The Running Soul: My Journey from Darkness to Light

By Parul Sheth (IND)

 

The number of runners in India - particularly women runners - has increased dramatically in recent years . There is something empowering about running and women are embracing it. It is commonplace now to see sari-clad women, women in kurtas and track pants participating in runs alongside the women in their shorts and tights.  For all of us, it is something that fits in well with our busy work schedules and gives us the much-required break from our domestic duties. Women in India are challenging themselves by running all distances- from 5km runs to ultra-marathons.

 

As recreational marathoners the pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives. I had just completed my 50km ultra race in February and in April, along with most runners across the nation, was looking forward to beginning the base training for the biggest annual running event in India: The Tata Mumbai Marathon held January. Once lockdown began our lives changed dramatically. Like women the world over our delicate balancing act evaporated. Along with working from home we started working out at home, including our children and families in the journey towards fitness. From 'runners' we became “fitness enthusiasts” and scrambled to look for alternative workouts.

 

But nothing could replace the high of the run. Once we reconciled to that the workouts were fun. Technology was our ally and there was no stopping us. Most of us tried to stay as fit as we possibly could. Now, with the easing of lockdown, as the roads open, it is a welcome relief. The biggest change, apart from having to wear a mask while running, was that we now start run from home, avoiding running with our usual groups in order to maintain social distancing.

 

We are slowly getting back to our routine. The main thing for all of us running today is the realisation that we are now running for the joy of it. Yes, there are virtual events, but without all the raceday brouhaha it is not quite the same. Racing was such a big part of our lives and now we go back to the real reason why we started running. For our peace, to challenge ourselves and to find our true selves.

 

The past few months have been an odd sort of marathon. We are all running but we cannot see the finish line. Women runners in India are adapting and creating new routes starting from home, over hills, along the sea fronts, happy to be back on their turf, as they exchange smiles with other habitual runners who have become a part of the fabric of their lives.