Remember your mother can break records too, told a marathoner once. Suffice to say that I was too delighted in the idea that all I had to do was break some chinaware, anywhere in the house, with a seemingly loud crash. That must have got you thinking? That’s how our mothers are. If they have their hearts set on something, what is impossible for them to achieve? For most mothers, fitness is usually put on hold as they keep juggling the demands of a healthy parenthood and an effective career. Not Smita Kulkarni, who works as a baker and is a doting mother to a 17-year-old boy. Instead, she took up marathons.
From gaining menopausal weight to becoming a marathoner, Smita is a huge advocate that anyone can run and race, no matter their age, insisting that people just need to try. “I am mentally strong. Running has made me physically and mentally very strong. My doctor tells me often, ‘Smita, you don’t run with your legs, you run with your mind’. Now how I manage everything is a perfect balance,” she says.
They say that race is not always to the swift, but as well as to ones who keep on running. And yet, Smita’s journey cannot be considered exempt from this scrutiny. When she sees a finish line, she intends to cross it, and inspire hundreds and billions. Determination, tenacity, and willingness are the key to a few, but not everyone tastes success on the first try. Despite her late start to racing, Smita has had overwhelming success through and through. A similar sense of dedication was present even before she started competing in races.
Although Smita started late, she was barely a novice to the fitness spectrum. While running is deeply entrenched in her daily routine, it hasn’t always been very easy for Smita. There were roadblocks, as Smita says, but she chose to shine through. So, isn’t this what makes her pursuit all the more worthwhile? Of course, yes.
“I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis during my pregnancy in 2003. I soon hit early menopause at the age of 37 years. Both were debilitating bodily conditions, while colitis had no cure. It is a bowel syndrome, causing long-lasting inflammation and sores in the digestive tract. I knew I needed to change my pattern in order to battle my emotional and physical changes. Running was the only solution. There was nothing that could hold me back from partaking in marathons,” she recalls. Throughout the years, her goals have evolved and changed, but one thing has remained constant: her love for running.
Having competed in 26 half marathons, seven full marathons and two international marathons in Berlin and Chicago each, Smita is one of a rare handful of runners who transcend the world of running. But even while touting the life-changing benefits of running, Smita is quick to admit that it is not always easy. “I’m a 48-year-old mother and I am still running, look at me. If you have your mind set on something, you can always achieve it. I would say I’m proud of what I do. Nothing is actually impossible. Of course, not all women will have supportive families. But health is important for you to be happy and keep others happy,” she avers.
But Smita is modest about her achievements. She says her husband and son have played key roles, encouraging her to chase more challenging athletic goals. Looking back, she can see how it helped build the foundations to run marathons. Today, with a much larger presence of women in marathons, it is inspiring to see such an upsurge over the century, and generations are definitely jumping at a chance to take their turn on the streets. Well, next time when you’re trying to talk yourself into making it to the gym or not blowing off that extra mile or lap, let this feisty marathoner be your fitspo.