Kashmir To Kanyakumari in 85 Days! This formidable challenge has been accepted by ultra runner Sufiya. She is soon to run a marathon which will entail running 50 km per day for three months as she has to cover 4,000 kilometres from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. The ultra runner from Rajasthan, Sufiya, 33, aims to run for humanity and peace.
Born and brought up in Ajmer, Sufiya lost her father when she was 16 and was brought up by her single mother. As an introvert kid who was not very active in sports during school days, Sufiya also dons the crown of a state level classical dancer. Sufiya chose Aviation as a profession and started running at age of 31. She has had spent 10 years working with different airlines as ground staff but quit her job recently because the company denied her leave for the long duration of her marathon. She became an ultra runner to tell people about the human impact on environment and other charitable causes.
Born and brought up in Ajmer, Sufiya lost her father when she was 16 and was brought up by her single mother.
In April 2018, Sufiya became the first and fastest female athlete to travel on the Great Indian Golden Triangle on foot, covering almost 720 Kms in 16 days. During the Kashmir to Kanyakumari expedition, she will be eyeing to get herself registered in the Guinness Book of World Records.
SheThePeople.TV catches up with her:
Running for peace from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. What inspires you Sufiya?
I believe that running is the best way to share our beliefs and emotions with people. Getting to explore new places, reaching out to new faces, seeing the world from close quarters also inspires me. Running for a cause makes it more impactful. If we can spread and share the meaningful changes we want to see in society, with a loving heart, I believe it will definitely leave a mark. There is no better way to do that.
For me running is finding the best in everything. Spreading the message of humanity.
The expedition will start from Srinagar on April 21. I will run through most of the major cities on the route.
Tell us about your journey so far.
After the completion of my graduation my mother wanted me to take up a government job. But I choose the aviation sector and joined a private airline. Hectic working hours had kept me away from me-time. Life was running like a machine and I was getting weak - physically and mentally. Since there was no time for regular fitness regime, I started running everyday for a good 15 minutes. Soon the motivation to take part in long distance running events grew inside me and I got some platforms to participate and even won some.
So, the confidence for long distance running kept growing steadily. When I run I am myself and get the freedom to be myself. But running marathons or winning was not only my aim. So I decided to run for what I want to share with the people I met.
Last year, I ran on the famous Indian Golden Triangle Road for a cause which was called 'Run for Humanity'. It secured a place in India Book of Records as well. During that journey I faced many challenges related to health, weather, traffic and bad road conditions and sledging as well. However, it was one of the greatest experiences for me. That journey strengthened me not only physically but mentally as well. After that I am confident enough to face any situation in life.
My soon to be husband, an ultra endurance cyclist and a trainer, helps me build strength and stamina through core workout. Also, yoga and meditation keep me strong and it releases stress as a recovery exercise.
How can running become a part of our lifestyle, especially for women who find it hard to go to a gym everyday?
Maintaining a gym culture is not easy for everyone. Some can't go because they are expensive, and sometimes it's office, work or family with small kids to take care that keeps women occupied. I think women who are working or have a big family find it more difficult to join a gym or any other fitness class. We need almost 2 to 3 hours for such kind of activities. As women we have lots of responsibilities at home. But if we run, jog or walk everyday and maintain a good diet the need to join any gym is not compulsory.
Running makes you positive towards life. It not only helps you be healthier but keeps you strong. Gives you confident. Makes you a good decision maker, makes you more accountable in everyday situations.
Tell us your core passion and long-term vision?
Running is my core passion. I want to run in every place, in every country.
What has been your most touching moment?
Everytime someone greets me and says “Sufiya, you are my inspiration. You motivated me to run for a healthy life.” What could be more amazing if someone takes a step towards a healthy and happy life just because of you?
As an active runner, tell us about your thoughts on women runners. How safe India is for a woman who runs solo?
The running community is increasing day-by-day and on almost every weekend there are some running or fitness challenges happening in metro cities. We see huge participation of women in these events. So the world is changing and is ready for a healthy start.
Many people say India is not safe for female runners but as an experienced marathoner I'd say we claim the roads, make it safe on our own. We can avoid any problems if we follow proper safety measures. Even, I have faced many challenges when I was running the Golden Triangle but it seemed easier with safety choices in mind.
What safety measures should women keep in mind?
Never run late night or in the dark. Be an early bird, hit the road early for a comfortable run. Wear proper and comfortable shoes specially when running solo. Always carry a phone and ID card with you so that in worst case scenarios you can call for help or some passer-by can contact your loved ones in the hour of need.
How can running help women strengthen?
For a woman, running on regular basis is very important. Running makes you live a stress-free life. Why should we be always encouraging women for a run? Because, apart from fitness and fight depression, she can avoid addictions to harmful substances and it will also keep them safe from many lifestyle diseases like blood pressure, diabetes etc.
I think there is no age barrier to start anything. We have so many living example of women who are professional and highly active in their 60’s or 70’s. State government and local sports events organisers should come forward to encourage women to take part in fitness activities specially those who are homemakers.
What would be your advice to girls who aspire to take up running as a profession, or a cause?
I will advice them to aim for something bigger than only running. Run for what you believe in. Being a woman if running is my passion and I want to make it my profession or career, nothing is better than that. Choose your passion as your profession, and create a wind of change in society.
Do you think India is changing in terms of putting value to its athletes?
We have just started walking on the path. Social media has played an important role yet the journey is very long. In the past few years, awareness towards sports, and not only cricket, has got the right kind of focus. However, in villages basic education and facilities related to sports are yet to be provided.
Photo Credit: Sufiya