Hyderabad-based IT professional Jayanthi Sampathkumar would have made a striking figure running down a marathon track thanks to her agility alone. However, what really makes the 44-year-old marathoner stand out from the crowd is that she does so in an efficiently-wrapped saree and chappals.Jayanthi, who had loved running in her younger days, got back into the game in 2016, and has, since then completed steep targets that she set for herself. In 2016 alone, she completed a total of 2,000 km through her running and cycling routines. Satisfied with her progress, she went on to run the Chennai and Hyderabad marathons, where she gained fame for cutting a unique and traditional figure amid a sea of contestants in tank tops and track pants.
Now, as a bid to complete yet another seemingly-unachievable goal, the runner aims to create a Guinness Book World Record by running the Tata Mumbai Marathon on Sunday in four hours and 45 minutes in her signature saree.
To start with, Jayanthi took up cycling, slowly increasing her stamina day by day.
“I started with regular afternoon bicycle rides to build up my stamina. At first, a 25-km ride felt like an achievement and I had to really push to complete it in a reasonable time. At that time, I never imagined I could do more than that. Now, that same ride is my weekly morning warm-up,” she smiles.
Though her physical stamina has increased drastically, the marathoner says that the biggest change has been mental. “Running for me is like meditation and my emotional state has improved. It has even helped me deal better with my high blood pressure,” she says.
Prepping for the upcoming marathon in the city, Jayanthi declares she doesn’t over-exert during her exercise regime. She exercises only five days a week, balancing between cycling and running. For the rest of the days, she resorts to Surya Namaskar for basic stretching.
Complying with the marathon rule of completing at least 32 km before the actual run, Jayanthi successfully dashed down the streets of Hyderabad and qualified to make it to her stint in Maximum City.
Having made a choice to wear only a saree, Jayanthi, whose husband will also run the marathon with her, drapes the six-yards in the meenakshi style to all her practice runs as well. “What inspired me was that nobody has run a full marathon in a saree,” smiles Jayanthi. But before settling for the six-yard drape she experimented with the nine-yard.
“I tried a couple of styles. Then a friend sent me a video on how to tie a normal six-yard saree in a pant style. It is called the meenakshi style saree and it seemed to suit best for a rigorous exercise,” she adds.
Since it is not easy to run stretches with your body wrapped under layers of cloth, Jayanthi goes for long runs in saree to figure out the areas that require extra pins.
For the year 2018, her goal is to complete 4,800 km of cycling and 500-600 km of running, of which she has already finished 2,021 km of cycling and 94 km of running in last 17 days. “I make a commitment and then start with my weekly goals,” says Jayanthi.
To all the women wanting to start but lacking the incentive, the marathon runner suggests to let go of all inhibitions and simply go for it. “It is a matter of time when you conquer the inhabitations inside your mind and you will not have to worry about anyone else,” she asserts.