Bhumika Patel for most part of her life was an introverted girl, who cared about ordinary things like getting married, having a daughter, earning her MBA, and climbing the corporate ladder. Running only happened to her in the fall of 2009. Her husband had signed her up for a 4K that his company was holding, hoping it would help her get some mental relief. At that time she was going through a personal crisis, her dad had just passed away due to a cardiac ailment and her mom was battling breast cancer.
Today, Bhumika is a well-known professional runner but she realized the importance of fitness only after her mother’s tryst with cancer. Since then she has participated in racing events like the 5K and 1500 meters in Brazil and Taiwan and her first marathon in 2013, in London running alongside her husband. She has competed in Berlin, Copenhagen, Mumbai, Delhi, and Chicago.
This Bangalore native is now an ambassador and head coach of the Pinkathon’s year-long training programme in Bangalore
Milind Soman, founder of Pinkathon, a circuit of women’s-only races across India, recalls, “When I first met Bhumika a few years ago, she was so introverted and shy. I never saw her teeth. She was always around and working on something, and she never smiled.”
Winning the first 4K was the turning point of her life. Bhumika recalls, “When I was on the stage, I knew there was something there. Some potential, something got awakened inside of me.”
Bhumika is now an Adidas-sponsored athlete, and fondly remembers the first time she tried a racerback. As a budding member of Bangalore’s small, tight-knit running community, Bhumika had heard about the female-centric running event called Pinkathon and was excited when they announced that the event would be organised in Bangalore in 2013. Today, as the head coach of Pinkathon in the garden city, she crafts day-by-day workouts and coordinates runs throughout Bangalore, including 6.30am Saturday runs in Cubbon Park, for all its members. Along with running, they aim at improving overall health by organising talks with nutritionists, yoga experts, and doctors.
There were a considerable number of visually-impaired runners who participated in Bangalore’s Pinkathon. Bhumika wanted to do something for them and reached out to the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. She felt these girls had potential. Thus, she collaborated with UK ultrarunner Simon Wheatcroft, who is visually impaired, to devise strategies for working with these girls. She uses technology such as the RunKeeper app’s audio features as well as pairing them with running guides and personal mentors who are available to them round the clock.
Bhumika says, “People talk about inclusion at running events, but what does one day matter if it doesn’t affect the other 364 days per year? We have to ask if what we are doing actually has an impact on their lives.”
SheThePeople.TV spoke to some other women who are passionate about running. Here’s what they have to say:
Forner Indian naval officer, Tanuja Sodhi, in her quest to be the fittest ever, says, “Can’t deny that I run to keep fit and to get my ‘me time’ dosage, but I also run to give out a strong message to all the women out there! There is no right age to start running or exercising. It’s never too late to embrace fitness. I started running at the age of 40 and so can anyone else. Regular fitness is an antidote to modern afflictions of a sedentary lifestyle. So, I believe that fitness is imperative and not a mere alternative!”
Similarly, professional lifestyle guide and physical trainer, Indira Ghosh Baikerikar, says, “Running is a form of sport and passion that’s the most natural, easy and low maintenance way of life. As a human being, it comes to us very naturally and can be done by everybody, including women.”
“In today’s world where the mode of transport has become only cars and other vehicles, our natural movement of walking and running has also been curtailed to a large extent. So it has become a way of exercise now. Running as such has become cause or awareness based too.”
Asked why it is necessary for women to run more to spread social awareness, Baikerikar said, “A lot events of are now run by women and men, both for special awareness like cancer, heart health, ladies health, children health, autism, diabetics, special health-related like kidney failure and so on. This is quiet popular since you carry it from km to km as banners or slogans and cover a wider range of community. It conveys a real life message other than TV ads and commercial and still ads.”
She added, “As a runner, I started my career 6 years back with a half marathon, graduating to many full marathons or 42 kms, ultra running of 50 kms and 75 kms and 12-hour running. Internationally, I participated in the Athens Marathon as a humble respect and offering to the birthplace of the marathon and also Istanbul intercontinental covering Asia and Europe in the full 42 km run. I have run for causes like autism and wish to run more. Professionally, I am a certified strength trainer specialised for atheletes and sportspeople under the company name, Five Rings Fitness.”
Jigna Agarwal, a certified personal trainer (American College of Sports Medicine), and a committee member of the Narmada Kidney Foundation (NGO) says, “In a women’s life, one encounters the roughs, the curves, the ups and downs, life has to throw at us. Running also requires the same resolve and commitment as does life. We aspire and perspire through the course and life with great determination and a firm resolve.To brave the various obstacles one needs to be a “Runner ” in life.”
Meet The Granny Who Proves Age No Bar:
72-year-old Primla Hingorani starts her day with aerobics class. She then goes for a 3-4 km brisk walking or jogging.
“I have always been fond of running. Even when I was in school and college, I was quite the athlete and would run and walk. This didn’t change after I got married and when my three children were born – I ran with them!” she says to Daily Hunt.
Primla has never missed an edition of the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon in the senior citizens’ category since the marathon has kickstarted in 2004. She also runs in other events like Pinkathon.
Running is like a drug for Primla. She says, “I know that there are responsibilities that we women have that can take up time, but there are 24 hours in the day. There is nothing wrong in keeping 1-2 hours for yourself. Leave the house, be healthy and go out and meet people,” she advises.
Primla has three children (all married) and a retired husband. “I hope to continue like this for as long as I can. My body is fit. I am very healthy. I can do this!” – she says.
Pic Credit: runnersworld.com
Ria Das Contributed To This Story