I did a dozen marathons without any formal training and managed to complete all of them successfully. I realized then that I should take it to the next level by getting formal trained. In 2016, I started my training with Coach Pramod Deshpande, one of India’s finest running coaches. I shared with him how I enjoyed running long distances which challenge my mind and body. At first, he thought I was mad, but then when he realized I was serious, he ensured we worked out a plan to chase my long term crazy running adventures.
What all obstacles did you face in the initial years of your career?
My initial years were very tough.
“Brands promote you at events and this awareness helps us as athletes to showcase our talent to the running fraternity as well as to other brands.”
What was your first brand association, and how did it help you grow in your profession?
My first tie-up was with Fast & Up Nutrition, one of India’s leading nutrition company who took me on board after I set the record at the Mt.Everest Ultra Marathon. Sponsorship did help me grow by leaps and bounds. I had access to products which I did not know exist, which have helped in boosting my performance. Also, the brands promote you at events and this awareness helps us as athletes to showcase our talent to the running fraternity as well as to other brands.
What all brands have you worked with since?
Fast & Up Nutrition, Puma, Reebok, and Dozee – Contactless Health Monitor.
How has your approach to brand deals changed over the years?
I am very selective about the brands I choose to work now compared to my initial days where I needed them. I believe to work with them only if I can add value to their product. I just don’t want to be a model showcasing a product I cant relate to. I am not an Instagram model, I am a thoroughbred athlete. A lot of people connect with me through social media for tips and suggestions, hence I need to be careful in the products I promote to my audience.
“I feel media both Print and Television media should promote other sports, show world events and highlight the presence of Indian athletes in them”
What change you think is needed to enable the flow of more brands in other sports in India apart from cricket?
I feel media both Print and Television media should promote other sports, show world events and highlight the presence of Indian athletes in them and publicize these events just like they would do to cricket. This would definitely get brands thinking of supporting sports other than cricket. Social media is also a very powerful tool these days. Athletes should use it to spread awareness about the sport and themselves through this medium.
Lastly, do you also experience the runner blues post important races?
Haha! Yes, I do. I spend a lot of time in training for events and once it is over and my goal is achieved I feel a bit lost. I would have spent maybe 3 months training for one event where day in day out I would be running or meeting running friends, gyming, taking care of my nutrition, etc and when the race is over and you return to the normally boring world it is a bit tough. So, for me, I spend a lot of time with my wife and children which really helps. I also try to plan a short holiday and do something adventurous and fun!