Just make it happen, no matter how tough- Swetha Amit

A runner, a fighter, someone who never says never, finisher of several sprints and Olympic Distance Triathlons also the 2 time finisher of Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz,, USA, ambassador at several running events in India and Oakland Triathlon (one of the largest urban triathlons in the world), a journalist by profession, author of, A Turbulent Mind, mother to a beautiful daughter, here is 39- yr old California based, Swetha Amit

Conscious childhood

I was born in Mumbai and also lived in Thailand, Delhi for a short while but spent a significant time in Chennai.

I was always academically oriented and was good at English. I loved staying indoors, and books were my best companions. Sports was not even in sight and I never had any inclination towards any outdoor activity as well.

My mother did enrol me for swimming at the age of three, but I was so petrified of water that I finally took the plunge when I was eleven and could manage to learn basic breaststroke then I learnt freestyle only at the age of fifteen!

Other than being a book lover, another reason to not go outdoor was my plump body. I was a nice chubby child since childhood and was a part of mockery most of the time. To avoid any type of sarcastic comments or pinpointing I avoided any outdoor activity.

I did my majors in psychology.

Got married and came to Mumbai from Chennai in 2006. I worked as a school counselor for a while.

Only the location changed but not my weight.

I was still very conscious of my appearance.

Battling ulcers and the finish line

Amit, my husband was into sports and running was a regular affair. I was still enjoying my baby fat and easy lifestyle. In 2008, he suggested joining the gym. Mumbai allowed me to be at ease with my weight as people here are ignorant about looks and beyond. I was confident and eager to hit the gym. I started with daily workouts. I had an erratic lifestyle. Late night parties and staying up till wee hours and getting up much later in the day was a normal routine.

I didn’t realise the damage I did to myself until in December 2010 I was diagnosed with a chronic illness called ulcerate. 

Ulcerative colitis is usually only in the innermost lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Forms range from mild to severe. Having ulcerative colitis puts a patient at increased risk of developing colon cancer. Symptoms include rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and pain. Treatment includes medication(source: google)

I was hospitalised for ten days and battled the most painful ulcers.

The doctor allowed me to go home on two conditions. First I can be on steroids until the bleeding stops and then switch over to mesocol. Second, things can be under control only if I can change my lifestyle. I agreed to both

My life took a complete U-turn. There was no scope of reluctancy. I went on a totally salt-free diet as steroids lead to weight gain and water retention. I also altered my lifestyle as well. The shift was sudden and I was grappling with the adjustment. It took a toll on my mental and physical health. I had lost all my stamina, self-confidence and positivity. I coiled and went in my own shell. I was living in a dungeon filled with negative thoughts only.

Amit ran the Mumbai Marathon for the last two years and he suggested me to run as well.

I didn’t even have the strength to move out of the bed leave aside wearing the shoes and going out for a run. The thought to run a half marathon perplexed me.

Well! Waking up early and getting into the running shoes was bearable than my days in the hospital and the pain I went through.

I made up mind to take charge of myself now.

“The human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.”

Dean Karnazes

I started training in 2011.

Late nights became early mornings. The change in routine bought a change is social, and friends circle as well.

Back then there was no Garmin to track the progress and coaches didn’t exist as well, even if they did I was unaware. I and Amit started training for the upcoming Mumbai Marathon.

I gave in my heart and soul into the training. I was not ready to go back into my earlier state and was enjoying the transition.

I ran my first half Mumbai Marathon and finished strong in 2.03hrs.

When I crossed the finish line, something in me changed. I felt a sense of purpose. I felt a surge of a deep breath within.

There was no looking back from here.

Why Try the Tri?

Running became a part of the lifestyle and I continued running regularly. I now started training for the full marathon. Meanwhile, I also started with my job as a journalist that required meeting and interviewing renowned authors. It was a great learning process and unknowingly the seed to be an author was sown.

In 2013 I finished my first full marathon in 4:59 hours and that too without any scientific training or Grarmin.

I took a break from running to start a family and my daughter Samaira was born in 2014.

During the eight-month of pregnancy, I had the ulcer attack again but thankfully it was managed well. With Months of training, my body was able to fight the attack pretty well.

After two months of my delivery, I ran a 10k at Aarey Milk colony.

In 2015, I met the Mumbai Road Runners (MMR) group and my runs became much systematic and regular. Every Sunday I ran with the group and meet like-minded people was a great energy booster.

I was thoroughly enjoying this new high when in 2017 Amit, in all his excited tone disclosed that he has finally got through Stanford Management Course, which he was seeking for a long time.

Although I was very happy for him on the other side I was not keen to leave my high-paced life. A life that I carved and a social circle that gave me a lot of strength and positivity.

Taking his future prospects into consideration we shifted to Stanford.

As I was on dependent Visa I could not take up any job. My once hyper-busy, super-active, filled with a vibrant social circle life came to a complete standstill. Amit was busy in his course, Samiara was busy with her toys while I was totally blank. I took creative writing courses at Stanford continuing studies but it wasn’t enough to keep me going. 

I had no friends and I wasn’t able to gel with the Indian community too. I felt isolated from everywhere. The same dark feeling started creeping in that I had left a long time back.

Depression comes in unannounced and I could feel it.

Although I continued with my runs it wasn’t giving me a high.

Then Amit suggested participating in a Triathlon. I always wanted to participate in one back in India but the one I thought had a pool swim while here all triathlons were in the sea.

I gave Amit a doubtful look than an assured one. Sea swim was out of the question. I then started looking for events around the Bay area as suggested by Amit and I also came across a swim clinic. I registered for it and the rest is history.

The swim clinic didn’t just boost my confidence but the instructors guided and helped me overcome my fear of open water.

It took a hell lot of courage to take that first step into the ocean but it had to be taken.  I came across several mental roadblocks, fear and doubt but the human mind is the most powerful tool and I tamed it my way.

I did several sprints and Olympic distance Triathlons before taking a plunge into the big daddy Ironman 70.3.

Under the guidance of my dear friend and a triathlon coach Viv, also with immense support from Amit as well as Samiara I reached the finish line of Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz in 8:05 hours.

That finish line gave me the same high as my first finish line at the Mumbai Marathon.

I felt accomplished, worthy and with a sense of purpose.

The dazzling medal was a victory over my darkness and an effort to prove myself.

This medal was not just a piece of metal but my most prized possession.

I both earned and yearned it.

Take that plunge, do it

Women are more prone to anxiety and depression than men. When I changed my location, it appeared as if I am entering a black hole. I had lost my sense of purpose and being. I started doubting my existence. Everyone around me was busy in their schedule but I had none. I was a working professional back in Mumbai but when I shifted to Stanford I had no financial independence and that hit me hard too.

I then looked around to observe carefully to what drives me and within no time I was biking, running and swimming in the sea.

I also enrolled for a creative writing course at Stanford to structure my day. I was now just taking care of the house but I had my training plans, course assignments and other chores in place.

I had no time for any negative thoughts to creep in.

If you wish to change your current state then start taking those baby steps. Carve out one hour for yourself in a day for the things you like to do. 

says, Swetha

In the Indian scenario, it is difficult for a woman to follow a life of her choice and getting into outdoor activities is a herculean task. So, try to gain confidence in your partner and make him understand your need and if you are in an adverse situation then learn to fight it out.

If Amit did not have the same passion as running, I am sure he would have never understood the high at the finish line.

The road ahead

The journey had just begun and I can see the road traversing through beautiful paths. I aim to become a better athlete both physically and mentally. After authoring my debut book, “A turbulent mind- My journey to Ironman 70.3”, I wish to take up fiction writing as a profession. I am enrolled for a master of fine arts in writing program at University of San Francisco and graduate after 2 years.  

Ironman is not just a race but a transformational journey and I am totally enjoying this transformation.

You live only once, live with all your guts

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