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Interview: 44-Year-Old Jayanthi Tells Us How, and Why, She Ran 42km in a Saree!

“The full marathon was difficult, and I wouldn’t be doing justice if I said it wasn’t.”

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44-year-old Jayanthi Sampath Kumar participated in the Hyderabad full marathon and covered the total distance of 42km in a less than five hours. What’s different about that, you wonder. There are many who run marathons you might think. So let me re-phrase the opening line – 44-year-old Jayanthi Sampath Kumar ran a full marathon clad in a saree and slippers!

Jayanthi took up running about eight years ago. In 2015, she participated in the Hyderabad marathon and ran her first 10K race. After the usual teething troubles, Jayanthi took up running seriously in January 2016 and started training with Hyderabad’s runners.

Speaking to The Better India, Jayanthi mentioned how in a year she went from running 5km to 42km. While it is no easy feat, what is important to note is the dedication that it took to achieve that.

“The full marathon was difficult, and I wouldn’t be doing justice if I said it wasn’t. After completing the half marathon I decided that my next goal would be the full marathon. What keeps me going is my family. My husband and I run together often.”

What perhaps worked in Jayanthi’s favour was all the practice that she had put in. “I ran in a saree multiple times before attempting the full marathon – only because I wanted to be sure of all the challenges I might face.”

Jayanthi has run a few 30km marathons in a saree and several 5km runs as well.

At the finishing line

“Running in a saree wasn’t a breeze. The planning for this began five months ago; I tried running in a 6-yard, 9-yard, Maharastrian style and Madisaar style of saree. I tripped and fell multiple times. Finally what worked for me was the Madisaar style with some modifications and adjustments.”

On why she chose to run in a saree she says, “In a conversation with my husband I mentioned how my clothes occupy more cupboard space than his. That led to a New Year resolution – of wearing a saree a day. Having grown up seeing my mother and grandmother wear a saree every day, I knew that it was something that could be done. Also what helped was that I loved wearing sarees from various parts of the country.”

In March 2016, she chanced upon an article of a man who created a world record by running in a half-marathon in a business suit. That was perhaps a trigger that led Jayanthi to think about running in a saree.

“I did my research to check if anyone had attempted a full marathon in a saree and I couldn’t find anyone who had.”

Jayanthi on her way to creating a Guinness record

This was when Jayanthi also checked the Guinness World Record website to check if anyone held a record. “I was surprised to find a category for ‘fastest marathon in a saree’. The minimum requirement was to complete the full marathon in under five hours. Guinness getting back to me was also a good motivation for me.”

“While it was motivating to hear back from Guinness, for me the larger aim was to promote wearing handloom sarees and instill a sense of confidence in women clad in sarees.”

The one important takeaway from this has been – “Nothing is difficult or impossible if we have all our heart and soul dedicated to it!”

Jayanthi on her practice run

For most of us reading about Jayanthi, she is an inspiration. But for her the marathoners who were running barefoot during the Hyderabad marathon were an inspirational sight to see.

“I saw people much older than me running barefoot. People at the age of 70 going strong and running full marathons – these are truly inspirational stories. If I am able to run at that age, I will be a very happy person.”

Jayanthi reiterates again before we end our conversation that none of this was easy. “It has taken a lot of training and complete dedication to have been able to do this. While completing this has been a high, I have had my share of lows as well. On many runs I have tripped, fallen, and hurt myself. Everytime I hurt myself it would push back my training by a week.”

This Madisaar mami has a lot of swag. Here’s wishing her all the very best.

Photo credits: Dharma Teja, Artofoto

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