The beginning of a journey:
Since childhood, I was never a sporty person. I used to do some walking and yoga, but no other sports as such. After marriage, I started running at the age of 45 - I’m 49 now. At the age of 45, I came to know about Coach Ravinder Singh. I remember the date - it was 5th May, 2014. Coach said that an event was happening- a 5-km run. By the time I had signed up, all the registrations were over, and I had to look for a partner because it was a relay race. I did finally manage to get one, from thereon, I ran. That was my first event- the start point of a long journey ahead!
Doing that event for 35 minutes, and the kind of mental and emotional support Coach provided to people like me who were beginners, made me believe that I could do this at my age. This was not something people my age were actively thinking of doing - especially those of us who are not used to doing any kind of sports at all! After that, I’ve done around 16 or 18 half marathons - and these are only the events. Additionally, I have probably also practiced for 21 or so half marathons- so the number may actually be more!
Diary of a runner:
Today, I run for fun! I am an entrepreneur so I need to come out from the kind of pressures and stress I go through at work every day. For me, morning time is ‘me’ time - nobody troubles me till 7:30 a.m. After that, the hungama (chaos) starts at home! But 5:30 to 7:30 a.m. is my time. The best thing I like about this kind of routine is that you are living a disciplined life - you have to sleep early to get up early, and do whatever you need to do before that to keep the routine going. I remember before I stated running, I used to feel fatigued all the time. Now, I don't even take a nap for 5 mins in the office even though I get up at 4 - 4:30 AM every day.
The obstacles along the way:
The biggest challenge that I have gone through, and am still going through and trying to overcome, is of course, having my periods. During those days, I feel so miserable I can barely come out of the house. Especially during events, I feel like I don't want to go. But you have to tell yourself that you have to do it - there are other women out there also doing this.
I got inspiration from a lady who ran at the London Marathon during her period. During the event, she was bleeding and said ‘I give a damn to people.’ So I said to myself, ‘If she can do it, so can I.’ Somebody also suggested that I try meditation. I did, and it has really helped over the past two years. I have been able to go to events during my periods much more comfortably. For me, that has been the biggest challenge.
Otherwise if you talk about other issues faced by women, such as security, all I can say is that there has been no problem at all for me. We may not know the person running next to us by name but they always support you.
To my fellow women runners:
My advice for women trying to balance their work, home and running (or any other passion) is that they need to prioritise. The day I joined, Coach told me that I had to set my priorities in order and know what is important in my life. That was a key point for me and I follow that advice till date.
If you see in the world, especially in India, we only have a few thousand women running half marathons. 5 or 10 kms are OK, but I am talking specifically about half marathons. So I feel proud that I have been able to run. I say there is no right time or wrong time to start. If you are under 40 you still have time, and after 40 also you can do it, but there are certain things you have to look for. Sometimes it feels like your body has given up. It’s important to take care of the little things as well - like stress and emotions.
Running is fun for me, but I also want to improve my timing and stamina. But I never like to compete with other people. Running is supposed to be for de-stressing and not adding to our stresses. Competition makes everything stressful - before you go to sleep at night if you have it in your mind that somebody is running faster than you, or has more stamina then you won't be able to sleep! So my personal view is to take it easy and run for fun. If you want to run, put other things on the backburner and just do it!
Tips for staying hydrated:
When we started running we mainly used to make homemade drinks that Coach suggested to us. Later on, many companies came forward and started offering a variety of beverages. My personal problem is that I do not like anything which is sweet. It's not for health reasons, but anything sweet makes me feel very dry. So I was always looking for something which is salty because I love salted stuff. Coach suggested kala namak so we used to make that a concoction using that at home.
Hydration is very important –I’ve had bad experiences in 2-3 events in which there was nothing to drink and nobody to even give you water for long stretches. From our group, someone had also fainted once due to dehydration. Hydration has been important from day one in my routine. The moment I wake up, I take two glasses of water. Before I start for my run, I take 2-3 sips of water, because you can't drink too much water also for big events. The important thing is to have a hydration plan and follow it. I always carry a small bottle with my concoction. I have found that after 3 or 4 kms, I start to feel thirsty so I remind myself that I need to sip some water.
How I discovered Zico:
For the past 3-4 years, Coach has been supporting us with regard to hydration. One day during my runs, I discovered a boy standing on the side of the road. He held out a beverage and said, “Ma’am, you want to try Zico?” So I said, “Pata nahi kya hai!” (I don’t know what this is!) When you are running, you don't want to stop, and I was carrying my bottle with me anyway. So I told him that I would come back after the run and try it. I did (and I’m glad I did!) because I really liked it! I asked him, “Poora doge?” (can you give me the whole thing?) and he replied, “Aapko mere sath photo khichani padegi because I have to go and show it to coach ki maine aap ko diya hai. Otherwise he might think ki maine pi liya hai!” (you’ll have to take a selfie with me, else Coach will think I drank the whole thing myself!) So I took a selfie with him and the next day told Coach it was amazing! Like I said, I don't like anything sweet and I am not a very fast runner, so whenever I feel fatigue or a cramp in my muscles or breathlessness, I feel better after drinking Zico. It has essential salts which are vital for us. Earlier, we used to carry electrolyte powder, adding salt to it, but Zico already has everything in it. The best part is that Zico is sugar free, with no cholesterol, and is tasty- it is coconut water after all!
My memorable moments:
One memorable moment was back in 2016 when I was doing the Mumbai Marathon. I had touched the 6 km mark, and suddenly, somebody from the back stepped on my shoe, and I had a very bad fall. When I turned around, I saw this old lady- she must have been in her 60s. She was holding me and started crying, seeing me bleeding. She said, “I am so sorry- I have ruined your run!” I said, “Don't worry, I am fine. Nothing has happened. Please just go on ahead.” I still remember her face- she was feeling so sorry for me that I won't be able to run. But I got up and told myself, ‘I have to finish this.’ And I did! But I was really touched by the human connection at that moment.
My five-year goal:
I have to compete with myself and improve my timing now, with Coach’s support. He is always there to guide us, as is the entire team. So hopefully, before I turn 50, I touch 2 hours! (smiles)
I am just joking- I just want to keep running- that's it, nothing else.