Working as an engineer at a high-profile tech company can involve some crazy long hours. It can be tough to even think about something unrelated to work.
But Makinde Adeagbo, an engineering manager at Pinterest, has a rather time-consuming hobby, one that may seem insane to some.
He’s a distance runner, competing in races of up to 50 miles.
“People will tell me that they don’t even like to drive that far,” he said to Business Insider. “I guess it’s pretty crazy. It’s out there, but there’s actually a large community of people who do it.”
He completed his first 50-mile race in 2012, a competition in the Sacramento area known as the American River Endurance Run. He finished in just over 10 hours of running.
That ultra-marathon, however, was just the culmination of a series of long-distance races.
He had set a four-year plan for himself: the first year, he’d run a half-marathon. The second year, a full marathon. The third, a half Ironman, and the fourth, a full Ironman — an extreme triathalon that includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and 26.2-mile marathon, all without a break.
“Then I took a step back and said, ‘OK, what’s next?'” Adeagbo said. “Some of my friends were a little bit crazy and had talked about ultra-marathons, so I said, ‘Why not? This seems like a perfect fifth year exercise.'”
Running fifty miles in one go can be a hard concept to wrap your head around, but Adeagbo has some tactics for getting through it.
“I try to focus a lot on my eating schedule. When you think of how much time passes during the race, you would have eaten two meals by then. I work on maintaining a schedule, which keeps me distracted from how much left there is to go,” he said. “And I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m going to do at the finish line.”
The training can be just as gruelling as the race itself. Before he did the fifty-miler, Adeagbo aimed for 10 to 15 hours of running during the week, doubling down on longer runs on the weekend. At the peak of training, that meant running a marathon on Saturday before running another one on Sunday.
All of this training was happening while he was employed full-time at Dropbox, where he went after previously working at Facebook. He’s worked as an engineering manager at Pinterest’s San Francisco headquarters since July 2013.
“When you’re training for a race, it’s almost like a full-time job,” he said. “I’ve always liked running in that it’s a goal you can take it on yourself. How much you get out is based on how much you put in.”
And, of course, he keeps a Pinterest board filled with inspirational quotes and stories from running legends like Jesse Owens and Steve Prefontaine. He says that working with other fitness-oriented people at Pinterest also encourages him to keep going.
“Pinterest is a really flexible place to work. We have showers here in the office, for example. People will shoot out an email to the whole company saying, ‘Hey, does anyone want to go for a run at the Embarcadero?’ Or people take bike rides up from the Peninsula in the morning,” he said. “There are so many people that are active on the fitness at Pinterest list, doing yoga or running. It makes you think that if all of these people are fitting it in, I can as well.”
Adeagbo had signed up for a 100-mile race but was injured before he could attempt it. He hopes to one day complete another ultra-marathon. But for now, he’s training with Pinterest’s running team (“Sprinterest”) to compete in “The Relay,” a 191-mile race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, with the distance divided among 12 teammates. They will be competing against organised groups of friends and other Bay Area companies, including Google, whose team has apparently dominated the race for a number of years.
“It’s hard for a small company to compete when they have a pool of 20,000,” he said with a laugh.
Adeagbo also plans to run some of the same ultra-marathon he completed in 2012 when a few of his friends attempt it in April.
“It’s good to have someone run with you and distract you from the pain,” he said.