Iskander Yadgarov: I want to make an even greater contribution to the Russian running movement
Iskander Yadgarov became known to many ordinary people after his statement on Instagram. The athlete wrote: “If this post gets 20,000 likes, I will win the Moscow Marathon.” The post was collected and he won. That’s what a man of his word means.
And this is not Iskander’s only achievement. For example, during self-isolation, he, along with another runner Ivan Mototrin, broke the record in the 50 km race on the track. What can we say about ordinary distances.
Now Iskander is returning to his usual rhythm, preparing to overcome the Moscow Marathon again and setting himself even more ambitious goals.
How did you get started with running?
This happened in 2009, when I entered Moscow State University. Before that, I had not been involved in any sports. And there we had a distribution in different types of sections in physical education, and I chose athletics. And then, at the very first lesson, it was necessary to run the standard for a thousand meters – to check who was ready. I then came in second with a result of 3:15, which is, of course, not bad. And at that moment I finally decided to go in for athletics. Yes, and at the university at that time, this sport lived a vibrant life. There was a huge section, a good composition of trainers, many students were actively involved. It sucked me in there.
Did you initially perceive it only as a hobby or did you already set big goals for yourself?
No, I remember the first goal well. I thought it would be nice if I could become the best in my course. But even there it was already not so easy, because there were guys who studied at school semi-professionally, and I could not beat them for so many years.
What kind of relationship did you have with sports as a child?
In principle, as a child, I practically did not have sports, despite the fact that my father was a physical education teacher. He also ran once, but only until university days … And having not the most successful experience, he tried in every possible way to dissuade me from sports and wanted me to follow “in other footsteps” so that I could study more. There were cases when he took the guys to some regional competitions, but I did not get there, although in terms of indicators I was better than many. So I invested in my studies.
Now you are very good at combining your hobby with working as a programmer at Yandex. In one of your interviews you said that the second is still a priority for you. Do you think something has changed during this time?
I think the priority is gradually shifting. Because the more running sucks me in with projects, responsibilities, and connections, the more it is already being introduced into my life. The hobby began to generate income, and if it was small before, now it is approaching the order of the income that is at work. So I do not exclude that someday in theory (it would be great, although it is hard to believe it), if the income equals that of the worker, you might think about choosing one thing. But on the other hand, if I manage to combine both, why give up something?
But if you look into the future, then, of course, it is more priority to invest in work than in running. Still, you understand that sports life will end soon. Unless this sport converts to something long term.
I know that Yandex encourages employee involvement in sports. Does this concern you in any way?
Yandex supports an active lifestyle of its employees, but not professional sports. I have absolutely no privileges, but I am not trying to “beat them out”. I don’t want Yandex to evaluate me as an athlete at all. I want to be a good employee without a sports brand. Therefore, I do not even try to get any favors, although I do not think that they will give me here.
How did your quarantine go? Did you continue to work, train?
Firstly, the quarantine for me began with generally bad news. I was preparing for the Russian Championship, I really wanted to fulfill the Olympic standard. To do this, I saved up a huge vacation at work, first I spent three weeks on a trip to Kenya, of which one week is New Year’s holidays. I stayed there, trained in Moscow and took a vacation again to go to Kyrgyzstan, finally prepare for the Russian Championship and then perform. I was in great shape. And in a week or two, the Russian Championship was canceled due to the pandemic. It was terrible. After that we returned to Moscow and realized that, most likely, everyone would be quarantined, and Yandex has already switched to remote work.
At that moment we decided to go with the whole family to Kislovodsk. It is a good place to train and is popular with runners in Russia. We rented a house and lived there for almost five months. I trained and worked remotely. This partially saved my form, because here in Moscow it was difficult to train for a couple of months due to the restrictions.
That is, you managed not to lose shape?
Practically. Form, of course, was still at a loss, motivation plays a big role in sports. When there is no goal and some kind of unknown in front of you, it is difficult to maintain good shape for a long time. Still, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Please tell us about your Kenyan training camp. How did you get there and how did you train?
I went to Kenya for the third time. First time alone at the end of 2016, just to see what it is. All my trips to Kenya were in January, including the New Years. And each was unique in its own way.
This time we went with the guys from the training group to get in shape. We have been preparing for this for a long time. We joined Kharon Lagat’s group. This is an American runner, comrade Eliuda Kipchoge. And in the group there were two guys who paced Eliud in the Sub 2 Hour Marathon project. And we did some of the workouts that Kipchoge does for a week with them.
Eliud Kipchoge is a legendary Kenyan runner who covered a marathon in less than two hours.
How did this workout go?
If you had to go somewhere, we got up early. The earliest rise, I remember, was at 3:50 – we drove to the location for two hours, at 6:00 we ran. It was training uphill, starting from an altitude of 1500 meters, we ran 20 kilometers up to 2700 meters. This is a very serious load, half of the group fell off, did not reach at all. By the way, this is considered a strong leg strengthening workout that Kipchoge loves to do.
And so we got up in the morning, ran cross-country together, trained in the evening, and did high-speed work twice a week. It was a wonderful experience.
Why do many athletes choose Kenya for training?
It feels like in Kenya absolutely everything that runners need has coincided. Firstly, there is a wonderful climate, there is simple food, there are practically no harmful products – you have no choice, you eat natural food. There are a lot of cross-country trails. There is a running party: you come, and you are surrounded by some like-minded people. And most importantly, the height is 2400 meters. There are not many places in the world where you can train at this altitude. In general, Kenya wins in all respects.
First of all, I went there, knowing that when you arrive, almost any Kenyan group will receive you with full hospitality, you can train with them and learn from their experience. Most of all I like the Kenyans themselves, their openness and simplicity. They are similar in mentality to the Russian people. And the Kenyans themselves love us too, because very often when Europeans come, they have a more snobbish character, and train separately, on their own. And we from Russia immediately rush into the crowd.
Are there any running things that you are particularly good at?
I am a Tatar. Tatars, they are the same as Russian Kenyans. Those in whom Tatar blood flows, already have a slight advantage by default. I like to joke that our ancestors ran all the way for us, and we are already born with a certain amount of money. It is much easier for us than for many others to get in good shape. Alas, this is so. It helps me a lot. I am very thin, light, I have thin legs, thin bones. In general, it’s easier for me to run and train. I am more built for running than many other people in Russia. This is my advantage.
And, of course, it seems to me that the psychological component also helps. I just always do not care about everything, and I do not worry about the start. It’s also hard to break me psychologically both before the start and at the start.
Can you name your weak points?
I am constantly sprayed, I can not focus only on training. For a good result in sports, you need an absolutely clean and empty head, but I always have a vinaigrette there. Take Stepan Kiselyov, for example, who will be my main rival in the Moscow Marathon. He has now closed down all week and is sitting quietly recovering, adjusting to the start both mentally and physically. And at this time I’m racing back and forth, I don’t even think about the marathon. Good or bad, I don’t know. In general, there are too many things happening in my life that I cannot devote all of myself to just one business. I would say it may be a minus, but on the other hand, it is also a plus.
Let’s go back to the shoes that will help you overcome the distance. Why did you choose Nike as a running shoe brand?
I am delighted to be part of the Nike running community. As a running company, Nike has a rich history of working with athletes, supporting them with new technologies and listening to their feedback as they create products. I am sure that my full potential has not yet been realized, and I will set new goals for myself in sports. And the brand will help me achieve them, I’m sure.
What are your goals now?
Firstly, I wanted something different, to make an even greater contribution to the Russian running movement. We have a local brand GRi in Russia. It produces quality running clothes and has been around for literally two to three years. I really want to help the brand in its growth and popularity. We need to develop our local running community and industry as well.
And secondly, there is a goal, it was interrupted by a pandemic, but I am not giving up on this idea yet. I want to go down in history as an athlete and a Russian programmer who will go to the Olympic Games. I will try to get neutral and qualify for the Olympics. The most difficult thing will still be to fulfill this standard – you need to run very fast, 2:11:30 in a marathon. Considering that we are not yet able to perform abroad, the task becomes much more complicated, but the more interesting it is. If I fulfill this standard, it will be 60-70% of my business, then all that remains is to get a neutral status and go. So far, this is my global goal. I don’t even know, if I achieve it, then I might not be interested in it later.