An architect by profession and also of her life, a fast runner and a furious chaser of the finish line, Boston marathoner, pacer at Mumbai Marathon, finisher of Dubai Ironman 70.3, author of an inspirational book – A running soul, an entrepreneur, mother of two, here is 48 years old, a woman of substance, filled with positivity with a beautiful smile, Parul Sheth from Mumbai.
As easy as can be
I was born in Mumbai and lived in a great big joint family. I was the firstborn of the family hence treated like an angel and enjoyed all the pampering—just a few of the unforgetful treasures of childhood.
I have always been an easy-going person and never pushed myself for anything. I forever took things as they came. I was above average in sports but never an athlete variety. Back then, the pressure to attend any sports or skill-building classes was not a standard affair; hence, there was no sports training of any type. After doing bachelors in science I realised that I didn’t have the tenacity to be a doctor hence shifted to architecture.
I then got married and continued to work as before. I was a fit person and got my active genes from my parents. I continued going to the gym and kept myself fit.
Life was easy and straightforward.
The U-turn to the finish line
Life was running in full swing. I was a mother of two kids now, and like any other mom, was juggling, managing, running the errands between work, children and home. I had my hands full with loads of responsibilities.
2003, came as a big shock.
I faced the untimely demise of my husband. Due to this sudden loss, my world came to a standstill. I felt lost and disoriented. From shared responsibilities, I was now on my own to manage everything, including two young children.
My family and friends came in as tremendous support. But, I believe that no one can fight a battle for you; one has to stand at the forefront and face the shelling.
I had to get back on track and bring my life to be normal as my kids were my major responsibility.
I had to push myself out of the dungeon.
My friends made me register for the Mumbai Marathon in 2005 mentioning that it was some big party on Mumbai’s street and everyone was excited about it. The primary reason was that they wanted me to move out of the house.
I trained on my own. As I ran, I felt the lightness in my head, decluttering of thoughts and freedom from the darkness.
The training ran in parallel with my healing process. I surrendered myself to my pulsating heartbeat and the heavy breath while running.
In 2005 I finished my first half marathon with a strong stride.
The finish line made me a stronger person. I was releasing my anxiousness with every drop of sweat. I was tougher than I thought, faster than I realised and a winner than I ever imagined.
There was no looking back from here but just ahead with a strong vision.
The running spree
I found my flights of fantasy in running. I finished a few half marathons, and my running became stronger with lots of training and hard work. I now wanted to graduate to full marathons, but speed (in comparison to my running buddies) was still an issue. I wanted to finish my marathon in good timing and strongly. I always wondered, and one question to my fellow running buddies was how do you run so fast?
I was working hard, but somehow I felt that I wasn’t pushing myself enough. Everyone was talking about pace, finish timing and many such jargons which were a foreign language to me. I asked my friend, “what do you mean by running fast?”
Sandeep knew my hustle and told me reassuringly, “I’ll help.”
Until now, I have been a non-Garmin runner, but then he instructed me to get into structured running and have a Garmin for proper tracking.
Training plans were made, and I started my training for a 5k, 10K, time interval, threshold and zone running.
I was trying to fit myself into the world of daunting training plans.
I also owe Savio big time for he made me a runner.
He truly pushed me hard that helped me in moving my darkness behind.
With all the discipline in 2012 I ran my first marathon in 4:35 hours.
In 2014, a day before the SCMM race, I wanted to relax and was searching for a movie online. Back then the content was not so readily available, and someone suggested watching “the marathon”. After the movie, I kept wondering what was the Boston marathon all about?
Google gave me info that kept me in the awe of the race.
The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon race hosted by several cities in greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts, the United States. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors.
The Boston Marathon is open to runners 18 or older from any nation, but they must meet certain qualifying standards. The qualifying criterion is based on age and gender and to enter the race it is mandatory to finish the qualifying race in 3:50 hours or less.
At the age of 42, I was a 4.30 hours runner, and pushing below 4 hours is a herculean task.
Boston was my dream now, and I was eager to stand at the start line of the prestigious race.
I dedicated myself totally into the training and sincerely followed the plans.
Three years of not-a-single-day-missing training at the age of 45 I finished the qualifying race, the Rotterdam marathon in 3:48 hours!
I was officially Boston qualified.
I flew to Boston with lots of anxiety, tension and butterflies in my tummy.
Savio wasn’t just being my running coach but a mentor as well, he read my mind and asked me to relax and run.
I took a deep breath, carried a broad smile, held my head high and ran with all my might to finish the Boston marathon in 4:02 hours.
Once I finished the Boston Marathon, I had no further urge to get faster. After all, I wondered what I could do faster than this? So, I continued to enjoy the running and the training at a similar pace.
I had a deep desire to give back to my city, Mumbai. A city that stood by me through thick and thin, a city that gave me wings to fly, a city where I touched my first finish line.
I wanted that many should strongly finish their marathon, many should be able to get their PB, for you never know who is chasing the finish line with what background.
At the start line, we all stand united, each one of us has a different aspiration to run a marathon, but we run with a common goal to reach the finish line with pride.
In 2018, I paced the Mumbai marathon for a 4.30 hours bus.
Why try the Tri?
I was satisfied and happy with my running, and with no further wish to get faster, I wondered what next?
In 2018 someone in the group suggested registering for Goa Triathlon.
As a part of my Boston training, I used to swim a little, but that was it. I was indeed not ready for a race.
The closing date for the registration was coming closer, and the 500 rupee discount was also getting over(so cheesy) so along with a few friends I registered for the Goa Triathlon Olympic Distance.
I could barely swim one lap 23 meters in a pool, and I didn’t have a bike yet I was attempting the Triathlon that’s the level of risk-taking capacity I own.
My friend Russa offered to swim next to me, and I sighed with relief. I then borrowed a bike and finished the Triathlon in sub 4. (well! I think that’s my favourite figure)
There is always an itch to go after higher goals, and I never wanted to stop at the Olympic distance hence I registered for Dubai 70.3.
Under the experienced guidance of Ashutosh Barve, I worked to improve my swimming, which is still a challenge.
Viv gave me arduous but attainable training plans, and he made me reach the finish line.
The triathlons made me explore myself. The combination of three sports to be finished within a time frame ensures that we grow on mental toughness as well and not just physical.
It’s a continuous journey of self-discovery.
Sooner or later doesn’t matter, start
I woke up to realise my strength later in life.
I ran my first half marathon,SCMM in 2005
I ran my first full marathon ,SCMM in 2012
I did my first Ironman 70.3 in 2019
I ran the Boston marathon after 14 years of my running journey.
During my Sunday long runs, whenever I am returning from Shivaji Park, which is at the 14th -15th km, I am always at my runner’s high. It is at this moment that I feel I can attain anything. I start believing that I am a superhero. I make the most robust, as well as most stupid decisions during my runner’s high feeling. I always need a good 14kms as a warm-up, then after my body goes with the flow and my feet follow the rhythm.
The way we say that Rome was not built in a day similarly the body needs time. One has to be consistent and keep putting the effort day after day. It is crucial to building the endurance base; speed will eventually follow.
I am a traditional runner who runs without a phone or music plugged in.
I run and train with like-minded people who motivate and lift each other every moment.
Nature is our best teacher.
If there is a storm, then there will be calmness as well.
If there is darkness, then bright light will follow soon.
If there are mountains to climb, then there are rivers to swim too.
If you can walk, then you can indeed run too
And see you at the finish line.