Ten years ago, I laced up my shoes, took to the road and started a journey which redefined me. At the time, I was mourning the loss of my father, managing two toddlers, doing a job which I wasn’t enjoying, despite its good earning potential, and clearly needed an escape. That escape came in the form of a meeting with people who got together on weekends for long runs. For those few hours on the road, laughing and chatting with them, one would forget the worries back home.
Being an athlete in school and college helped me build my stamina fast, and soon, from 5 km runs, I progressed to half marathons. In November 2010, I ran my first half marathon, and by then I was totally hooked. I have run many half marathons, marathons, and even ultra marathons since. I was one of the first women ultra marathon runners in India and now have many 100 km races to my credit — the longest being 130 km. I have run the prestigious Comrades Marathon in South Africa twice and completed ultras in Singapore and Hong Kong. At times, the tracks were tough but I enjoyed the beautiful trails and felt at peace with myself.
Running not only gave me a fit body, but also the confidence and patience to take on any challenge that life threw at me. It gave me endorphins to stay happy no matter what the day looked like. Every time I stand at the start line, I know that when I finish this run — under whatever conditions, in whatever time — there is something new and exciting that I will discover about myself. It could be something about my training regimen, my mental strength and will power, my endurance level, or simply my ability to tolerate boredom and monotony. At night, during some of the lonely stretches in my ultra runs, I discovered that I can live by myself forever!
As a working woman, managing my passion along with my family and professional commitments isn’t easy. Long runs, recovery and travel for races have to be balanced with time for work and home. So I defined what made me happy and cut down on activities that weren’t in sync with my passion. I gave up binge-watching TV shows, and instead began to read books and watch documentaries on running. I fuss less over the disorder in the house and spend more time with my children, listening to them and participating in their lives. I am a practising Buddhist and with my daily chanting, work and home chores, and my running, I have a super busy day. It’s a day where, in my own way, I have it all — ‘all’ that makes me who I am.
I have also realised that there is no such thing as a work-life balance. When I say ‘have it all’, it may not be on a daily basis, but I try to achieve the balance by prioritising. On some days my work and family come first, and then are times when my running takes precedence over everything else.
The current lockdown has made prioritising a challenge for some of us — work calls, household chores, children’s online classes etc. As the running season is over, the lockdown is, in a way, a forced rest period for me, allowing the body to recover from niggles and injuries. I am also using this time to do yoga, and focus on exercises for my upper body and core strength. These days, I am working on completing 108 Surya Namaskars in one session.
Running a marathon is a metaphor for life. You learn to break your goal into smaller goals, to look at each obstacle as a challenge, to adapt and reorganise on the go, and to not be afraid of experiments or calculated risks. You learn that you can do more than what you think. A study says that when your mind tells you that you are ready to quit, you are only spent 40% physically. So when you beat that voice in the head, you learn not just how to keep at it, but how to keep at it patiently. I look forward to doing that each day.
This article first appeared in the print edition on May 31 under the title “She Said: In the long run, can I have it all, every day?” Rashmi Mohanty is Chief Financial Officer at Clix Capital. National Editor Shalini Langer curates the fortnightly ‘She Said’ column.
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