This is an edited and rephrased version of a post by Bijay Nair on his Facebook Page.
She might as well be a synonym for ‘strong’. A symbol of courage, and one of the fastest amateur runners on the national scene. Podium finish has become a habit to this 35 year old. Mother to a wonderful and sweet kid Vihaan, Sayuri Dalvi is a good friend and a co-runner. If you are a runner in Mumbai, you would have definitely come across her name. Currently on a sabbatical, Sayuri worked as a teacher earlier. Her story is inspiring and has been captured for television and documentaries. Here’s Sayuri’s telling us about her running journey.
When did you start running?
I was pretty sporty in my school days – from being a sports captain to leading inter-school meets. But studies always came first, and I took a break from sports during SSC to study well. I have always imitated my father, so I wanted to be an IITian like him. Despite being on track for that, serious health issues made me move from science to the commerce stream.
Marriage happened suddenly at the age of 20 and I had a beautiful son at 23. Marriage hit rocks after my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified) and was placed on the autism spectrum. I found myself standing all by myself when I longed to have some emotional holding. I ate to suppress grief. And I kept doing it. I ended up looking like a balloon about to burst at age 24. That’s when I signed up at a gym to deal with the weight. On a day when the gym was closed, I ran outdoors, and suddenly found my calling.
I found a silent breakthrough from the frustration, a vent for the anger and a way to regain composure. Running became a meditative; and becoming strong through it was like an addiction. In a few months, I had signed up for the Mumbai Marathon and ran my first half marathon in 2007 in 1:56.
Tell us about the runs you have competed in.
Since my first half marathon in 2007, I have run 56 timed races! I have 25 of those including 10Ks, half marathons, 4 full marathons and one ultra-marathon.
What’s your training routine like?
Running started as a therapy and never a serious business. So religious and structured training never happened in all these years since I started. My lifestyle is a constraint to the hours I put in for training, so I am running right after I step out of my building, and am running back home similarly. The miles depend upon how much time I can spare that day, but I run 3-4 times a week including a compulsory long run every weekend. I try and touch a 50 km mileage every week.
Alternately, I absolutely love lifting weights and I try to go the gym when my son is at school. Recently, I won a cycle at a race, so I try and put in a day for that. I do some swimming at times, and a quick 30-minute core and strength workout when I have a busy day, alongside the cooking and cleaning. Serious training with coaches and groups overwhelms me, so I have shied away from that.
What are your running goals?
I am not very ambitious when it comes to running, but the few I do have I will make sure I achieve them. Boston, someday! An Ironman – though even a half would suffice. And of course, Comrades, even if takes 20 more years.
Which personalities have inspired your running?
I don’t believe much in idol worship. However, I admire Allyson Felix for her strength and Lolo Jones for the kind of hardships she faced. Also, Rich Roll and Scott Jurek, both of whom are very inspirational ultra-runners.
My favourite running quote is from Steve Prefontaine: ‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.’
What would be your advice to beginners and new runners?
Running is for anyone and everyone. It does not discriminate. But it is very important to judge our own lifestyles, goals and aspirations instead of comparing ourselves with other runners.
Train well with a nutritious diet and enough sleep. Never over train. For instance, if your friend is doing an ultra, don’t follow their footsteps and end up feeling out of fuel or worse, injured. Go slow initially, gradually building up your mileage. Always incorporate a strengthening program alongside to ensure lifelong running.
And lastly, remember run for yourself. Because you started for your own happiness in the first place. Everything else is a bonus.
About the author
Bijay Nair is a 38-year-old former LtCdr in the Indian Navy, and now works for the National Classification Society of Shipping. He’s been running Marathons since 1999, and in the timed events since 2008 after leaving the Navy. He’s veteran of 40 half marathons, 5 marathons and a 12 hr Ultra run, having run all over the world. In 2012, for the project 121212 (to commemorate the unique 12/12/12 date, which incidentally was also his birthday) he ran 2012km to support cancer patients at the TATA Memorial Hospital and collected Rs 1,21,212. He’s currently posting inspiration profiles on his Facebook wall with the hashtag #TheyInspire