There was a time when she would have quit something that she believed in. Simply because she lacked the belief in herself. Not anymore, though. Over the past six years, Vinita S Jain, dental surgeon by profession, rediscovered not only her passion for sport but also, more importantly, her self-belief. Perhaps, she even found herself again.
Curiously, the journey was sparked when her eyes fell on a photograph of an unlikely pair out on a run with a group in Gurgaon. “It was my sister and brother-in-law, who I never imagined would take up running as a sporting habit,” she recalls. “It set me thinking how I had locked away all my instinct for sport.”
Vinita says her running – much of the time it is barefoot running – is now inspired by her life. “I evolved as a person only when I started running in 2012. I used to walk in the morning. The rest of the day was mostly a thankless job!” she says, enjoying a steaming cup of coffee. “I am sure many Indian girls will relate to my belief that marriage turns the world upside down.”
Moving from her own conservative joint family to another after bringing down opposition from both sides did offer challenges. And dealing with these meant that she had to give up passion for a range of sport like basketball and cycling. Marriage, setting up her own clinic, children and running a household as well her health issues presented her a tightrope walk.
“The motivation came from a photograph of my younger sister Archana and brother-in-law Sanyog Jain. They were wearing Gurgaon Road Runners T-shirts. I found it awesome that they were running. For, they had never been into sport. And it pricked me into action. How can I be idle, I wondered, and told myself to get back to sport,” she says.
For someone being injected steroids each week instead of every six months – “I wore only black or brown clothes to stop stains from showing” – she found joy in running. “I met Sundreysh Sarup after a photography session and gathered that he lost 12 to 14 kg in a year, thanks to running. And that bolstered my desire to run.
“Even though I would walk regularly, running the first 100m was most difficult. It seemed very difficult, preparing myself mentally to run. My son Amogh’s best friend’s mother Meenal Popli was helpful. We talked to a fitness company and hired a trainer and in August 2013, I heard of Pinkathon. The trainer agreed to help us with 15 days on the trot.
“My first 5k run was awesome and an eye-opener. The ambience, with music and dance, was great. Milind Soman was a main attraction, too,” she says. However, the key takeaway was that she got hooked to running.
“I trained for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2013. The first 12km was very good and after that I fizzled out, wanting to quit after 15k. When I was about to call my husband, I saw a girl run with a blade for a leg. She was taken aback when I hugged her, but she had inspired me not to quit,” Vinita Jain says, vividly recapturing a decisive scene played out on the Delhi roads.
“I kept improving on my own. Thanks to social media, I met Vidhi who had moved in to the neighbourhood. She is a fast runner. She keeps pushing me like no one does. I find it tough to cope with her. But, thanks to her and Alfredo Miranda, I have evolved as a runner,” says the dentist with a hearty laugh. “Actually, running has helped me evolve as a person and as a professional.”
She does not need any provocation to elaborate a bit. “I used to be bitter with others and with myself. I used to crib ‘why me?’ I was a closed person but running helped me find my peace. I have become more accepting, more forgiving. I realised that carrying baggage was not helping me. I may not have been able to forget the past but I am not bitter about it anymore,” she says.
Vinita Jain admits that there were times when she would feel drained even in the day and could not sleep at night but now, thanks to running, she is energised and sleeps like a baby. “More importantly, I have earned the attitude of never giving up and to keep fighting,” she says, attributing it to her tryst with running.
“The realisation happened slowly. It was not as if it came over the span of one run. It is the result of a series of conversations with myself when running. My friends constantly tell me to run with an empty mind. But that is not possible. I am always in conversations with myself when I am running,” she says.
There is a twinkle in her eye when she picks one of her favourite conversations to share. “The most enjoyable conversation in my mind was my argument with Alfredo. When I asked him for a race plan in the Bhatti Lakes Ultra in October 2017, he had responded with a question. ‘Are you sure you want to run?’ he wanted to know, for, I had not stuck to a schedule that he had given me.
“My last training run before Bhatti was in the IIT campus on a Tuesday night. Throughout the run, I was arguing with him in my mind. I did not realise that the chat made the adrenaline flow. I ran 10k in an hour and a second. I had never run like that before,” she recalls. “However, during the Bhatti Lakes Ultra, I realised what Alfredo had meant.”
She had cramps in both legs and decided to quit after 30km. She told the officials to ask for a car to drive her back. “Nakul Batta and Aman Yadav came by and urged me to finish the distance. Aman told me whatever destruction of the body had to happen would have already happened and it would be in recovery mode. Five minutes later, I was back on the trail,” she recalls.
“I finished in nine and a half hours, past the cut off time but I earned a hug from race director Kavitha Kanaparthi. ‘You are a true ultra-marathoner,’ Alfredo said. I could not have asked for greater recognition,” she says, adding that her husband Dr. Vimish Jain had been a bulwark with his support through two decades of marriage.
Yes, Vinita Jain, her of the ups and down in life – like most people – learnt not to stop believing in herself and to never quit. And by doing that, the doctor who believes that inspiration is all round us, has herself become an inspiration to more than a few around her. The youngsters in her neighbourhood who have taken to cycling are veritable examples.