“Were you embarrassed when I was running?” Mandira asks her daughter.
“Yea,” the girl replies.
“Because no one else’s mom runs,” says the daughter.
Mandira is one of many women featured the documentary Limitless, about the challenges faced by female runners in India. Indian women comprise 11.7 per cent of all marathon runners in the country, as opposed to the global average of 29.76 per cent. “To get women to participate is great, but they face several obstacles in the way,” said Ashok Nath, executive trustee of India Amateur Runners Trust, which commissioned the film. “Women make up such a small percentage of the numbers that if you want to grow the running space, you need to encourage more women to participate.”
The 60-minute film, directed by Vrinda Samartha, features eight women from different social strata, including a woman from Mumbai who worked as a household help and now earns her living by participating in running events. Also on the list is Viji Swaminathan, who once had to fight off drunken men when she went out for a run. Swaminathan now runs in groups with men.
The film highlights the obstacles navigated by women on the streets as well as at home. “A woman feels that there are so many things to do that if she does anything for herself, she feels guilty,” Nath pointed out.
An older runner, Sharda, had to persuade her mother and mother-in-law to come around and accept her passion for the sport. “Women end up seeking acceptance from people around,” Samartha said. “There is also someone like Mandira, who wanted someone much younger than her to understand her, and then there is Sharda who wanted people older than her to cooperate.”
The film also features Saloni Arora, a 32-year old runner from Bangalore, who says, “My father is my biggest support who encouraged me throughout. Taking up a professional sport like long distance running takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. So a strong support system is very important.”
Each of the characters started small but are now professional runners, having participated in half and full marathons. They assert that running is not only for professionals. Swaminathan, who initially started running to lose weight and boost her self-esteem, told Scroll.in. “People should run for the love of it. It is a race against yourself.”
For Saloni Arora, running is about staying healthy. “Lives are very stressful these days, be it for working women, be it for women at home, family pressures are very immense, so it is very important to do something to stay fit,” she said.
Apart from fitness, running has improved other areas of the women’s lives. Arora, who took up running at the age of 30 when she was going through a divorce, says in the film, “I started running to clear my mind space and look for positivity.” She now wakes up at 4.30 am and goes to bed at 9 pm. “Running changes your day; you have a positive mindset, and you interact with positive people,” Arora says.
Nath believes that the documentary will show viewers, especially women interested in running, that it is possible to sprint past challenges. “They will realise that these are typical women like them, and that they should not restrain themselves too much.” Nath also hopes that the film will sensitise men to jeer less and cheer more. “I am not trying to change the world – I am just rolling the ball, hoping it will pick up pace,” Nath said.
Still from ‘Limitless’
This article, originally published at Scroll.in, has been reproduced with permission.
Courtesy : Dawn News