“I keep my gear ready the night before the event. ‘Are you running tomorrow?’ my children ask me with excitement. Fortunately, these days I usually return with a trophy or a medal. ‘Did you see, my mom won it today!’ they say that with a lot of pride and the happiness in their eyes just fills my heart.” Sheetal Karia brought home a few more medals in 2017 after she had six consecutive podium finishes in various marathons.
A couple of years ago, Sheetal found out about a 5 km mini marathon. She had a month to get ready for it and took that as a challenge. “At that time, the little one was just over a year old and the elder one was three. I used to wake up at six in the morning with both my kids. They would play in the garden and I used to do 5 km runs around them. So, I could run as well as keep an eye on them.” This continued for the next 25 days. On the race day, on her first-ever attempt in a mini marathon, Sheetal completed the run in 30 minutes and came second.
Sheetal found a mentor in someone in her own community, Dhiraj Dedhia. He guided her to attempt a 10 km run. She stood sixth in the event. Dhiraj helped her find a coach as well. She trains under Raj Vadgama. In the last two years, she has transformed herself from running mini marathons to now participating in 32 km runs, duathlons and now has an eye on triathlons.
“It is all in the mind. If you decide you’re going run 100 km, you will do that.” Resolute. Sheetal spoke about how she was determined to get fit every time she would put on some weight. “This is long back, when I was in college and wanted to shed a few kilos. I used to do khamshana a particular way we pray where we bow our head and I did 100 of them in a day. I also used to go up and down the staircase and I even used to do skipping.” The other time was when she wanted to lose weight after her pregnancy. She did crunches and squats at home instead of joining a gym. “I used to watch the fitness channels on TV and exercise, while still keeping an eye on my kid. Then I started watching the fitness videos on Youtube and practising them. I didn’t know that all of this was ultimately helping me to run.”
As mentioned earlier, her next target is to compete in a triathlon. “I am confident about my running and cycling. I cycle twice a month, but I need to work on swimming.” She used to teach Zumba in the evenings but now she has decided to dedicate her time to swimming and enrolled herself in a swimming class. “I don’t have a hard and fast rule about training. However, whenever I am confident, I can increase my speed and when I increase my speed, I am consistent with it. I never lose my speed; that is my strength.”
Sheetal’s strength is her family as well. Her world revolves around her husband, her two kids and her father-in-law. “If I get late these days because of the presentation ceremonies, my father-in-law and husband take care of the house and the kids. They keep telling me not to worry about the house and just compete. I could have never done this without their love and support.”
“Find an hour for yourself every day and do what you love to do”, she says. “I know my kids are everything to me but once they grow up and have a life of their own, I will need something for myself. And for that, I must start now.”