Five of MetroPlus’ readers got a chance to meet and dine with marathoner and model-actor Milind Soman recently

The last time I heard this much giggling, I was in college. While the dinner date — like most first dates — began with some awkwardness and a lot of blushing, it quickly turned into a fairly loud, livewire discussion on everything from running to politics. After all, how often do you get to have dinner with a super model?

A few days ago, model-actor-runner Milind Soman, who is in Chennai to promote the upcoming Pinkathon, did a Facebook chat with Metro Plus readers. (Read the transcript on the MetroPlus Facebook Page.) The readers who asked the five best questions won a dinner date with him at The Park hotel.

Dinner was at 601’s cosy wine room, where Chef Rajesh Radhakrishnan and his team had created a proudly pink themed dinner. There were impossibly cute pink buns with marzipan ribbons on top. Baskets of fluffy pink pita bread served with — hold your breath — pink hummus. And dessert came with ‘Run’ written across the plate in chocolate.

In his now trademark ‘Madras to Chennai’ T-shirt, Milind chatted about barefoot running and how much he likes eating papaya for breakfast. There were also discussions on eating right: avoid processed food, eat more vegetables and always remember that sugar is terrible for you. (Soon after which he ordered a second dessert — the chocolate log, which he then confessed he has for breakfast occasionally.) Instead of reporting on the evening we’ve asked two of the winners to tell you how it went:

Aishwarya Krishnamurthy:

It’s easy to fall in love with Milind Soman. Aside from his ageless good looks, he is genuinely a fun dinner companion and an easy conversationalist. Unfortunately for me and women everywhere, Milind made it clear in the first 10 minutes that he is completely in love with someone else, his one true love — running. As one of the winners of The Hindu Metro Plus contest in support of Pinkathon, the other winners and I grilled him about everything from what he eats, how often he runs, how long it took him to become comfortable running barefoot and the most pressing concern of all — is it true that vampire blood is the secret to him not aging. Seriously, when he casually mentioned that he was turning 49 this year, I heard myself blurt out ‘Shut Up’, before I could stop myself. Thankfully he just laughed along with the rest of the table. Milind (we are now BFFLs and on a first name basis) patiently answered all our questions with a candour that encouraged us to ask even more questions, each I’m sure, more ridiculous than the previous. Advising us that the most important rule while training for a marathon is to listen to your own body, do what your body is comfortable with and what you enjoy, he also let us in on what works for him. A disbeliever of the ‘20 small meals a day’ fad, Milind proudly explained his Michael Phelps-like breakfast where he consumes about an entire jungle of fruits, and then moves on to continue eating the while day. (He did, however, admit that since his metabolism is much higher than ours, we shouldn’t try it ourselves. But that’s one of the great things about Milind, he paused his lecture about the effects of too much sugar to order the chocolate log for dessert! He’s completely relatable and even admitted to scarfing down burgers when the mood arose. His principle is, don’t deny yourself anything absolutely, just make considered choices based on what makes sense for your body. All of us, whether experienced runners, or newbies like me, gained valuable advice from Milind, and to help you on Sunday, I’m going to share a couple of his tips with you. Don’t forget to hydrate, cut down on alcohol about a week before the run (ok, from now), don’t overstretch before running as this can weaken your muscles, and most importantly, have fun!

Protip When you get to the venue, take a look at Milind’s feet. For a barefoot runner, they are impeccable, and he swears he's never had a pedicure in his life!

(A former lawyer, Aishwarya now work as a marketing executive at Unmetric. She tells us she spends her free time reading and playing with her Basset hound Tristan. She also requested us to tell subtly inform readers that she and Milind “share a selective allergy to prawns!”)

Surajram Kumaravel:

Unlike most people who know Milind, I learnt about his running before his modelling: My father had come back from the Chennai Runners anniversary run, and he was telling me about how a barefoot runner named Milind Soman was the brand ambassador. It was only when a classmate exhibited her fan-girlism upon seeing photos from the training runs on my Facebook feed did I learn who Milind really is. Nevertheless, I was still excited about meeting Milind, because it is not everyday that one gets to talk for hours together and reflect about one’s health, lifestyle, and exercise. Meeting a diverse group of ladies and discussing health, exercise and running with Milind was an enriching experience that I’ll remember for a long time. Everything about life is becoming faster with time, and even if we take the time to exercise once in a while, a lot of us still don’t reflect on our choice of food, lifestyle or exercise. This is much worse for a lot of women who take the role of being a mother to a child, a wife to a husband or a dutiful daughter without much concern about their own health and wellbeing. To me, the takeaway from the dinner was: the body is an amazing machine, capable of telling us what it needs. All we need to do is listen to it and treat it well. Eating and living healthy make our body much more efficient, and we will reap benefits in the long run. At the end of the evening, after enjoying The Park’s pink themed dinner menu, and innumerable photos later, I headed back with the satisfaction of having had one of the best conversations in recent times.

(Surajram Kumaravel studies at IIT-Madras. An enthusiastic photographer and runner, he brought his camera and lots of running questions to dinner, where he turned out to be Milind’s only male back-up in a gaggle of women.)

Online registration for the Pinkathon closes on April 9. Runners can pick up their bibs on April 11 and 12, at Phoenix Market City, Velachery between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., at the Pinkathon Expo. Participants need to assemble at Island Grounds between 5 a.m. and 5.15 a.m. for the event on April 13, which includes 3, 5 and 10 km runs/walks. Pinkathon supports the Adyar Cancer Institute, Women Cancer Initiative-Tata Memorial Hospital and United Sisters Foundation. To contribute write in to info@ pinkathon.in