On January 20, 2019, Mumbai woke up at the crack of dawn and went for a run; more than 45,000 people (across age, gender, race) assembled at the starting line of the annual Tata Mumbai Marathon 2019 this year. For some seasoned runners, the marathon was a way to challenge themselves. For others, it marked the beginning of their fitness journeys. However, for five incredible women, the marathon was about empowering themselves. Celebrity stylist Shaleena Nathani, fashion entrepreneur Juhi Godambe, fitness trainer Mishti Khatri, entrepreneur Naina Mansukhani and college student Anisha put on their sports bras, cast aside their inhibitions, tightened their shoes and ran towards freedom--freedom from judgement and stereotypes.
We caught up with these inspiring women, and asked them to tell us what was the one thing that kept them going through this marathon. Here’s what they said:
Empowerment Mantra: “Break Free”
Her Story: All my life I’ve been told what to wear and what is considered appropriate for a girl; there have always been restrictions in school or college on the dress code for girls, whereas boys’ clothes were never subject to this much scrutiny. If a boy can workout shirtless at the gym, so can I. I don’t want to be judged for being comfortable in my own skin. That’s why I believe we need to ‘Break Free’ from all the stigma that society has imposed on us for too long. My message is also inspired by Queen’s song ‘I want to Break Free’ where the lead singer wants to break free from societal norms and truly make a change.
Empowerment Mantra: “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”
Her Story: I chose the line ‘Can’t stop, Won’t stop’ to remind myself that there will always be people (and situations) that try to bring you down. However, it’s up to you to learn how to rise above them all. While running on the road, women are often catcalled and even chased, but stopping and giving into the fear that people like this are trying to instill in you shouldn’t be an option. So, no matter what, I’m never going to stop running... and chasing my dreams
Empowerment Mantra: “It’s Me!!”
Her Story: “Breaking off pieces of yourself, to fit into places, will not make you belong. It will only make you bleed!” - Nikita Gill
We have all been in situations in our life where we feel we need to change to adjust and adapt or be someone we are not. For me, this is who I am, and I’m proud of the person I have become. I wouldn’t have gained the strength I have without the experiences in my life. This is me and all of me, and I’ll be loved and accepted for me--not judged for someone people think I should be! First get to know me for who I truly am.
Empowerment Mantra: “Pay Attention”
Her Story: I picked this line because I want people to pay attention to how I run, my work, me as a person and so on. Essentially I want the focus to be on everything important, rather than have people pay attention to how short or long my clothes are.
Empowerment Mantra: “Judgements can’t tame me”
Her Story: I love to run in my lovely city but every time I go out, I hear all kinds of comments, things like “sexy”, “wow”, “hello baby”..etc. Once a friend of mine said, “You are just looking for attention, why can’t you cover yourself?” The next time, I wore training tights and another friend remarked, “Those are too tight, you’re just looking for validation from the world by exposing your body.” I thought to myself “You just can’t win!”
Over time, I have realized that if these friends are so oblivious to my running skills and more focused on what I wear, then they need to change their mental clothing. I began running because it made me feel free and, then, I tragically allowed other people’s judgements to affect me. While it’s sad that people can’t look past these, it’s sadder that I allowed these baseless judgements to affect me. However, it made me realise hat when people try to bring you down, the choice to allow that to happen to you lies in your hands. Never again will I change myself because of what someone else says, never again will I allow anyone’s judgements to tame me.