Coach Raj has over 20 years of running experience. He has completed over 50 marathons—his personal record is 2:51—as well as several Ironman Triathlons. Certified with Road Runners Club of America, USA Track & Field, and USA Triathlon, he’s passionate about running and helping others jump over hurdles to achieve their goals. We sat down with the newest Aaptiv pro to get the inside scoop on his journey to becoming a trainer, his coaching style, and more.
Full name: Raj Hathiramani
Hometown: New York City
Favorite snack: Any fruit
Favorite thing to cook: Pasta
Favorite band or type of music: Dave Matthews Band and deep house remixes
Favorite hobbies: Swimming, tennis, reading nonfiction
How did you get into fitness?
Growing up, I enjoyed playing sports in a backyard or local parks. I played soccer, basketball, roller hockey, and tennis. When I didn’t make the cut for the soccer team in middle school, I joined cross-country so I could still be on a team and improve my endurance as an athlete. I fell in love with cross-country running through the back hills of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
I was captain of my high school team, and I knew that while I decided not to compete in college at Princeton, I still wanted to run a marathon at some point as a life goal.
When did you run your first marathon?
My first job was in finance in Chicago, starting work in 2007. I immediately signed up for the Chicago Marathon in 2008, knowing that it was a bucket list goal. I trained hard for it, but I got a tibial stress fracture from always running too fast and not using the right shoes for my gait and pronation. As a result, I spent more time cycling and swimming while I recovered. When a coworker couldn’t use his spot in the Chicago Olympic Triathlon, I jumped in. It was so much fun.
So you actually completed a triathlon before a marathon?
Yes. For work I ended up moving with the same company to London—after the financial crisis—to work on a different team. But I still wanted to run a marathon before I moved to London, so I signed up for a marathon in Wisconsin on impulse. I had just recovered from my stress fracture, did the triathlon, but I hadn’t really run more than 10 miles. It was the weekend before I was moving to London, and I said I’ll do the half and if I’m feeling good I’ll keep going!
In reality, it was just so painful after the first half of the race around mile 18, so I walked for a lot of the second half. I finished my first marathon, but I wasn’t proud of it. I didn’t train, I wasn’t really prepared—I knew I could do better. I came back to run the NYC Marathon and trained for that in 2010. I improved my time by an hour and qualified for the Boston Marathon, which was my goal! But I still went out too fast and had to go to the med tent after because I didn’t fuel properly during the race.
When did you start getting hooked on running marathons?
It wasn’t until I switched from finance to technology, started working full time at Google, and moved back to NYC from London. The day before I started at Google I signed up for the Paris Marathon because I was in Europe…and why not? I improved my time by another five minutes, and I was a lot more evenly paced. I was hooked. I wanted to continue on my running journey and improve.
Plus, I loved the process of training, the discipline it instilled in me, and the way running made me feel. I met some friends through running clubs in NYC that I got to run with, and I signed up for races that my friends were signed up for. After Paris, I did San Francisco, Chicago again, New York again—from there I focused on the goal of breaking three hours. It took me a few more marathons, but I did it.
Then, I met some people who wanted to run marathons in every state so we started traveling. Since 2011, I’ve been running anywhere from six to nine marathons a year including Boston and NYC. I’ve run in 38 states so far and met incredible athletes along the way. Running fills me with positive energy and helps me face challenges in training and in life. Every time I overcome a hurdle, I become a more confident and passionate person and grow as a coach.
Tell us a little bit about your teaching style. How did you start teaching?
Eventually, because of what I had experienced while racing marathons and Ironman triathlons, I wanted to become a coach and share my passion with others. My style draws on years of experience competing and coaching. Fun fact: I actually used to lead bootcamp classes for my classmates at Princeton University as a fun way to help my friends and myself take a break from all the studying. I also did pacing for different running groups in New York City.
How do you want people to feel when they walk away from your classes or training?
I want them to feel inspired, and I want them to know why they run!
What’s been your favorite part of overall fitness?
Discovering the many reasons why people do fitness, regardless of their backgrounds or abilities. My most memorable fitness experience was guiding a visually impaired runner from Poland in the 2011 NYC Marathon as part of the organization Achilles International. His strength to find hope and possibility in running to overcome a physical challenge was truly motivating. The experience made me appreciate that every mile we run, and every race we run, is truly a gift.
What motivates you?
The never-ending process to test and expand your mental and physical limits.
Do you use that motivation to get through a bad day?
I remind myself not to take anything too seriously and to just relax, take a deep breath, and smile. Running helps me get through a tough day, as well as doing a hot yoga class or going for a swim.
What do you want the Aaptiv community to know about you?
Running is a part of me and speaks to me. I can’t wait to help Team Aaptiv crush their goals!