Rajpaul Pannu – From Being an Overweight Highschooler to the Olympic Marathon Trials – HOKA Trials Athlete of the Day #10

by LetsRun.com (Sponsored by HOKA ONE ONE)
February 18, 2020

February is Marathon Month on LetsRun.com as the month ends with one of the greatest events on the athletics calendar, the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta. From the contenders, to the dreamers, to the mountain men and women, HOKA ONE ONE has 17 athletes competing at the Trials, and LetsRun.com is partnering with HOKA to profile all of them. We hope these profiles not only show you the cool stories of the people running the Trials, but also help gets you pumped for the Trials, and gives you some advice for your own running.

Not many Olympic Trials qualifiers started running to lose weight, but that is what Rajpaul Pannu did. As a high schooler, he was nearing 200 pounds, and made a 2007 New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Inspired by a Tylenol commercial, he discovered a love for running, and then became obsessed with lowering his mile time in PE class. 13 years later he’ll be toeing the line at the Olympic Marathon Trials February 29, in Atlanta as a 2:17 marathoner and team member for the HOKA ONE ONE Aggies. Get inspired by his story below.

This content is sponsored content for HOKA, but not approved by them.

Rajpaul at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half via @lightningraj Instgram photo by @camronshah

Name /Nickname: Rajpaul (Raj) Pannu

Age: 28

Hometown: Lancaster, CA

HS/Yr: 2009

College/Yr: 2013

Occupation: High School Math Educator

Training Group/Coach: Hoka One One Aggies

How qualified?Ran 2:17:06 at CIM in 2017.

Training shoe: Easy/Recovery Runs: Arahi 3

Workouts: Carbon X Racing shoe: Carbon X 

Family info: Raised by a single parent. Everyone else resides in India.

One random fact about myself I want people to know: I am a die-hard Oakland Raiders fan.

Article continues below player.

Will you support the Raiders in Las Vegas? I can recount their win-loss record from 1996-present. I’ll still support “The Las Vegas Raiders of Oakland”, but it might be a bit weird doing so.

High school claim to fame / prs? 

Honestly, nothing really impressive. I was the first cross-country runner in my school’s history to qualify for state. I ran 9:32 in the two-mile and ran track for only two years.

College claim to fame / PRs? 

I guess winning the West Regional Preview in 2013 when I ran 23:27 to edge out fellow Aggie Sean Davidson for the win.

What are your post college accomplishments/ claim to fame/ PRs? 

Qualifying for the Olympic Trials is definitely my biggest post-collegiate achievement along with USA Nationals in the 10,000 meters in 2018. Juggling a full-time job while doing it is what makes those accomplishments special to me.

Road to the Trials

How did you start running?

Rajpaul pacing Jim Walmsley at HOKA Carbon X event (via @lightningraj)

I was overweight my sophomore year of high school (almost 200 pounds), so I made New Years Resolution for 2007 to lose weight. I did so by running the P.E mile every Wednesday in hopes of lowering my time each week-through that experience, I became obsessed with running and seeing incremental progress. What got me out and about was actually a Tylenol commercial in which the actor spoke about how he “ran until he got lost”, I thought it was a great idea to do so and went for a run/walk of 5 miles (which almost killed me).

What does it mean for you to make the Olympics Trials? 

Qualifying for the Olympic Trials means a lot to me since I’ve spent years on the injury shelf and working full-time. It signifies years of hard work not just done by me, but by my mother, coaches, close friends who have had any impact on me making it.

What’s your goal for the Trials?

If I can run healthy, that would be great. If that can happen, I feel like I can run a sub 2:18, which is fine considering that I’ve been injured for a good minute.

How has your training gone in the buildup for the Trials?  

I got a cortisone injection for a nagging groin injury during the summer and very gradually built up to 85 this past week-which is not all too much. In the past, I’ll flirt with 100 mile weeks and honestly only averaged 80-90 when I qualified the first time around.

What was your highest mileage week? Your average week?

I hit 85 this past week and averaged 60-70 miles. Which is not a lot, regardless, I am still confident in the “lifetime miles” that I’ve accrued.

What is your favorite workout?

Long tempos are my bread and butter. They’re usually 8-12 miles long and 5-15 seconds faster than marathon pace. It makes me feel at ease when I run the actual marathon itself.

How much sleep do you get a night?

Rajpaul @ USA Track Nationals

This is embarrassing to answer: A “good night’s rest” is 5.5-7 hours. The last two weeks have not been great for me sleep-wise.

5.5 hours of sleep a night? Wow. That has to be on the lower end of the Trials qualifiers. Are you just a night owl and have to wake up early for school?

I typically average 5.5 hours of sleep. A lot of it is due to both the grind of living in the Bay Area, and the travel after work to do workouts. For instance, it took me about 90 minutes to commune from Hayward to Berkeley after school to get to my workout destination. I’ll finish my workout anytime around 8-9 and spend the following hours getting prepared for work and/or easy a.m run the following day.

How do you balance working and training?

I’m able to keep the running/work life balance by making sacrifices. I’m not (consistently) out and about on weekend nights, hammering beers with buds, or going on hikes with tinder dates. These sacrifices are amplified several weeks before a big race, but the assurance to me is given when I have a quality workout session, which is very fulfilling and makes sacrificing worthwhile.

Free Training Advice

What one piece of advice would you give to a high school/ younger runner?

Don’t run yourself to the ground. This is the perfect time to “build yourself” up as an athlete.

*Rajpaul is on Strava and instagram

More Rajpaul: Great Profile from RunnersWorld in June 2019 Teacher Went from an Eight-Minute Mile to a Trials Qualifier

More on the HOKA Aggies: Head coach of the HOKA Aggies Joe Rubio joined us on our podcast to talk about the history of the Aggies, their fun loving ways, and the Aggies competing at the Trials. Read highlights or listen here. If you just want to listen to that portion of the podcast click here [spp-timestamp time=”80:26″] and start listening in the player below. Full podcast here.

[spp-player track_player url=”https://pinecast.com/listen/29f0adad-9da6-48c2-b2b3-b4316a0eb4a8.mp3″]

This content is sponsored content for HOKA, but not approved by them.

Previous HOKA ONE ONE Takes On The Trials Stories:
HOKA NAZ Elite Coach Ben Rosario Talks 2020 Marathon Trials Expectations, Shoe Technology, Jim Walmsley, & Even Galen Rupp

*HOKA Trials Athlete of the Day #9: Tyler Andrews The Male Trials Runner Who Didn’t Break 18 Minutes in High School Who Now Trains with Kenyans in Ecuador Tyler Andrews has a true where your dreams become reality story as he didn’t break 18 minutes for 5k in high school and now is training with Kenyans in Ecuador and running the Olympic Marathon Trails and winning US championships.
*HOKA Trials Athlete of the Day #8: Jim Walmsley Looking for Advice Before His First Marathon
*HOKA Trials Runner of the Day #7: Brandon Johnson: From Sports Illustrated Steeplechase Fall to the Marathon Trials This HOKA field rep recruited by Pete Julian in college first made national news by face planting in a steeple pit, but has been climbing up the distance ranks since.
HOKA ONE ONE Trials Athlete Of The Day #6: Clinical Cancer Rearcher Manager Liza Reichert Who says you can’t be an Olympic Marathon Trails qualifier and have a very important job? Meet Liza Reichert.
*HOKA ONE ONE Trials Athlete Of The Day #5: Texan and US Mountain Team Member David Fuentes Meet the two-time Trials qualifier who has never broken 2:20 in a marathon. Will the hills of Atlanta result in a big breakthrough for this US Mountain team member? Not only does he work a full-time job, he also has a cool side hustle.
*HOKA ONE ONE Trials Athlete Of The Day #4: Swarnjit Boyal’s: Incredible US Olympic Trials Story Learn how Boyal has progressed from being cut twice in college, to being a walkon, to a conference champion, and now a US Olympic Trials qualifier. 
*HOKA ONE ONE Trials Athlete Of The Day #3: Meet Addi Zerrenner The Trials Qualifier Who Taped a Picture of Shalane Flanagan on Her Wall in High School During her 1st week of HS track practice, Zerrener was told she “ran like Shalane Flanagan” and she’s been hooked ever since.
*HOKA ONE ONE Trials Athlete Of The Day #2: Former US Marathon Champ Sergio Reyes Ready to Excel at Possibly His Final Trials at Age 38 How many 38 year olds do you know that run up to 140 mpw.
*HOKA ONE ONE Trials Athlete Of The Day #1: 2007 Foot Locker Champ Ashley Brasovan In HS, she beat Jordan Hasay to win the crown and later was told by doctors she would never “run again, let alone compete, after being diagnosed with osteoporosis and having 4 femoral stress fractures.” Yet she’s become a professional trail runner and 2X Olympic Marathon trials qualifier.
*Introduction: HOKA ONE ONE Is Ready To Take On The Marathon Trials

Want More? Join The Supporters Club Today
Support independent journalism and get:
  • Exclusive Access to VIP Supporters Club Content
  • Bonus Podcasts Every Friday
  • Free LetsRun.com Shirt (Annual Subscribers)
  • Exclusive Discounts
  • Enhanced Message Boards