How An Easy Running Ritual Made Kiran Gandhi Run A Marathon

By Emily Gladders


An elevated practice that helps you live your best life? That’s a ritual. We've asked women we admire to share the daily rituals that make them who they are. Discover their secrets and try a new ritual for yourself.

We talked to former M.I.A. drummer Kiran Gandhi about her running ritual that keeps her life consistent.


As a touring musician, staying on-track with your health can be really hard: all you eat is whatever's there (hello french fries) and you rarely have time to exercise. A couple years ago, I started running casually to get my health back on track after a tour as M.I.A.’s drummer. Slowly but surely, I started putting more and more miles.

After I told a friend of mine who runs marathons about my running, she responded: “Oh, great, I'm doing the London marathon in April 2015. That's like six months out, why don't you do London with me?" Instead of freaking out, I told myself: "I can sign up. If I don’t show up, what's the worst that could happen? Nothing." I signed up and then we ended up doing it: I ran it while free-bleeding as a feminist f*ck you. It was awesome.

Although running led me to run a marathon, it started simply as the only ritual that could keep me feeling on-track. Basically, it's like the lowest common denominator. If I'm able to accommodate fitness in my day, it's a signal to myself that today's going to be a winning day. Here’s how I used a laid-back, forgiving running ritual to keep my life consistent (and eventually run a marathon).

Claim your time

When I first started running, I thought I should do it in the morning because that’s when I always did exercise like yoga. But as I went on, I found that running in the evening made me really happy: that was always the sweet spot in my childhood when we would have after-school sports. Also, I find that if you look forward to exercise, it makes you eat better during the day. Pick a time to run that works for you. Screw what anyone else says. It was also helpful to me to keep my practice to myself at first: instead of sharing about my runs on social media, I kept them sacred. If you start telling somebody you're a runner, sometimes they get competitive, or they want to know how much you're running and all those questions. If sharing for accountability helps you, go for it. But find your own ideal time and groove first, then share.

Set small goals, then go big

When I first started, I used to say, "Can you even run half a mile from this house to the beginning of the path on the Charles River?" The hardest thing to do was to just get out the door, so I’d set small, visual goals for myself: “run a half-mile from this door to that river.” When you think about running in small segments, it’s like: "Okay, of course I can run to there! Easy.” It’s the same thing I do with music. Instead of saying," I'm going to finish this song today," I will say, "I'm going to finish just the beat for the verse today.” You’re more motivated to work when the goal seems possible. Once you start achieving your small goals, you can set bigger ones: one mile, two miles, 12 miles, a marathon. If you find yourself struggling to get motivated at any point, ask yourself: what’s the worst that could happen? If you run too far and get tired, you can always Uber home. No one will ever know you got tired: this is all for you.

Get hype

Spotify and other streaming apps are an amazing tool for runners: I made a Spotify playlist specifically for running that I loved and I still use the same exact one every time. I like that each of the songs signify where I'm supposed to be comfort-wise. Based on the beat, I usually know where I'm supposed to feel good and ready to keep going versus when I should be feeling tired and sore. Find the accompaniment that makes you excited to run, whether it’s music, an e-book, or an app that keeps track of your miles and time. For the latter, I liked Runkeeper a lot, because you can see how many miles you’ve logged over time. Once I started noticing my log going up in miles, that’s when I really got motivated to run the marathon. Having a bigger goal in the future helped get me excited to run. I also liked that having a big goal gave me something for which to drink less alcohol, go to bed early, and eat better.

Don't overdo it

Beyond any big goals, running is something I really valued and treasured the fact that running represented discipline for me. In this way, I was able to forgive myself for my shortcomings: missing a day, running a short distance and ubering home, or logging less miles than I did the last week. Never let running become a detriment to you. Instead, use running as a tool for self-care. When we're healthy, emotionally and physically, people can see that we're glowing. Let that be your biggest motivator. In the end, I just feel like my best self when I have a ritual. Running lets me feel balanced. This forgiveness lets you create a safe learning space. By setting lower, achievable goals and forgiving yourself, you will constantly break your own record.

Kiran Gandhi



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