Between stressful jobs and trying to spend quality time with the family, exercise is often the first thing that falls to the bottom of our list. In a series of features on how to balance a busy career with running, Modern Athlete speaks to various high-powered professionals to find out how they manage to fit sport into their hectic schedules. This month we chat to Gidon Novick, Joint Chief Executive Officer of Comair.
What is your background and how did you become involved in the airline business?
I have been at Comair most of my career (11 years). I got in through a family connection: my dad! Before I joined Comair I studied as a chartered accountant in South Africa and then completed an MBA in America.
What is the most exciting thing about your job?
Problem solving. The airline business is complex and there is a constant need for creative solutions to problems. I also get really excited seeing so many members of our team excelling.
Who are the most interesting people you have met?
I actually find most people I meet interesting; everyone has an interesting story to tell.
Why are you so passionate about your job?
It is an exciting and challenging industry and I get to work with amazing people every day.
Proudest moment in business?
When Kulula Airlines was born eight years ago.
How long have you been running?
Most of my life. I started running with my dad as a kid.
What motivated you to start running?
I can’t remember my first run, but I love getting up early, breathing in the fresh air and getting my heart rate up. I know my body really appreciates it!
How do you fit running into your busy life?
I run in the early morning when most people are asleep. I only run twice a week, as I also swim and cycle.
Who do you train with?
Either my wife, Lindie (she is a great runner), or ‘Benjy’s running group’, a really lekker group of guys who meet at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg in the morning.
What races have you done?
Quite a few. I ran Comrades in 2001 – what an unbelievable experience, but once was enough! I have also run some interesting marathons (London and Chicago), and I did Two Oceans once. Right now I am running half marathons, my favourite distance. I absolutely love the Two Oceans Half Marathon.
How many hours a week do you spend on the road and in the gym?
I train every day. A typical training week includes two runs per week (one 10km and one 18km) as well as one gym session with my personal trainer, Alain Sakang, who kills me! Twice a week I am on my bike for a 20km cycle up and down hills. I also swim 1-2km twice a week.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle to your running?
Nothing really. The beauty of running is that I can run anywhere, so no excuses when I travel!
How has running helped your career?
It is my form of daily meditation; it really helps me relax and keep things in perspective.
What is the best advice you have been given with regards to running?
Don’t try to do too much too soon. Think of your running career as a marathon, not a sprint.
What was your proudest moment in running?
It has to be finishing the Comrades.
Most embarrassing moment in running?
I was once given the number ‘001’ in a 21.1km race because I knew the sponsor. The spectators were all expecting me to win! They must have been so disappointed…
The thing I love most about running is…
The feeling I get after a run – ready to take on the world!
After a run the first thing I like to do is…
Have a shower… for the sake of my family.
My greatest ambition is to…
Run 10km in a time under my age… I am 40 now, so I have work to do!
I don’t enjoy being beaten by…
My friend, Eric Meniere, who trains half as much as I do but always beats me.
I enjoy training most with…
My friend, Rowan Williams. He is an outstanding athlete and we always have a good chat on our runs.
Who are your running role models?
Bruce Fordyce. You just have to try and run 1km as fast as he used to run 87km and you realise what an incredible athlete he is.
What is your favourite place to run?
In the Knysna Forest.
What is your favourite meal after a run or big race?
A big bowl of muesli, fresh fruit, nuts, honey and Greek yoghurt.
I could not go running without my…
Shoes! I have not gotten into all the gadgets yet; I don’t even run with a watch!
What would you say to someone who says that they don’t have time to start running?
You need to devote half an hour a day.
Best times in various distances
42.2km Sub-4 hours
Comrades Sub-11 hours (just!) What’s the rush?
Successful people fail more often.
What inspires you?
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
I try my best to focus on the destination but to enjoy the scenery along the way.