'And please understand, I do not want to finish with a consolation prize of participation, but finish shoulder to shoulder with the men.'
The inspiring story of a gutsy woman who braved the odds to prove that women can be winners too.
Sumedha Mahajan ran from Delhi to Mumbai.
It was historic.
She was the only woman in a team of five.
Her effort to fight society's attitude towards women not only made her run some 1500 km in 30 days (that's 50 km every day) but also took the shape of a book -- Miles to Run Before I Sleep: How an Ordinary Woman Ran an Extraordinary Distance -- where she chronicles her journey from a timid girl to a gutsy young woman who wanted to take on all those who considered women as weak and expected them to always play second fiddle.
We carry the following excerpt from Miles to Run Before I Sleep: How an Ordinary Woman Ran an Extraordinary Distance:
I OPENED MY eyes. Arvind was splashing water on my face.
There was something wet trickling down my legs. It was not sweat, but blood. I was down.
Arvind held me tight. 'It's okay, baby, you need to rest and clean yourself.' He got me a towel from the car and I cleaned myself bang in the middle of the road without giving a damn about who was watching me, all the while crying silently.
Arvind kept assuring me that everything was all right.
But it wasn't.
I was convinced I was failing. And I hated it. It was shameful how I could not figure out that I was menstruating.
That was the last thing I wanted to happen on the second day of the run. I was so busy running that I did not hear my body sending me warning signals.
But I did not have any time to waste. I somehow pulled myself together and tried to look for some sort of cover. There was nothing. There was only the road and trucks. With tears still streaming down my face, I used Arvind as my cover and dressed myself.
This was my first encounter with nature. I did get some unwanted attention, but I had no choice. I was embarrassed that I was being watched doing something so private.
In deep trauma, I asked the driver to take me back to the hotel. Arvind called up Raj and Apurba and told them about the change in my plan.
We reached the hotel in no time and I rushed to the bathroom, took a bath and tried to scrub off the memories of the horrific scene from my entire being. I tried to gather enough strength to get back on the road.
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After a change of clothes, I was back to my old self. I was raring to go. But my husband wouldn't hear any of it.
Raj, our fitness expert had advised him to give me oral hydration liquids and glucose. I hate the taste of ORS, but under orders from Arvind I had three glasses and a sandwich and went off to sleep.
I learned my first and most crucial lesson that day -- always listen to your body.
I woke up at 10 a.m. and realised I was running out of time. Even as I hurriedly got ready, Arvind pleaded with me to take a day off. He had become quite emotional but I wanted to run and make up for the lost time. Besides, there was no room for pain or discomfort on this race.
Our discussion turned into a bitter, heated argument.
'I have had enough of clarity,' I thundered. 'I am a woman, Arvind, and people expect me to fail and give up. What I am going through is something every woman goes through. And please understand, I do not want to finish with a consolation prize of participation, but finish shoulder to shoulder with the men. I just have to run today.'
I looked into Arvind's eyes. He was ready to let me go.
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Excerpted from Miles to Run Before I Sleep: How an Ordinary Woman Ran an Extraordinary Distance with kind permission from Rupa Publications