Running is a passion for many and for some it is a platform for raising their voice. Anuja Mudda has been running since 2015, and while she might still be considered an amateur by veterans, it doesn’t mean she lacks spirit. And her resolve makes her just as determined as seasoned runners. Anuja is about to embark on a wonderful journey from Pune to Goa, hoping to finish a distance of over 450 km in just 8 days. This run is all about celebrating International Women’s Day and proving a point. “Running for me is freedom,” she told mobiefit. “Freedom to raise my opinion, to take control of my body, and to make a difference!”
This Women’s Day mobiefit is supporting Anuja and NGO Arpan in fighting the battle against child sexual abuse with the Steps to Smiles Challenge in mobiefit RUN. Anuja will be covering 3 states and 8 cities through her ultra, and you too can be a part of the change by downloading mobiefit RUN for Android and iOS.. For each kilometer you cover, mobiefit will donate Rs 50 to Arpan, the NGO leading the battle against child sexual abuse, and also working towards rehabilitating the kids.
We wanted to find out more about what drives Anuja and her journey as a woman in the world of running. Here’s a chat before she sets off on her ultra run.
Since when have you been running and what inspired you first to run?
I started running in January 2015, when a group of runners from Mumbai forced me to run with them. I was of the belief that running is done only by athletes, and since I’m not an athlete and I didn’t even play any sport back in school or college, I never thought I could run.
What keeps you going on a regular basis? Any particular motivation or person who inspires you?
Contradictory to popular belief that one should not jump directly into marathon as a beginner, I precisely did that! Within 10 days after I started running (without any training), I participated in the 42 km Standard Charted Mumbai Marathon. This was all the motivation I needed as I realized that our body can do lot more than what we give it credit for. Running sets me free from all boundaries and this drives me to achieving newer goals and targets.
Is it difficult to maintain your daily routine with running? What about your work? How does that get affected?
Since I am a teacher at the TIME institute in Pune, my mornings and evenings are packed with classes. I either go for an early morning run between 4-6 am or I run later in the night at 9 pm. Usually people go on long runs on the weekends, but since I have to work, I schedule my long runs on my weekly day off.
What is the thinking behind your Ultra run from Pune to Goa?
I have been through things during my childhood which still affect me, even though I’m an adult now. This fear has been imbibed in me and hence I wanted to do whatever I could for the cause of child molestation. When I contacted the NGO Arpan, which works specifically towards this cause, I realized I can help them in two ways. One was by raising funds and the other was that my run can actually help spread the awareness against child sexual abuse.
What are some of the challenges you faced as a runner and particularly as a woman runner?
When I was running at SCMM 2017, after a km I got my periods. I didn’t want to give up, so I continued running. As a woman we all know how difficult the PMS in the previous week can be. I also was diagnosed with PCOD and this made running a Herculean task for me. So running for half a month with this baggage is a challenge in itself. But running has been the cure for my PCOD and now it doesn’t really affect me like before.
The second problem I faced was with people. Many just stare at you as if you are running naked. Once at 8 am in Baner, Pune while I was running someone with their face covered came on the bike, touched my chest and ran away. Before I even realized what happened, he was gone. Since that incident I carry a pepper spray and I always need to stay on my guard whenever I run.
What was the preparation like?
The biggest challenge was to balance my work and the training. I had to train at odd hours, but I never skipped a day. I would run after breakfast and lunch but made it a point to cover at least 30 km collectively in a week. Also I do a lot of strength training and yoga, all this without any rest day.
How many km do you hope to cover in the day?
60 km for 7 days and 30 km on the last day.
What is something that scares you about this run?
Nothing. Running actually frees me from the stuff that scares me.
Who is your support crew on this run? What will be your pit-stops for the night?
We have an amazing team comprising of Shubhankar, who’s the chief co-coordinator, Santwana who’s the nutrition expert, and Kaivalya who’s in charge of the media. The Ultra Run spans over a period of 8 days from Pune to Goa, our main pit stops will be Shirwal, Satara, Karad, Kolhapur, Sankeshwar (all in Maharashtra), Belagavi (Karnataka). Then we enter Goa via Chorla and will end the run at the sports stadium in Bambolim, Goa.