Let me be ME

Smitha Kajale

A civil engineer by profession, winner of several cycling races, 3rd rank holder at Kolhapur triathlon 2019, 2nd rank holder at Nagpur Triathlon 2020, National qualifier at Nashik association championship 2020, a struggler in all the races due to her menopause stage, yet a winner at many, married at 18 and first child at 19 years of age, here is 45 years old Smitha Kajale from Thane.

Air force background and marriage at 18

I was born in Kolkata, and my father was in the Indian Air Force. My father had his last posting at Nashik, and he took a retirement there and joined HAL. I got into Chemical Engineering when my parents decided to get me married as they did not want to let go a suitable and desirable match. 

I got married at 18 and had my first child at 19. 

I continued with my education and completed my bachelor’s in civil engineering.

My second child was born when I was 26 years old. I never walked leave aside, exercising. Being young and occupied with children and work, I never felt the need for any physical workout. 

After my second child, I started with short walks. Even walking a kilometer was a colossal task. My husband and I decided to start with regular morning brisk walks. It was refreshing to walk and talk amidst all the duties and busy schedules.

The casual fitness journey

Going fast forward, when my elder son turned 19, he started going to a nearby gym, and I followed his footsteps. I got into a habit of regular workout and weight training. 

My younger son winning a Gold at time-trial, Guwahati

When my younger son turned 17, he started outdoor cycling and gradually cycling became his passion. His passion did not remain confined to casual cycling, but he started participating in the races. He did MTB Nashik, thane cycling championship, and in December 2017, he won the gold medal at the national time trial.

He then suggested me to start riding. He was sure that I would enjoy riding. 

I was getting bored with the gym. I get bored by the mundane routine; hence I bought a basic cycle and started cycling in December 2018.

In February 2019, I won the First Prize at Navi Mumbai maha cyclothon and a 10k cash prize

In March 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Pedal cyclothon

In April 2019, I won the 3rd Prize in the open category at Borivili Cycling association Time Trial

I started loving my finishes and the joy of winning.

It is said that a child gives birth to a mother, and truly my children gave birth to a new me.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

-Anonymous

How Triathlon?

Someone in the cycling group suggested about Triathlon. Triathlon was attractive, and the excitement to do three sports was gripping, but the issue was- I had never run until now!

I then thought and considered the upcoming episodes when my elder was already working in the U.S., and the younger one would leave soon, I would be free from their day to day responsibility.

Our life revolves around our children in motherhood, and they become our first and topmost priority. I was no different. The empty nest syndrome was daunting, and I needed to distract myself.

I decided to take the plunge and try out this new breed of excitement in my life-Triathlon.

3rd Position at Kolhapur Tri

Under the guidance of Viv Menon for triathlon plans and Nimesh for swimming, I participated in the Kolhapur triathlon (Olympic distance) and stood 3rd.

My first experience of open water swim at Kolhapur, and I was kicked, smashed, punched all over due to the massive number of participants.

After Kolhapur, I thought enough of Triathlon, let me now go back to cycling.

Meanwhile, someone mentioned about Tigerman Tri, Nagpur in Feb 2020. My previous doubts vanished, and I registered for the event.

“Sometimes we have one chance, to ride that wave, one opportunity to jump on, take a deep breath and feel the rush of adrenaline. . . don’t miss your chance.”

― Heidi Reagan

A week before the Tigerman event, I came across the Nashik Tri association championship. The championship was attractive, and with a discussion with my coach Viv, I registered for the event.

In February, I knew that Nashik would be cold, and I didn’t have the wetsuit for the race. Hence I started going for early morning swims and bathing in cold water to acclimatize my body.

The race mentioned that the swim would be in the pool, and I took a sigh of relief.

When I collected my bib, I was informed that the swim would take place in a dam(water reservoir). I couldn’t sleep for the entire night.

The race morning was horrifying than the revelation of the previous eve.

To my amazement, there were no ropes, buoys, or any emergency evacuation.

4th position in Nashik district triathlon

Upon questioning, the officials made it clear that the race was a time trial for the national qualifier and is a self-supported race.

I took a while to register this fact. My throat went dry. In already cold weather, I stood there, shivering in a swimsuit.

I prayed and chanted what I could remember and asked my husband to wait for me until I completed my swim and jumped in the water.

2nd position in Tigerman Triathlon

I finished 1500 meters of swim course in 35 mins. After completing the bike course, which was an undulating path and run that happened in scoring heat, I stood 4th

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

–Dale Carnegie

A week after I participated in Tigerman Triathlon, Nagpur and stood  2nd.

Menopause and training

For the event in November, I started training in June 2019. At the same time, I had to travel to Pennysylvania to my elder son. There the issue of menopause started. I was continuously bleeding heavily for week-10 days and changing menstrual cups every hour. Without a country-specific prescription, I could not take any medications in the U.S. hence. I continued in the same state until I returned to India.

I felt weak and lacked stamina. I consulted my physician as the race was nearing, and I had to get into vigorous training.

My blood test reports were not at all satisfying. My hemoglobin was at 8. My physician strictly advised me not to attempt any race, which was just two months away.

“Do not attempt doesn’t fit in my psyche” hence I asked for a solution. He advised for an Intravenous blood transfusion. I readily agreed and went to his clinic after work and got the I.V.

Races during my menopause phase

It is common to get a fever after the I.V., and I got it too.

My husband was concerned for me; he was always intrigued by this training idea and kept asking me,” Kyun Kar Rahi ho?”(why are you doing?)

I recovered the hemoglobin level, but my bleeding didn’t stop.

Thankfully just ten days before the race day, God showed mercy on me, and I wasn’t bleeding any more.

I could say one thing,”der aae durust aae”

Nashik and Tigerman, two consecutive races

On the eve of the Kolahour tri, I went for the bike route recce with my husband, exhausted in just 2-3 kms. I was anxious about the race the next day.

I believe that the mind conspires what you start thinking, I had made up my mind to finish the race, and I did.

From my menopause episode I can only conclude that,

“Leaders bleed, period.”

― Silvia Young, My FemTruth: Scandalous Survival Stories

The family bond

My boys are my pillars of strength. There has been no race when my husband has not been there to cheer, support, and encourage me. My two boys were my initial coach, guides, and mentor. I followed their footsteps in my workout/fitness journey as well as cycling.

What’s next?

I enrolled for Ironman 70.3 in Boulder, USA, but due to COVID, all the races got canceled. I will attempt the race whenever the racing season opens.

I aim to continue on my fitness journey and emerge as a more vital human being mentally and physically.

“A woman’s health is her capital.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Super Sonic: Ketaki

Ketaki

The second rank in her age category at Ironman Goa 70.3, first Indian female finisher at the Goa Ironman 70.3, first rank in Tigerman (Olympic Distance) Triathlon 2020, second in age category in SCMM 2017, 2nd in AG at Navi Mumbai HM 2017, a fauji kid, a lady with an apt phrase “catch me if you can”; a PR and Communications professional, mother of two, here is 43-year old, Ketaki Agtey-Sathe from Mumbai.

Fighter pilot and Kodava genes – a lethal combination 

We are blessed to be born to this fabulous couple who raised my sister and I to be independent, fierce and sensitive human beings. Growing up, we were an outdoorsy, adventurous and fun-loving family. I have travelled a fair bit and lived in places like Iraq, Wellington and Gorakhpur, among others.

I was into athletics during my school days and have grown up rough and tough.

The love for the outdoors runs in the family. Whilst in Iraq, we made a road trip from Baghdad to London and back with a four-person tent on the carrier of the car et al…! 

We were raised in an environment agnostic to gender, religion, caste creed etc. Equality, partnership and respect for another human being was of prime importance. One of the main mantras to live by  was, “work is worship” and “always have the courage of conviction.”

I did most of my schooling and college in the garden city, Bangalore and started my career in Public Relations there, as well .

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”

Jane Howard

Catch me if you can

I got married in 2000 and shifted to the US for a while, and that’s where my running journey began, including the love for outdoor running. We then moved back to Mumbai, and by now, I was running 5-8 km thrice a week. In 2003, as part of regular annual medicals, I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. This autoimmune disease continues to be part of my daily existence, which I manage with medication. I do believe my active lifestyle has helped with managing a lot of the known side effects. In 2004 I had my first child and within six weeks of my delivery, I got back to exercise and short runs .I was pleasantly surprised to see my body respond to physical activity by readjusting and shedding the pregnancy weight. I have always been lean and in the general average percentile of weight for my height and frame, so weight loss was not my target, but I aimed to build my stamina and work on the lost strength. 

In 2009, my second child was born, and now it was a challenging task to manage work, children, schedules and other chores. There were days when I used to start my workout  at 9.30 pm after putting my kids to sleep and wrapping up tasks.

The constant time management and juggling was getting tougher, hence I invested in a  semi-commercial ( full size, the type that are used in gyms – pulled out the stops on this one) treadmill at home, and thereby tried to eliminate excuses for missed runs.

The pounding on the treadmill became a lullaby to my kids.

Despite having adequate resources, I was missing a certain sense of rhythm as I seemed to be tailoring my fitness activities around everyone else’s schedules rather than prioritise them as a part of the whole.

And thus began my journey of outdoor running 2.0 with renewed vigour and the purpose of prioritising my fitness goals.

Along the way, I joined striders in 2013. Joining this very dynamic and well organised group was a fantastic decision! I came across like-minded people and in the process have made friends for life. Our conversations went beyond our professions and social status. I learned a lot about the nitty-gritties of running. I explored, read and became aware of the nuances of running, injury, recovery, types of shoes and much more. 

It opened a window to the world of endurance sport and ignited a passion that had obviously been dormant thus far.

“I’ve learned through the years that it’s not where you live, it’s the people who surround you that make you feel at home.”

J.B. McGee

Gradually I started racing half marathons. I set myself a personal goal of doing a comfortable Sub-2 HM before taking the plunge into Full Marathons. 

Among the races I did over the years, some included the HM(Half Marathon) in Satara, HM in Amsterdam, several local and domestic runs including HTHM (Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon)and Powai runs.

I also stood second in my age category in SCMM 2017. Receiving a podium medal at one of the most iconic marathons in the country was an exhilarating feeling! The fun cherry on the cake was a cash prize 🙂

The journey for the Fulls began with the first one being one of the BIG 5: Chicago Marathon. And then the personal goal of doing a sub 4 FM happened in the beautiful city of Riga, Latvia. My gift to myself for my 40th Birthday. 

(sub 4 means; completing a full marathon 42.2 km under 4 hours)

Most recently, at the Hiranandani Thane Half Marathon 2020, I stood fourth in the women’s open category, and I felt pride as the podium finishers were competitive athletes, all in their 20s. Felt chuffed at being somewhere near, in their league.

Running is my happy space, and I can run in most weather conditions. Whenever I am unable to stick to the regular schedule, I complete  my runs at any time of day even if it’s slap bang in the middle of a hot and humid afternoon. Come heat, rain, shine or snow; I endeavour to always complete that scheduled run! I would like to say that I am always cautious and do take adequate measures when running at odd hours, be it additional hydration, running on shady routes, keeping someone in the know of my whereabouts etc. 

“Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days. I run, pound it out on the pavement, channel that energy into my legs, and when I’m done with my run, I’m done with it.”

Rob Haneisen

Transitions and Tri

I was advised to cut back (and ideally stop for a short period) on my running when I suffered shin splints and a stress fracture back in 2014. And so, in order to keep up with the cardio fitness, I went ahead and bought myself a hybrid bike.  And thus began my tryst with cycling albeit the focus continued to be running.

2017 saw me going through various transitions across different aspects of my life. It is also the year I serendipitously stumbled into Triathlons. As they say- there is a time and place for everything, and it couldn’t have been better timing for me to step into this amazing endurance sport! 

The very nature of my training changed. There was cycling and swimming now, in addition to running. This also meant fewer outdoor running days and more workouts throughout the week. The tempo and rhythm of the beast ensured high adrenaline levels to say the least! 

“Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.”

Gautam Buddha

During that year, in 2017 I registered for the Kolhapur Triathlon, which was going to be my 1st Tri!

Just two months before the race I’d graduated to cleats, and as part of the customary falls, I fractured my rib when the handlebar hit my chest.

Thankfully I recovered before the race and went ahead to participate.

My first ever Triathlon was exciting and nerve-wracking, all at the same time. Being my first time in the open waters in India and being mortally terrified of the ecosystem in the cobalt blue- emerald waters of Rajaram talav of Kolhapur, I was one of the last ones to finish the swim and that too doing the backstroke! 

I did, however, make up for the lost time on the bike and run leg and successfully finished my 1st Triathlon. Always a special one!

The swim has and continues to be the weakest link, and I continue to endeavour to work on it.

I started 2018 with the customary SCMM- Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (this year it became TMM- Tata Mumbai Marathon) and moved on to do the Goa Tri in February. As a learning from my Kolhapur Tri, I’d decided to enrol for a swim camp in Goa in preparation towards my upcoming Goa Olympic Tri. I attended a swimming camp organised by Coach Kaustubh Radkar. The learnings were invaluable. Albeit my swim time still left a lot to be desired, I completed the swim leg of the Goa Tri with ease and comfort. 

The mountains beckoned in September 2018. Ladakh Marathon; a race that’d been on my wishlist for a few years now, finally happened! The most breathtaking and beautiful race. Never have I been so tuned into my breath and HR(HeartRate) as I was during this race. I did come in 2nd in the Women’s Open category.

I also did the Tour of Nilgiris(TFN) in December 2018. Although Nilgiris and the southern states are familiar ground, traversing these roads on a cycle was a rediscovery! TFN was a phenomenal experience! I came out as a more confident rider with better bike handling skills. This particular year at TFN (2018) saw the maximum number of women participants, both from India and abroad. It was wonderful to meet and interact with some high performing endurance athletes. Needless to say, some lovely friendships were forged. 

As the Tri journey continued, I felt it necessary to attack and build on all three disciplines(swim, bike and run) individually as well to perform better from an overall perspective.  

Before the Ironman Goa 70.3, I did the Goa swimathon in 2019. With some expert advice and guidance by star swimmer Nisha Madgavkar, the nervousness of Open water swimming reduced tremendously. Little tips on calming one’s self down, treading the water etc. did the trick! Open water panic is quite common, and it’s been reported that even the most seasoned triathletes have panic attacks sometimes. Guidance, technique and practise helps in managing & overcoming the fear.

I would definitely recommend attending water Open swim camps as a “to-do” to anyone signing up for an Ironman race. It would help to make you comfortable and confident about the swim.

Through my Podium finish at the IM 70.3, Goa, I got a direct qualification to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, to be held in Taupo NZ in Nov 2020. But alas, COVID had different plans for us all!

I am scheduled to participate in the same in DEC 2022 and can’t wait!

Children-Work-Home-Training-Repeat

I try not to compromise on the essential parts of my life: my home life, my work life and my athlete life.

It’s quite the juggling act, but that’s what makes it fun!

My energy boosters

My family knows that weekends are Mum’s heavy-duty training days; be it a long ride or long run or both! I get post-it notes on the bike or dining table wishing me a “good ride”. The cherry on life’s cake! It’s such an uplifting feeling reading those surprise post-it notes just before heading out in wee hours of a weekend morning!

A fun anecdote that any mum will relate to … the art of jugglery and masterful planning. Because we want our cake and want to eat it too! Non-negotiable 10K TT (Time Trials)meets Non-negotiable early morning drop off for child# 2’s overnight school trip! 

And so, permissions were sought, and I ran my 10K TT in the school ground post drop off. Cut to, child#1 casually walking up to class and musing at the “crazy person running circles in the school ground” until she realises, much to her horror who it was! She quickly skedaddled from the scene lest she had to admit she knew said, crazy person! The travails of having a triathlete mother!

No compromise on any essential parts of my life

“I don’t do average, I do awesome.”

My children are always incredibly excited about my races. My daughter always insists I enjoy the race while my son wishes for me to “come first”.

My daughter is in her school swim team, and my son is a natural athlete. I do feel truly blessed in the knowledge that my family understands and wholeheartedly supports my passion for endurance sports.

COVID has brought a lot of things to a standstill, but I took this period as a challenge and worked on my strength training and bike performance. The rewarding part is to see results. 

Endurance training is my balancing factor, and it is an essential component of my daily routine.

Those who endure, conquer.

My Motto

Stomp the ground to create that thunder

All forms of Endurance Sport need discipline, hard work, integrity and tenacity. To perform and excel, one needs to put heart & soul into it. And above all, you need to enjoy the process! That’s my motto.

I do believe that this ubiquitous year that shook the world in not so pleasant a manner has not been a waste. It has taught us to love each day, be kind to everyone around, be mindful of little things and keep looking ahead.

“You’re a fighter. Look at everything you’ve overcome. Don’t give up now.”

Olivia Benson

Age or body type should not have anything to do with the confidence you hold. Cross each bridge, each hurdle and each achievement with grace and dignity. Give it’s due but move on. 

Each one of us faces challenges and personal hardships; there will be days when that pillow seems like the best companion ever. But only when one faces those demons head on with courage and conviction, can one overcome the odds.

“Wake up with determination. Go to bed with satisfaction.”

Fall, fail, repeat- Sree

Sree

A government official, single mother, persistent failure in all the races, never- ever give up attitude, a robust and daring mother, slow in races but fastest when comes to catching a local train here is 53-year old Sree from Mumbai.

A “rough” and high-on-life-girl

I was a super-naughty girl right from childhood. My parents attended to my complaints more than PTMs. Playing outdoors, bruised knees, bandaged limbs were a regular affair. 

In grade 8, while playing in the school, I fainted. I was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with meningitis. I was in a coma for two days. I had many visitors in the hospital, making me feel like a celebrity. It was amusing to know that the visitors were keener to see how a hyper girl can manage to stay in bed for such a long time. .The doctors extracted the water from my spine and shifted me out of the ICU. The doctors termed my recovery as a “miracle”. 

I came home after staying in the hospital for a month.

The doctors informed my parents about the side effects of steroids that I was supposed to take for a year. As expected, I piled on a tremendous amount of weight.

I gradually started going for walks and then enrolled myself into Taekwondo classes. In a batch of 100, I was the only girl. These classes gave me a lot of confidence and helped me grow in the teen period.

I have played all sports in my younger days ranging from kabaddi, basketball, shot-puts, trekking and you name it.

My friends called me a “rough girl.”

I completed my formal education, cleared the SSE exam and got a position in the government postal department.

I got married in 1994 and shifted to Kandivali.

When my daughter was 1.6 years old, I enrolled myself in a nearby gym. I also joined aerobics and kickboxing. I am an over-enthusiastic individual and excited about anything and everything.

It was a tedious task to carry on with all the activities along with house chores, taking care of my daughter and work, but I enjoyed everything.

SCMM

In 2003, a friend took me to the SCMM Dream run, and the electrifying environment made me participate again in 2004.

In 2005 I participated in the half marathon and finished in 3.40 hours. I was shamelessly happy. 

I continued participating in the SCMM half marathon until 2009.

When days turned dull and dark

I was happily enjoying all my activities, work and motherhood. Life had lots to offer, and I was brimming with excitement.

Things turned the other way round in 2009 when the word Cancer engulfed us. 

My husband was detected with stage 3 cancer. 

Hospital visits, long medical bills and innumerable prescriptions took over aerobics, dance and kickboxing classes.

His health was deteriorating faster than expected due to Diabetes. The doctors asked me to rush him to Cochin to see a specialist. During this process, I fractured my foot, and due to negligence, the recovery period lasted for almost three months.

The Oncologist in Cochin gave us six months, and I got my husband back to Mumbai.

I had to move around hospitals a lot as my husband wasn’t cooperating with the treatment.

Gradually his kidneys failed, and after three days of extensive treatment, he finally succumbed to his illness in December 2010.

All of a sudden, there was a long pause. All the running around and chaos was over. 

At times silence is also deafening.

I took a while to compose myself and look ahead in life. I had a daughter to raise, and I had no option but to say that- “get up Sree, get going”

I joined back to work in February 2011.

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.

my daughter was my sunbeam, says Sree

Sunny days are here again.

BNP Runners

I focussed on bringing my life back on track, both physically and mentally. All types of activities took a back seat until 2014 when I came across a training program for runners at Borivali National Park on facebook. The outdoor lover in me and the enthu cutlet syndrome didn’t miss any detail, and I joined the group. 

I was starting afresh now and was determined to take life my way.

I started running regularly. Running location was closer to my place hence it was easy to manage 4 am runs, come back home prepare tiffins, finish the household chores and rush to catch 8 am local to be in the office at 9.30 am.

I was gaining back my lost energy. I was happy.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

Theodore Roosevelt

The Tris, falls, DNF and repeat.

Knowing my excitement level for anything and everything someone in the running group told me about Triathlons.

The only and the biggest worry was- I didn’t know how to cycle.

Clueless about the sport and just out of sheer excitement, I started to learn to cycle in October 2014.

I had innumerable falls, and butts were always sore. I wondered how others happily smile and pose for pics post-ride while I hold my bottom out of pain.

Google came to my rescue, and I discovered padded cycling shorts. Rides were not so painful after that.

I was not even aware of swimming goggles and would end the session with red and itchy eyes.

One of the kids in the pool suggested I wear swimming goggles, and I thank that kid till date.

Initial cycling days

Here’s a chronology of all the finished-yet-incomplete-races

Goa Triathlon, March 2016 

Before the race, I participated in Wada duathlon to check on my cycling capabilities. The race began with a run of 5 km after that I got on to my bike to ride 40 km. I barely managed to ride through that off-road track so much so that the villagers took pity on me and asked me to stop if I was unable to cope. I had to finish what I started and did reach the finish line in five and a half hours. 

Next was Goa Tri. I packed my bag, laced up my enthusiasm, build up all the courage and travelled to Goa. 

On the race day, I started the swim peacefully but panicked after 100 meters when I couldn’t spot any kayak. But within no time a kayak was near me, he asked me if I wanted to quit, and the reply was a definite no. I told him to be around and finished the 1500 meters.

Biking freaks me, but I mustered all the courage and got on to the bike.

After a few loops, a car zoom passed me, and I slipped on the loose gravel. My front tooth broke, my knee bruised and my face had scratches all over. I wasted 40 minutes contemplating whether to continue or not.

Then I thought about my sore bums, winter morning swimming sessions, 4 am runs, and with a deep breath, I got up, rubbed my bruises gently, got on to the bike and continued the bike course.

My bruised knee swelled up substantially by now, and I barely managed to finish the run course.

Again I was the last one to reach the finish line. 

I met my friend Sanjay, and with  swollen lips, I managed a small grin showing my broken front tooth.

Chennai Tri, July 2016

I could manage this race in time without any fall.

Pune Tri, November 2016

I went for this race with the confidence and glory of finishing the previous in time, totally oblivious of the bike route.

I was taken by surprise as the entire biking route was through the ghats. It was a pain-stricken ride, and I finished the race in 07 hours when Half Ironman participants were finishing their race!

After the DNF and abysmal performance in all the races, I was not disappointed it set me thinking where I went wrong.

Then I came to know that there are coaches who guide and train for triathlons. I pondered over to understand which was my weakest sport, and it took me no time to know that I wasn’t good at any.

Shankar Thapa,  my swim coach at present, came to my rescue. I Joined his classes to learn freestyle swim, as I was only doing breast stroke in all my earlier races. I enrolled in online training plans with Yoksa. I couldn’t do justice to my training plans because my workplace shifted and I spent a lot of time travelling.

Kolhapur Tri,November 2018,70.3

I was very well prepared for this race and was quite hopeful to finish in time. After a successful swim, I climbed on my bike. After a while, I had difficulty riding. I then realised that the bike tyres were fixed inside out and I didn’t even check while I was assembling my bike.

DNF(Did Not Finish) again.

Goa Tri, October 2019,70.3

Due to massive undercurrents, I drifted while swimming and the kayak informed me that I was going the wrong way. Although I finished the swim, I couldn’t make it within the cut-off time, so I aborted the race and went ahead to cheer my fellow mates.

DNF(Did Not Finish) again.

Kolhapur Tri,November 2019

First race when everything went fine, and I managed to touch the finish line in 05.30 hours!

Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing.

J.K. Rowling

Test me, and I’ll always emerge as a winner.

The days were not easy. No, not at all.

Raising my daughter with the compassion of a mother and responsible shoulders of a father was not easy.

Being whacked on the bums during early morning runs, dealing with rowdy boys teasing my daughter or rushing from one local to another and then hushing back home from work, I have dealt with all.

Fear is a distant emotion for me. I do not fear the unknown for I have seen and experienced the worst phase in my life. I have also battled domestic violence to a more considerable extent.

Best friends; me and my daughter

I also have an accurate observation that I am genetically slow when it comes to races, but no one can beat me when I chase a local train.

My daughter is to get married soon, and I’ll be left all on my own. The thought of loneliness doesn’t bother me as I am ferociously independent. My daughter and I are best friends and best friends never part.

I use my ears wisely.

I had my share of accused and blame games, but I used my two ears wisely. 

The more you listen, the more you give yourself room for doubt.

After my husband’s demise, people were very sure that I would sell my flat and move in with my parents, but I stayed on my own.

I fill each moment with new possibilities

“She is a widow, yet she goes to the gym?.”

“She has started working as well!”

“How will she live her entire life without a partner?”

“Can she be a father to her daughter?”

And many more.

Ignorance is bliss, and it came handy to me.

I take each day as it comes.

I fill each moment with new possibilities, and I aim to live life kingsize.

When it comes to choice, choose yourself

When I can stand up for myself, learn to fall and cycle at the age of 46.

When I can face all my DNFs with triumph.

When I can listen and yet not get affected by whatever the society calls or expects from me, 

then anyone can muster the courage and live a life filled with gratitude and self-respect.

One day I’ll finish Ironman 70.3 within time and will grin ear to ear without a broken tooth.

“The woman you’re becoming will cost you people, relationships, spaces and material things. Choose her over everything.”

Kirti Virmani

SR titleholder, winner at several cycling races, Delhi International Triathlon 70.3, second position, a podium finisher at sprint and Olympic distance triathlons, a woman who stood firm against society norms, mother of two, here is Gurgaon based. 42-year-old Kirti Virmani 

House chores to running shoes

I was born in Bhiwani, Haryana. After completing my M.Sc in mathematics, I got married in 2001 soon after I had my first child. Due to domestic responsibilities I could not move out and work; hence I got absorbed in household chores. In 2007 we shifted to Gurgaon from Yamunanagar. I was keen to have another child, but I suffered from secondary infertility. I went through IVF and delivered a baby girl in 2012. It was a long gap between the two children. I had put on a lot of weight, and the entire IVF process drained me.

I was on a roller-coaster ride managing two kids with a significant age difference, and hence the demands were also different. I had nothing more to do other than kids and home. The responsibility was exhausting. I wanted an outlet to release my stress. It was disturbing to see myself in the mirror, as well due to post-pregnancy weight gain.

While strolling my kid in the morning, I used to see girls running in a group. I observed this every day and more number of females during weekends. Upon asking, I came to know about Pinkathon. 

I gladly joined the group. I also started with power yoga to slowly get back the lost energy.

I joined the running group firstly to have a social circle of like-minded people and secondly to build up my running stamina.

I was loving this change and welcomed it enthusiastically. I didn’t need an alarm to wake me up, but I was up on my own and before the house buzzed with activity, I was back fully charged up to carry out the daily chores.

“In giving birth to our babies, we may find that we give birth to new possibilities within ourselves.”

Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Wheelspin

In July 2015, I joined Gurgaon Road Runner(a running group). I was a newbie into running and a slow runner as well while the group had avid runners in it. I felt out of place.

I switched to cycling. 

Cycling gave me a good kick. 

I felt liberated while cycling.

First 200 km ride to Jaipur

Within a few months, I felt stronger than before and ready for my first 50 km ride. I took around 3-4 hours to complete the ride, but I was cloud nine. There was no looking back after this. 

In 2016, I did my first longest ride to Jaipur of 200kms and Timber Trail of 300 km.

Around the same time, someone from the running group proposed a cycle ride from Manali to Leh. Alok, my husband, always came in as the most vital support and accompanied me in all my rides. I had never done any long-distance ride without him. Although he too started running and cycling just for fitness but was not keen to join the Manali-Leh ride.

I had a tough choice to make here. 

He encouraged me to go ahead with the ride, and I mustered the courage to pack my bags and embark on this epic ride.

Manali-Leh Ride

I could not complete the ride as I missed Alok all through and to so much magnitude that I fell sick. I am grateful to all my teammates, especially Nitin Yadav, who took care and accompanied me all through on that high altitude.

“A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out.”

Walter Winchell

I made friends for life during this trip, and I shall always remain indebted to them.

Once back from the trip, I registered for the Golden Triangle tour(Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-Delhi, 750 km in 3 days). It was a great learning experience for me. We rode in the dark, lost our way, boys chased us, managed punctures, and so many other thrilling adventures.

I also completed my SR series (Super Randonneurs) in due course of time. Till now, I was clueless about the types of bikes available in the market as I did the SR series on my 17kgs of hybrid bike.

I started gathering podiums in many races, and my cycle wheel was spinning in full glory.

The tri entry: better late than never

In the desire to add variety to my workout, I thought of learning how to swim. I started with properly guided coaching classes from July 2019 and attempted my first sprint triathlon in August 2019. I grabbed a podium in this race. Going ahead, I registered for the Olympic distance in October. The point of botheration here was that the event was in a 16 meters pool while I always practised in a 5 meters pool. On the race day as expected, I panicked due to the depth of the pool. I composed myself and requested the organisers to allow me to settle down. Once calm, I started the swim. I completed the race beyond the cut off timing, and I swim DNF. I am grateful to the organisers to not stop me from finishing the race. I knew my weak point now and scope of improvement as well.

In February 2020, I attempted the 70.3 distance triathlon organised by Delhi International Triathlon. DIT will remain an exceptional race to me, firstly because of the distance and secondly I completed this race under immense mental stress. I was reeling under tremendous pressure when I stepped on to the start line, I started to vomit at the 11th km in the run course but was determined to finish it. Seeing my family and friends at the finish line was a great reliever.I stood second in the race.

I took a significant decision and registered for Ironman 70.3, Austria in May 2020. Although the race didn’t take place due to COVID, I was adamant about overcoming my fear of open water. I enrolled myself for Open water swim sessions in Goa and was looking forward to training under proper guidance.

Neither the races nor the training happened, but the making up my mind to attempt the race has filled me with lots of self-confidence. The races also helped me in strengthening my mind and get over stress and anxiety quickly. 

When God gives you lemons, squeeze them into tequila.

I remember the days when I was soaked in household chores and responsibilities. I had no time for myself and gave every bit to my home. During a crisis in my husband’s business, we were left with mere survival capital. I pitched in and started working to contribute to the household. My husband never fails in mentioning that the best thing I did during those hard times was, to stay back.

After all the years of struggle and tough times, both me and Alok have stood as the strongest pillar for ourselves and our children.

My husband encouraged and supported me in my passion, and I left no stone unturned to churn the best from every possibility.

I waited patiently for I knew that the cocoon will take its own time to crack open and the butterfly will be out in the open.

Tough times don’t last, tough people, do.

For all the women who are feeling stuck or are unable to muster the courage to stand for themselves then remember, no one else will do it for you. You have to take that first step and keep moving ahead, the universe will conspire to make it happen for you.

A computer engineer to a social sector professional, a lazy participant in school P.E., to an accidental triathlete to a full ironman finisher, one of a very few  Indian woman in the world to finish 140.6, a mother of two and wife of an aspiring Ironman, an Indian by heart and birth, here’s a big cheer to Indian-born, Singapore-raised, and now Texas-based, Charanya Ravikumar

The first half marathon

I was born in India and then immediately moved to Singapore. I completed my basic education in Singapore and moved to the U.S. for higher education.

I was the last bencher whenever it came to participate in any sports activity. I was way more into debates and drama than anything sporty!

When I came to the U.S. in 2001 for my undergrad, I got hooked to the American lifestyle pretty quickly and by the time I had realized it, I had already put on the “freshman 15 (pounds) and more! Staying or eating healthy was just not a priority.

After the completion of my professional education as I started working with Dell, the work environment made me conscious about my weight. 

I was grappling with the thought of shedding those extra pounds but couldn’t find a way out.

I came across Asha for Education, a non-profit that would  train running aspirants for half marathons and marathons in order to raise funds for kids back in India through its Strides of Hope program. I was always keen to contribute and create awareness of issues impacting kids and what better way than running!

“The marathon is not really about the marathon; it’s about the shared struggle. And it’s not only the marathon but the training.”

-Bill Buffum

I trained hard to reach my first half-marathon finish line in 2007, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the sense of community, and that finisher’s high made me immediately sign up for my first full marathon – the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC.

“When you run the marathon, you run against the distance, not against the other runners and not against the time.”

Haile Gebrselassie

Discovering a new love!

Marine Corps Marathon which I also did in 2007, was a scintillating experience. The course runs along many of the iconic national monuments of Washington, D.C.The event focuses on strengthening community spirit, promoting good health and showcasing the organizational skills of the United States Marines. For these reasons, it has well earned its nickname as “The People’s Marathon.” There were Team Asha runners from across the country, and it was a great feeling to run together.

In due course, I did seven marathons, never repeating a course and using the run as a great way to explore a new city and collect some fancy medals as well. 

Around the same time, a friend had signed up for a Sprint Triathlon relay and wanted a swimmer. I was supposed to swim 800 meters, and I readily agreed. Swimming was a part of the school curriculum, so it was not a big deal. Well…not until I reached the race venue and got to know that the swim was in a lake and not in a  pool! 

Once I got into the water though, my nervousness dissipated and it ended up being a beautiful experience. I even bumped into a friendly turtle! 

While I waited for the race to get over, I got to experience the race environment. The energy, the adrenaline rush, and the camaraderie was palpable. I was as excited as a child would be going to Disneyland for the first time! 

“There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps”.

I started participating in sprint distance triathlons and did two-three races a year.

I had found my new love!

70.3 and the Full Ironman plunge

I was working at Dell, but the work didn’t excite me, so as soon as I could, I left my job and started volunteering for various causes. I also ended up pregnant at this time and before I knew it, my baby boy was six months old, and I was wholly engrossed in mom duties and also dealing with the postpartum phase.

I had made my own decision to leave work, take care of my baby and volunteer, but I was not happy. I felt like I was not doing anything meaningful and my postpartum body brought me back to my post-college days.

With no child care support, it was tricky to figure out how to start incorporating a workout routine. 

You will find out a way though if you put your heart to it.

I came across a club called Stroller Strides in the vicinity where the workouts took place around the baby’s stroller. I enjoyed those sessions, and it was a stepping stone back towards my fitness journey.

Meanwhile, I also started going for some spin classes and started getting back into form, slowly and steadily.

In Jan 2014, I learned about Ironman Galveston 70.3 coming up in April 2014, and enthusiastically I signed up for it.

I trained on my own as I wasn’t aware of proper training plans or other nuances. Managing training between nursing, and tending to the baby and household was a challenging task, but I managed to finish in 08.29hrs, just a minute below the cutoff!

If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the Triathlon must have taken him completely by surprise.

P.Z. Pearce.

I decided I would train better and come back and do the same race next year, but I got pregnant instead and only managed to come back three years later in 2017!

I had a baby girl now and my older toddler boy to manage along with the training, and I also started working full-time! 

It takes a village to raise a child; well, mine took a vineyard(pun intended)

It was a herculean task to train while managing full-time work, taking care of the kiddos, and trying to have a semblance of a social life!

It was my first experience training with a coach and a structured training plan. I had a lot of inhibitions with interacting and communicating with my coach. I would feel guilty if I missed a workout. I also hesitated talking about issues like cramps and periods (not being able to talk openly about periods is not an issue in India alone but all over the globe).

I attempted the race again and improved by only 45 minutes. I had hoped to do a lot better!

Don’t think about the start of the race, think about the ending

Usain Bolt

But I had a fire in my belly. 

I wanted to improve. 

I wanted to emerge stronger. 

I wanted to be more than just a wife or mom or employee.

I decided to push myself toward the ultimate triathlete goal, I signed up for full Ironman.

Quitters don’t tri. Triathletes don’t quit- The full Ironman.

– I firmly belive in this quote

I knew that I wasn’t the strongest or fastest athlete, but I also knew that I was not a quitter.

A full Ironman requires total dedication and sincere hard work. I was ready to give it my all.

I needed guidance and a structured approach and a coach I was completely comfortable with. My friend Tim from my local Tri club was aspiring to be a coach, and I readily agreed to be his guinea pig. Tim’s plans were completely structured toward accommodating my crazy schedule, but at the same time planned well to move me from strength to strength toward my goal. I was completely comfortable discussing my shortcomings, and scope for improvement. I accomplished my training goals one week at a time.

With six months of dedicated training, I attempted my first full Ironman, Ironman Texas, in 2018 and finished in 15:56:58.

Neither the training nor the race was easy. Well, if it was easy, then why would I have attempted it?

On the race day after the cheering and hugs from the fellow participants and family, I headed for the swim course. As I started my swim, the next wave entered the water, and I was surrounded by a swarm of swimmers. One swimmer almost pulled out my timing chip, and I had to get into the treading water position to fix it, and in the process gulped a lot of the nasty water. I was very conscious all through the swim course about my loose timing chip and stopped many times to check on it. Almost midway, I could feel my stomach churning, but there was no way I was stopping.

I finished the swim in 1:37:04.

The bike course started fine, and I was on target as planned. My stomach was still churning, but nothing serious. Twenty minutes in, I took a sip of my electrolyte drink and immediately threw up. My stomach wasn’t accepting anything, and I kept throwing up. When I reached mile 62, I tried to have a jam and cheese sandwich and kept praying that I shouldn’t throw up anymore. Miraculously I didn’t. It was a significant relief. I was slowly regaining strength. I also found a photo of my kids my husband Vish had packed for me with the sandwich, and it surged me with instant energy.

I finished the bike course in 8:07:19, a whole hour more than I had planned for!

The 3-loop run course though was an absolute delight. I loved the crowd support, constant cheering, nutrition stations with fresh watermelon, and the overall positive energy. I loved seeing and high fiving my kids, husband, parents, coach, teammates, colleagues and friends who had all shown up at the race.

I felt like a rockstar.

I wasn’t tired but was enjoying every moment of the last lap. I was gliding and could feel the energy flow in me. As I approached the finish line, I saw Coach Tim and handed over my water belt to him, and he passed me the Indian flag.

I crossed the finish line holding the flag up, high and rising. I finished the run in 5:45:52

During my entire race, I wasn’t bothered about my overall finish time. I was careful about meeting the timing cutoffs of course, but I was committed right from the beginning to enjoying my race and giving it my best!

To be a triathlete means that one has adapted body and mind to endure a challenge that motivates yourself and all who know you.

The last 30 seconds were the most incredible moments I had ever experienced in my life, second only to giving birth to my 2 babies!

Inspiration and support?

Several incidents inspired me to take up this sport. 

Truly, Triathlon is not about the finish line but the guts to begin.

Memories go back to my first relay sprint triathlon where I was awestruck by the energetic environment. Volunteering once at Ironman Texas also made me see the grit and determination of the athletes.  Vish and I volunteered at one of the last water stops, and witnessed athletes of all ages, sizes and shapes making it to the finish line.

In a recent half-marathon, I  saw a group of women who were over 60 years old, holding hands and crossing the finish line. Their energy and joy were infectious and reminded again why I indulge in these sports. Training for a race and crossing the finish line with your buddies is just an exhilarating feeling – I will take this over partying any day!

With so much inspiration around us, it is easy to tap into your own potential and take that first step, be it towards going to the gym, signing up for a 5K, or even showing up at a Stroller Strides workout with your baby.

Once you motivate yourself to take that initial step, things will start to shape up and fall into place.

For any activity that involves a woman stepping out of the house, it is infinitely easier when there is complete buy-in from the family. Living abroad, there is no concept of “house-help” here. Everything has to be done on our own. Although daycare facilities and childcare at gyms are more readily available here than in India, the support and understanding from family is still a must.

When a person desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.

Paulo Coelho

I have been asked many times about the need to indulge in triathlons with a small baby or two small children, questioned about leaving my children alone with my husband while training  etc, but thankfully never from my own family. My husband Vish has always been 150% onboard with my goals from day one.

He understood my passion and my desire to do something for myself – in this case to participate in endurance sports.

He is a born athlete and an avid runner. He started to learn to swim after we met, motivated to do triathlons as well. He would have completed his first Ironman this year if not for COVID. We have run throughout our travels, including doing a half-marathon during our honeymoon!

Our kids are used to seeing one parent missing on weekend mornings and question us if we choose to sleep in. We love setting a great example for our kids, and they are excited to do their first kids triathlons down the road as well.

Dream

I have done the distances I’ve wanted to do, but I would love to continue becoming a stronger athlete.

I would love to participate in races all over the world, including India!

I also want to see more South Asian women participating in endurance sports.

It puzzles me that I see so few women who look like me at races despite living in a country that has top notch facilities for athletes – and have found that a lot of the barriers  that women in India face are present across the diaspora as well.

Down the line, when I can devote the time and effort, I would love to work with young girls and women and encourage them to take up endurance sports and see what they can all be capable of! Women can and should be able to do anything they decide to do!

A strong woman raises a strong family.

“You don’t have to be so tough that it doesn’t hurt; you just have to be tough enough not to quit.”

asserts Charanya

Ami Paneri

An IT professional, progressive runner, determined triathlete,self-motivator, nothing weighs her down-both figuratively and literally, a total novice in the athletic world, cycling lover, mother of two- Ami Paneri from Mumbai.

Motherhood and the aftermath

I was the eldest of the three siblings, always an obedient and studious girl. I loved playing with electronic items more than dolls, thanks to my dad. He worked in ISRO, and gadgets were a significant part of family discussions. I was an outdoor child. Playing in the wild, running on trails, and burning the skin under the sun were my favorite things.

I learned cycling on hired Tobo bikes and got my first personal cycle in grade 6. It was a prized possession.

Since then, the cycle was my mode of transport to school and then to college as well.

I completed my MSc, M.Phil, and secured a gold medal in computer science.

In 2007, I got married and shifted to Mumbai from Gandhinagar. I started working as an ERP professional.

In 2008 I had my first child. After six months of maternity leave due to several reasons, I could not join back to work. I was loaded with heaps of responsibilities of a young child, mother in law, and self. 

I faced the most challenging time between 2009-11; the postpartum phase.

I was irritable all the time and was piling on weight. My health was deteriorating. I had lost interest in everything. There were regular tiffs and arguments at home.

I was missing myself.

In 2011 I had my second child. I weighed a whopping 90 plus kgs now.

I gradually started with regular gym and weight training. I loved that one hour in the morning, all to myself.

Motherhood is joyous, but it can also be overwhelming. Everyone congratulates you on having a baby, but no one warns about the aftermath, mainly postpartum depression.

says Ami

Gaining back the confidence 

It’s told that I speak “heavy” words, but now I was proving it correct. I was so heavy that I became self-conscious all the time. I would avoid going to public places, meeting people, and would avoid the gym at the “crowded” time. I would avoid arms workout at the gym as the bulge embarrassed me.

In 2011, my husband participated in the SCMM Dream Run, and I went along. The electrifying environment zapped me. 

I wanted to be there- running.

I wanted that zeal and energy- and I had none.

The best thing that happened during this time was, I got back to work. It was a welcoming change. I was happy to move out and sort my routine.

In 2013, I participated in SCMM half marathon and somehow managed to drag myself and reach the finish line in 3.37 hours.

I realized what it takes to run and finish.

I had no idea about training, so I started running independently. I managed between kids, work, and home.

In 2015 I participated in the SCMM half marathon and finished in an abysmal timing of 3.58 hours.

I didn’t progress but digressed. I was missing out on something, but couldn’t figure out what.

In 2016, I joined Pinkathon. I was incredibly body-conscious and would run before the sunshine to hide from the eyes watching an overweight female trying to run.

Pinkathon helped me realize that many like me are struggling with body shaming and the social stigma attached to it. I had lots of co-sisters sailing in the same boat. I gradually gained confidence and started running in a group.

“You’re so much more than the numbers on your plus size lingerie”

In 2016, a friend organized Wada Duathlon and asked me to participate. I was thrilled. I got my cycle, and long lost love was back in full form. Cycling is my childhood love, and once I am on my bike, I am the happiest person around.

I gradually started coming back to my happy and confident form.

In 2017 I participated In Wada Duathlon yet again and stood first.

In the same year, I did my first 80 km ride to Kharghar with the Malad cycling club.

Ah! I was flying.

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859 – 1930), author of Sherlock Holmes

The Ladakh Marathon: in quest of a timing certificate

In 2018 My husband registered for the Ladakh marathon and I wanted to participate as well. After booking the flight tickets with an overdose of excitement, the reality came crashing on me.

I didn’t fit the eligibility criterion. I did not have a required timing certificate.

Viv came to my rescue. What would I ever do without his meticulous training plans?When I shared my desire to participate in the marathon, he gladly welcomed my thought and encouraged me to train hard.

Myself and Sopan at the Ladkah Marathon

I participated in several 10 K runs.

I was chasing races and timing. I was desperate.

And finally, from 1.40hrs, I managed 1.18hrs for a 10K run.

Whatta delight! I had the timing certificate, and I was going for the Ladakh marathon.

I finished the marathon and it was a great confidence booster for me.

Trying the Tri

Our training group, MMA(Mad Menon Academy), is always buzzing with interesting discussion. This time the term Triathlon caught my attention.

Further, it was revealed that Triathlon is a combination of three sports, swimming, cycling, and running one after the other.

As I mentioned, heavy is my second name, so I took this “heavy” decision to participate in the Kolhapur triathlon 2018.

The primary issue was – I didn’t know how to swim. Swimming for me was splashing in the water and nothing more.

My husband ,Sopan became my teammate. I would take him to a 25 meters pool and ask him to stand at a distance of 15 meters, enough for me to push myself from one end, float, and then hold me to start the same process all over again until I finish the entire lap.

I would also refrain from putting my head down in the water.

Shankar Thapa came as a guiding light. I gradually improved my swimming from 15-100-500-700 to finally 1000 meters.

With all the training and hard work, I was still not losing weight.

As William Blake said, The true method of knowledge is an experiment. So, I did what all it could take to shed the extra kilos. The catch here was that I was following google knowledge, and in this process, I compromised on my immunity.

I had worked hard, but I was not in good shape, health-wise.

Still, with firm thought and the belief to reach the finish line I, along with my husband, headed to Kolhapur to participate in the first Triathlon.

We both panicked in the open water swim, and it was a DNF.

Kolhapur Tri

In February 2019, I participated in my home turf, Gandhinagar Triathlon. It was a pool swim with a uniform depth across the pool. As I jumped in the pool, I panicked yet again. The lifeguards prompted me to pull me out, but I requested them to give me a few minutes to regain my composure. 

I was angry with myself. I took a deep breath, asked my mind to shut up, and firmly told myself, “Ami, this can’t happen again-just; go for it,” and I swam through the entire distance.

I finished the Olympic Distance in 4.21 hours

I had to complete the unfinished battle. In November 2019, I participated in the Kolhapur triathlon, this time for the Olympic distance.

I finished in 4.29 hours.

I shall continue to work hard under my coach’s guidance and will try to improve in the upcoming races.

Curves and the social stigma

I have faced enough questions about my weight. I have hidden under large clothing, covered my arms, and ran alone not to expose myself to the world.

I hid for a very long time.

“If losing weight was easy, we would all be skinny.”

Steven Magee

Participating in the running and triathlon events, with the support and encouragement from the family, fellow runners, and coach, I accepted myself as me. I can now run in broad daylight, wear cycling shorts, and swim in a bikini.

I have overcome all body shame, and here I stand beholding my confidence firm in my gait, and yes, I still use “heavy” words!

You are beautiful because of the light you carry inside you. You are beautiful because you say you are, and you hold yourself that way.

Mary Lambert

Dabang Maa: Sunita Dhote

Sunita Dhote

Mother of two boys, a Fauji kid, Asia book of records holder, represented India in Canada for somersault competition, a college professor by profession, thrice failed attempts for Ironman to a successful finisher, a woman who stood for her passion in a family where the only job of a bahu(bride) was to do household chores. Rendevous with 48 years old, Sunita Dhote from Nagpur.

Fauji childhood

My father was in the Indian Airforce, and I’ve been born and bought up all over India. I call myself as Bharat ki Beti.
My childhood was disciplined and strict. My father used to wake us up (myself and my younger brother) at 5 am, and we were then supposed to take four rounds of the park in the vicinity. Any mischievous act or cheating would result in additional drills.
We learned cycling on hired bikes for a rent of 10 paise per hour. Mistakes would result in thappads (tight slaps).
I was annoyed at that time, but now I understand the significance of discipline that my father instilled in us.
I was into sports right from the very beginning. I got selected for state high jump when Papa was posted in Guwahati. I wasn’t allowed to participate in nationals with the fear that high jump would make me taller, and I won’t get a desirable match.
By the time I reached my tenth grade, sports were just a memory, and the entire focus shifted towards studies.
I did my B.com, M.com, MBA, and Ph.D
I was an obedient daughter.

Marriage and the grind

I got married in a business family, and no sooner I entered my in-law’s place, all maids at home were given permanent off from their duties.
I was a full-time maid now. Right from washing the clothes, utensils, cooking, and every little chore was my responsibility.
I have no regret; instead, I am grateful to my mother-in-law for teaching me patience.

She cribbed and I listened.

This habit taught me how not to react unnecessarily and carry on with your task. She made me physiologically strong- a much-needed trait of an athlete.
It was during my honeymoon to Nepal that I had a glimpse of the golden pagodas. I wanted to run to the top and shared the desire with my husband. He gladly agreed, and within no time, I saw myself running on the trail towards the pagoda. The hidden sports person was still alive. When I reached the top, a stranger shared a message; my husband was waiting for me.

He didn’t climb.

At this point, I resolve that come what may, my children will not be the ones waiting down but the ones who would climb the fastest.

I finished my Ph.D. in 2011 and settled for a job. I understood that it was essential to be financially independent.

Having been traveled all across India with my father, I was a keen traveler but never got an opportunity post-marriage.

During one of the exchange programs, I got an opportunity to travel to Seattle and stay at the Microsoft research center. I loved the experience of being on my own and interact with people across the globe. I was impressed by their discipline, eating habits, and zing for life.
I came back with a determination – I have to take charge of my life. I will not fall into this rut.

The beginning

The group study exchange program to Seattle was a game-changer. Another episode that triggered my thought process was when I was an entrepreneurship faculty, and I talked to the students about passion. I read many autobiographies in this process, and each story had primary learning- follow your passion.

Rotary group exchange program

It filled me with energy and determination.

After my first son was born, I started to learn swimming. I wasn’t allowed to swim in childhood owing to a reason that if I turn dark, then I won’t get a suitable match!

I used to go to the pool nearby, considering all the eyes watching me or even following. I used to hide my swimming costume in a towel, dry my hair, and dress up “appropriately” for this adventure.

“learning and achieving smaller things make you happy.”

chirps Sunita

In 2012, I stood first in 100 meters butterfly championship.

I now wanted to learn more. So, I went ahead and learned about diving.
I was allowed to carry on with whatever I wish to with the condition that children should not be neglected and the house well attended. So, I used to take my children along to the pool. In this process, they also learned swimming (win-win situation).

When life gives you restrictions, don’t flutter in a cage; instead, look for that one little opportunity to fly out.

believes Sunita

Within five to six years, I was a diving champion.

Even now, I was struggling at somersault. I pleaded a child in the pool to teach me. I was 41 years at this point. That child made me do 100 meters of front and roll and said confidently, “you are ready.” I could now do front and reverse somersaults.

I represented India in 2014 in Canada for somersault championships. I was an enthralling moment when my name heard my name, Sunita Dhote, India.

I was beginning to enjoy my life my filled with confidence and joy.

To add to my newly discovered joy, I did solo cycling from Nagpur to Pondicherry of a total distance of 1412 km in 6 days and registered my name in the Asia book of records.

Multiple failures and finally a successful Ironman finish

In 2017 a friend introduced the word Triathlon. With an assumption that it’s just swimming, cycle, and run, I enrolled for Pune triathlon, sprint distance. To my dismay, after the swim and the bike, I couldn’t manage to run.

Being a total novice, I participated in the race empty stomach.
I was unaware of the word nutrition.

The same year I enrolled for the Hyderabad triathlon, and it was a DNF. I attempted thrice and failed.

Three failed attempts at Hyderabad Tri

I kept trying.

Life is all about trying.

says Sunita

The “chipko andollan” movement is imbibed in me; hence I don’t leave until done.

In 2018, finally, I could finish the race in 9hrs 15 mins.

A friend told me about systematic training, planning, and nutrition. I then took proper coaching and participated in the Dubai ironman.

Ten days before the race, I had two bad falls, and my training came to a standstill. But I am a stubborn soul, and I was determined to fly to Dubai for the race.

I swam for the first time in a wetsuit, and the clear water gave a feeling of “patal lok” I clocked my PB in the swim. Cycling was comfortable, and during the run, I followed a strategy to run pole to pole.
Dubai IM finish was blissfully satisfying.

I became the first woman from the Vidarbha region to have completed the Ironman race.

When I came back and showed the medal to my family, my husband had a blank expression, and he could only ask me,” iske liye itni mehnat?(so much of effort just for this medal?)”

Sunita at the finish line

It is difficult to explain your desires and passion, so it’s better to keep the hustle on and move forward.

The training was a tricky part. I used to put a cycle in my car, wear the cycling gear, and cover it with a salwar suit (formal dress).
Once the college used to get over, I drove to the highway, parked my car, and did a three-hour cycle, and returned home.
There were several episodes where I had to manage the timing and surroundings efficiently.

You have to decide what you have to do, then be on it, come what may”

says determined Sunita

Life is about how you face it.

When I did my solo cycling, my elder son was in grade 10. I had a lot of “Gyan” for everyone around that I was an irresponsible mother who has left her son behind in the crucial year.
During a press conference for the Asia book of records, a media person had serious doubt on my grit and daring to do a solo ride. I wanted to reply,”are you scared of a woman being on her own or are you feeling insecure”(pun intended)

Sunita, with her sons


I didn’t allow life to churn me, but I did the other way round.


I sponsor the races on my own. I ensured that I bought up boys with discipline and integrity.
Work colleagues who once questioned my caliber now have the utmost respect for me.
My son does 200 crunches, and we are quite competitive about it(in all humor). He also cooks a fantastic meal.


My nickname is Sona(means gold), and one property of gold is that it glitters the most when it is rubbed hard and rough.

grins Sunita

It is my time to glow, and I’ll ensure that I shine the brightest.

that’s sunita’s promise to herself
Dr.Ashwini

A busy gynaecologist ,performed Mumbai’s first gynaecological robot-assisted surgery, a podium finisher at Kolhapur triathlon, Turkey Ironman 70.3 finisher, someone who juggles between delivering babies at the clinic and her training, mother of two, here is 47-year-old Dr. Ashwini from Mumbai.

Family of doctors

I come from a Maharashtrian family where education was the utmost priority. My mother is a gynecologist herself, and I have seen her managing work and home with precision. 

I was always a sincere, “accha-baccha,” and was awarded the best student medal in grade 10. 

My single focus was to be a gynecologist even when my mother warned me about the hard work followed by long working hours.

But I was determined about my career goal. My elder brother went to KEM to be a gynecologist, and I followed his footsteps.

I was a table tennis player in my childhood, but never an athlete. In the later stage, I loved going to the gym and was always fitness conscious.

I went to KEM and enjoyed my tenure in learning medicine. I married my classmate, and I am blissfully married for 23 years now.

Dr.Ashwini during her pregnancy

I started with my private practice immediately after my post-graduation, and I had no time for anything else. My kids were born in 2003 and 2006. I had multiple duties to address now.

I had excellent live-in help, and I knew my babies were cared for well. And hence I could focus on my work. I could manage breastfeeding by expressing milk to be given to my babies in my absence.

Work-home-work: juggling

My mother and mother-in-law both are working women, and I am very proud to mention how beautifully they have managed their work-life balance. 

Although I had generous support that enabled me to focus on my career, but due to long work hours, I could not attend to my kids as much as I would have wanted to.

When my daughter was ten months old, my full-time help left. My clinic was from 7-9 pm, and I was returning home at 10 pm.

I had to take a tough call here. I had self-talk and concluded that my children would grow only once; my work will go on.

I decided to manage my work timings according to their schedule and shifted my evening clinic hours to morning.

“There are choices to make at each point in life, but choose what makes you proud.”

says, Dr.Ashwini

The Tri-game

In 2011 two of my close friends did a half marathon, and the distance attracted me.

Very next day, I was out in the neighboring park to try out running. Not even 500m and I panted, as I had run at full speed. An unknown lady who must have been 60 years of age was watching, and she approached me and asked if I aimed to run. She then offered to teach me and showed me how to run slowly and steadily without getting breathless. And I was then able to run 2 km efficiently.

SCMM 2014

I joined a running group called Run India Run. I did my first half marathon at SCMM(Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon) under the able guidance of our excellent and inspiring Coach, Mr. Samson Sequeira.

I was in love with the outdoors now. We were blessed to train at Juhu beach, which is serene and beautiful in the early mornings. The morning training at the beach with constant encouragement and support from the rest of the group started on a positive and lively note.

In 2014 just a month before the SCMM, I incurred a stress fracture.

I was extremely disheartened but I still went to the expo and collected the bib.

I was restless the entire night before the race day, and seeing my state, my husband told me to go and run on the condition that I do not return further injured.

I jumped out of the bed as if I was waiting for some push; I went ahead and finished the run.

“Deep desires find their way.”

believes, Dr.Ashwini

I then enrolled for 42kms. I developed hyperactive airways due to smog exposure in the winter months and had to take inhalers to be able to train. In two out of three full marathons that I attempted, I had bronchospasm despite the inhalers. I still completed the distance, though I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do so, being a doctor myself. I realised that this was becoming counterproductive.

By this time, a couple of my friends had done the Half Ironman, and the idea of doing three different sports back to back intrigued me. I decided to try my hand at it.

However, I had never trained in swimming. And I had hardly cycled in childhood, and never after that. After the SCMM, I purchased a hybrid bike and enrolled for swimming lessons and enrolled for my first Duathlon at Vasai, where I stood fourth.

I started learning to swim and cycle for races at the age of 45. After the Duathlon I attended a Tri camp to understand what a triathlon was all about. Most of the people there were experienced and talking about cadence, BRM, and what not! It was like Greek and Latin to me. I felt entirely out of place.

I joined swimming lessons keeping the Goa tri in mind, to be held in February 2018.

Swimming and cycling were a substantial uphill task for me. I had to slog in the pool and put in lots of effort. In November, I tried to swim in a 50m pool and came out completely exhausted. Till Nov end, I was unable to swim 1500m in the pool. And here I was eyeing the Goa tri, where there was a sea swim! (quite ambitious).

I was determined to overcome this incompetency and gave it my best.

And one beautiful November morning, some magic happened, and I could swim the pool’s distance. I was amazed at this miracle.(well, thinking about it later – it was my ardent effort of not giving up)

Cycling was another challenge. I was terrified to ride on the road. I was scared of the traffic, potholes, being run over and falling. It took me three years to finally think of cycling as fun! Before this, it was nothing but stress for me. But with consistent practice, I grew in strength.

After completing the Goa tri, I registered for the Kolhapur triathlon in Nov 2018. I stood first in my age category and managed to shave off a good 30 mins from my Goa timing.

For both Goa and Kolhapur triathlons, I trained under Dr. Kaustubh Radkar, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

It was now time to take a plunge in the Ironman race. I registered for Turkey 70.3, and under the strict guidance of Viv Menon, I started my disciplined and structured training. Ashutosh Barve helped in a big way to improve my freestyle swimming.

The race in Turkey was a remarkable experience. The water was cold, and I struggled with headwinds during the bike course. But by God’s grace, I completed all the three courses of swim, bike, and run successfully. All credit goes to Viv and Ashutosh for making me worthy of this medal.

It was a delight to see my family cheering for me at the finish line. I was genuinely grateful to complete the race, but I couldn’t cherish the moment the way I had imagined it. 

My partner in crime, my best friend, with whom I had trained for all the races, had two punctures on the bike course and couldn’t complete it. She was genuinely happy for me, though, and I hugged her with teary eyes.

Next race, I look forward to crossing the finish line together with her.

Managing the clinic, training hours, and children were challenging, but then it had to happen, so it did.

I remember episodes when I have rushed to the clinic for emergency delivery calls and came back home to finish the remaining cycle training.

Learnings at 45

There is a learning in every race. I have grown from a person who didn’t know swimming, was scared of cycling to a successful finisher in Turkey Ironman 70.3.

I recall a childhood episode where I was in the pool with my cousin, splashing about at the shallow end. He jokingly dared me to jump into the pool’s deep end (15 feet) from the first-floor diving board. Without hesitation, I went ahead and jumped. He was shocked and scared, as I didn’t even know swimming. “Giving-up” and “turning away” from challenges doesn’t come to me easily, I keep fighting until I attain my goal. This one incident pulled out the fear of open-water away from me.

Last year, I thought I would try to do the same thing. Now I knew swimming, and there was nothing to fear! But believe it or not, I walked to the edge of the first-floor board and couldn’t muster the courage to jump! I turned back on two occasions.

As children, we are far more fearless and daring than adults who are gripped in uncertainty and anxiety. Childhood experiences can translate into valuable life lessons. Skills like swimming and cycling when learned as a child remains for life.

Dr.Ashwini

I have also come across people who have labeled my race participation as a mid-life crisis. It is difficult to explain the finishing line’s joy even when I haven’t won the race.

“The more you explain, the more they will ask. Put your heart into your dreams; the questions will wither.”

be firm,stay firm and belive in yourself

Mother, gynecologist, working women, athlete- what’s the Gyan for women audience?

Mother– As a mother, you’ll always have unending responsibilities. You have to be the strongest pillar of the family. It is vital to find some me- time, however. Take care of yourself first to be a caregiver to others.

Gynecologist– Women need to do weight-bearing exercises, including strength training for better bone density. Strolls won’t help to make bones stronger.

Medal hanger designed by Ashwini herself. She says, if you want it then earn it

Please get back to the routine soon after childbirth. The best time to lose weight is during lactation when you can actually eat 500 calories extra and still lose weight if you exercise a bit. So start working out, and you’ll be back in shape quickly.

Working womanIt is imperative for a woman to be financially independent, whether she needs to contribute to the household or not. A woman must have an income of her own. Children of working women are usually well adjusting, confident, and independent.

Athlete– Discipline commitment and hard work, my training has made me A better human being with lots of patience. 

I can prioritize my work and other obligations. I have started oil painting again and joined music classes too.

My approach towards personal and professional life is more organized and structured.

Never think that you are too old to learn a new skill or start your journey on fitness. It all boils down to only one thing-

How badly do you want it, and how hard are you willing to work for it?

if you want, you will- Dr.Ashwini

I would say take the plunge, and soon you’ll be on the racing track!

Chandani Desai

Someone who has never been a sports enthusiast, where mere participation in any of the school sports event was a significant accomplishment, a thyroid patient, “slow performer” as she calls herself, mother of a nine-year-old, a textile designer by profession here is our Crash Queen- Chandani Desai

Why a crash queen?

Forever bleeding knees

Well, there has been no race where I’ve not fallen off my bike. My knees are forever bleeding, injured, bandaged, and bruised. 

After the race, I look nothing less than a wounded soldier who has just returned from the battlefield. 

Now, I’ve come to a consensus that crashing is a good omen for me.

Mumbai express

I come from a family where outdoor explorations like treks, hikes, and long walks were regular affairs.

Pregnancy

While my family post-marriage was the opposite, my husband would not prefer going out at all, gradually, I also got soaked into all married life responsibilities. I was never a high adrenaline person, but I was fit and agile. I was juggling multiple things in one go. There came a moment post-delivery when I could not get off the floor without support. It was demeaning. I didn’t like my state. But what do I do? How do I manage my time? By now, my son started his play-school in the afternoon shift (11 am-1 pm), so in between the drop and pick up I precisely had 45 minutes. I used this time to run at 12noon (rain, shine, or wind), go home shower, prepare his tiffin, and pick him up. Whenever I missed the run, I would climb the stairs.

Satara half-marathon

My building residents thought that I am crazy. Well! I was mad to get back into my fit form and not remain a slug.

I was synonymous with Mumbai express, on time, can’t get slow, will never stop.

I could now run around 10kms, but the city-run was boring. Someone mentioned about Satara run and within no time registered and finished my first half marathon.

This Mumbai express was not stopping at all now!

Crib or join the madness – what do I choose?

In 2013, Pratik (my husband) did his first Comrades. Due to several reasons, he broke his spine and was on complete bed rest. His first question to the doctor was – will I be able to run?

Running is his life, and he was slipping into depression due to his injury.

I was ok with a physically injured husband but not a mentally unstable one.

I had to take a call here to crib about his state or join him in his madness; I chose the latter, and that is how my events journey started.

We started sharing a lot of things in common. I could now relate to the jargon used in training. As I juggled between a kid, work, home, and much more, he understood my pain points and started supporting me even more.

I could now extract time from my Mumbai express schedule and devote sincere efforts towards the training.

The Tri-bug

In 2016 I got to know about Pune Triathlon. Running was getting boring, and the combination of three sports was attractive. I registered for the event and started training.

My schedule was something like this:

  • 5 am get up and go for training 
  • cook breakfast, lunch for the whole family(including extended family)
  • Get Rivaan ready for school
  • board the train to work(missing a local in Mumbai is like, missing your work)
  • leave on time from work
  • pick up Rivaan, drop him to classes
  • cook dinner 
  • train once everyone in the house is asleep.

I was running on a reserve battery. I used to be super tired, drained, but I found myself more energetic than I was earlier because first, I was enjoying the pain, and second it was a feel-good factor.

Pratik came forward to take care of Rivaan and encouraged me to train harder for my first triathlon, which later got him hooked as well.

I came to know about my naive state when during one cycle training session, I tried hard to catch up on my co-trainee, but my cycle wouldn’t move forward at all, no matter how hard I tried. He then offered his bike, and I realised the difference between an autorickshaw and a Ferrari.

Race day was also disastrous. I lost my way during the swim course and swam a half ironman distance(1.9kms) compared to the Olympic(1.5kms). I was screaming mid-way to guide me for the direction. Some kind soul heard me and shouted back to swim 45 degrees right.

I swam in my swimming costume and just wore a cycling tee over it for the bike course. The concept of wet suit or any other gear was unknown until then.

The bike course was not just tough but grueling. The bike course was all on the ghats, and I had trained only on plains. Anyhow, I patted myself that I completed the course without a fall. But this happiness was short-lived, and I crashed yet again.

The last running course was the toughest. I had cramps in my legs right from the start. Someone said, have salt at the station, someone said have gel, I did what I could, and dragged myself.

In the last 200 meters where I was still pushing myself, Pratik cheered me loudly, “go run, the medal is yours. You have only two minutes left”.

I composed myself, pushed as hard as I could, and crossed the finish line.

I sat there and cried my heart out.

Those were the tears of my hard work, discipline, my express routine, Pratik’s injury, my child who saw me training hard, my effort. 

I deserved this medal, yes, the medal was mine!

What led to 70.3?

In 2017 Pratik and I did the Pune International Triathlon together (his 1st and my 2nd triathlon), and the same year we shifted to Dubai.

Fast forward to 2018, while I was still adjusting to the new country, work, and Rivaan’s school, Pratik completed his first 70.3 and went to do his first full @ IM Hamburg. 

It is here where while cheering for him and seeing him cross the red carpet that I got goosebumps and a thought flashed in my mind to do Dubai 70.3 along with him.

This thought came into reality when in India, we went to meet the only Iron couple Kaushik and Vineeta casually over a weekend drink. Within a blink of sharing my thought about doing an Ironman race, they registered me for Dubai 70.3, and then there was no looking back!

Mis(s)-adventures

With the event approaching, I had lots to catch up and get into aggressive training. The training period was strenuous. Being a slow racer and also a thyroid patient, my recovery rate is more time-consuming. 

My legs would ache to give me sleepless nights. Rivaan used to sit on my legs to comfort me, but every single day I would get up with the same zeal and train much harder than the previous day. 

On my first-century training ride(100kms) after 18 odd km, I had a crash (what new?), but this time my cycle wouldn’t/t move no matter how hard I peddled. I kept going and finished the ride. 

I then called up Pratik to pick me up as I was almost immobile. I started worrying about my capability to finish the bike course in the race. When Pratik came to pick me up and had a look at the bike and me, he sensed my worry. 

With a smile on his face, he assured me that I was more than ready for the race. I was puzzled. He told me that the brakes jammed after the crash, and even then, I completed the ride. This effort talked a lot about my stamina and strength.

I was confident about biking now.

Now comes the swim struggle.

I was excellent at breaststroke, but it wasn’t easy in a wetsuit. I changed to freestyle just three weeks before the race. Also developed severe bronchitis.

On the race day, I entered the water with bruised knees and cuts so deep that the flesh was visible—Courtesy-all the falls during the training.

The water was choppy, but I managed to finish the swim course. My Garmin malfunctioned on the event day, and I was unwary of the time. I got on the bike, and as ever a fall had to happen. I got back on the bike and completed the bike course as well. Run was draining.

I panicked about the timing. 

Pratik passed on the message that I had time to finish. Even though I was relieved of listening to this, but I was exhausted.

I saw people older than me running to the finish line, and I silently muttered to myself- you will not give up Chandani, run, go, run to the finish line.

As soon as I saw the red carpet, I sprinted and finished well before time.

Firm your mind, and the universe will conspire to make it happen.

believes , Chandani

Setbacks? Or Sit-back?

I had to come over challenging circumstances for all my races, but I was a tougher challenge. 

Crash during Lockdown

I was determined, and one after the other, things kept falling in place to train systematically.

Crashing is my second name, but I never gave up and carried on with bleeding knees in all the races even then. Just recently, Entirely, out of nowhere, I had a massive crash in a casual bike ride during the lockdown. I had to undergo facial surgery with multiple fractures. It was a tough time to manage in a foreign country and a child back home. He was petrified to see my injured face. 

Back to saddle after the accident

Two months post-surgery, I am back on the saddle again.

There will be challenges and setbacks in some way or the other; the choice is yours to sit back or get going?

To all the women

We, women, are crash queens in our ways.

Stereotypes crash us

Heaps of responsibilities crash us

Guilt crash us

But we have to rise and shine for we are the queens

says, Chandani

“When I first saw the racing arena, zooming cycles, training jargons, and high energy at the event, I was almost hypnotised. I never imagined that such a world existed. I made up my mind that I’ll be a part of all these high adrenaline events.”

Dr.Uma

Meet 47 years old Dr.Uma Vinod. Ahmedabad based Ophthalmologist and a  mother of two boys. First rank holder of Gandhinagar Triathlon 2018 and winner at several cycle racing events(you will not find her on any social media although)

As Dr.Uma says,

I got married immediately after my MBBS and completed my Post Graduation in Ophthalmology.

I was soon engrossed in all motherhood duties, work, and house chores—a typical story for most married women. 

The race euphoria 

In 2012, I participated in my first half marathon and finished in 3.45 hours. I was at cloud nine that I finished the race.

In 2014 I witnessed a cyclothon in Ahmedabad. I was aghast to see the zooming cycles, the cheering crowd, and pumped up, high energy athletes. I was stunned by the entire event. I never imagined the existence of such a world, as if it was a parallel universe.

In the same year, I registered for a super sprint event. The main reason to register for the event was – Milind Soman(blushes).

The race briefing was an eye-opener. I heard the terms like wet-suit, cadence, cut-off timing, and several other jargons that seemed like french. The trainers talked about cycle gear ratio and cleats while I came to participate in the race on my son’s bicycle!

For the event, I got my first BSA “thin” tire bike assuming it’ll make me go faster. Only thin tyres don’t make you win a race but training and effort do.

With all the learnings of the previous event, I got my first road bike and participated in a Duathlon in 2014. I stood first!

By now I was in deep love with cycling. 

I started participating in cycling races and winning too. I was utterly mesmerized by the sheer joy of zooming on the bike and winning as well.

I was a hypothyroid patient until the age of 40, but then I decided to lead a healthy life and gifted myself a significant weight loss.

Do it, because it makes you happy.

In 2015, I went to Manali-Leh biking, and as it is known that the route is not for the lesser mortals. I was surely not the one. It was a life-changing experience for me. It was my zen moment of putting all the elements of the body together and strengthen the mind. 

Winner at Gandinagar Tri 2018

I was gaining expertise in cycling, but my running was still lacking. I started with proper training in 2017. Guided practice, along with a proper diet, helps a lot in improving the training performance.

In 2018 I participated. in the Triathlon in Gandhinagar. Due to fewer women participants, the organizers kept an open category for women 18-55. I stood first in the race!

I then registered myself for the Berlin Marathon in 2019. I was hesitant to go on my own, but my elder son persuaded me to travel. Technology and I don’t have much of a friendship. To navigate the phone to find a way or even to use google translator is tough for me. 

But I did. Because it made me happy, very happy.

says, Dr.Uma

Women in endurance sports- lesser lady

Is it a new discussion? I face the same set of questions each time,

Dr.Uma in one of her training sessions
  • what fun do you get in killing yourself in training?
  • You are always either running or cycling, do you even spend time with your family?
  • Why are you going alone for your races, take your children along too?
  • How will your family manage without you?

I’ll miss cooking a great meal over the weekend, but I’ll never miss my training, this gives me a title of – lesser lady.

Dr.Uma in her training session

I mostly train alone and do not share that moment “ME” with anyone. It is my meditation. My alarm buzzes at 4 am and I go out for my run. Being dark at that hour, I can’t go far for the practice; hence I run in loops at a stretch in front of my building. I have informed my guard that if I don’t turn back within time or he hears my scream, then he should run to trace me. 

There will be questions, allegations, and stereotypes to face, but the choice is yours, either pay heed and remain in your cocoon or be a butterfly. What will you choose?

asks, Dr.Uma

Male dominance and raising boys

I have five males in my family: husband, father-in-law, father, and two boys (18 & 15).

I am a working female, and along with my training and work, the house responsibility doubles up. There were days when I could not prepare the meal, and my boys made their tiffin and went to school. In the growing years, my children understand cohesive existence. They also see that I have a liking towards sports gadgets than fancy clothes.

There was a point where I was fulfilling all my duties as a mother, wife, daughter, professional, but I wasn’t doing anything for myself.

It was a tough call to prioritise my liking over everything else. We live in a society where women are meant to be more focused on home, but

Elder son at IIT Kharagpur

I believe that when you don’t negotiate you’ll never be taken for granted.

Younger son after his first Tri

Today my elder one is studying in IIT Kharagpur and is in the college squash and running team. He is a swimmer as well.

He says, “mom, sports gave me recognition.”

He prefers a girlfriend who loves cycling!

My younger one has already completed a triathlon and is looking forward to more.

Mothers are the first and most significant influencers, see that you prove this to yourself first.

believes Dr.Uma

What lies ahead?

I aim to improve my race timings and keep winning as a mother as an athlete and emerge as a more robust version of myself.

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