Indian women of all ages have laced up and hit the tarmacs with gusto. It’s a marathon struggle to get started, but the numbers of female road racing competitors in India are increasing exponentially, triggering a silent revolution. Overall marathon registrations has gone up from 30,000 at the start of the century to 2 million over the last 15 years. Of these, 19 per cent — almost 3.8 lakh — are women, making it the most participatory sporting activity for female amateurs. Road races — starting from 5 km runs to cross-country weekend races and going right up to the 42.195 km full-fledged marathon — offer financial incentives in age-group categories. And Indian women, from the Kalimpong hills to rural outskirts of Nashik, are discovering the freedom of uninhibitedly hitting the roads to express their athletic effort.
With marathons mushrooming in every big city, female road runners from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru are steadily graduating to the longer distance mileage, some even aspiring to ultra-marathons. The battle isn’t won at the finishing tape, though. Simply preparing for a road race sees women take time out for themselves from their professional and familial responsibilities and set aside a few hours focusing on their self-growth. A marathon unites the corporate executive and the homemaker. What is most heartening is that these races aren’t the stomping ground of solely the teens and the young. Women deep into their 40s and 50s are kick-starting running careers for mental and physical well-being.
Women’s sport is breaking its elite confines with the most inclusive of competitive events — the marathon. For the first time, the biggies — London and Boston marathons — are aiming for a 51 per cent female participation, undeterred by the pandemic. While the podium is reserved for Top 3, there’s not one woman who doesn’t walk tall (though a tad sole-sore) after completing a 42-km run. Leaving male laggards and stragglers behind is a mere bonus.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines