The Flag Off
A cold Sunday morning in Pune lay witness to 7000 women, getting ready to run. Ranging from the age of 4 to 84 years, these women with multiple emotions running through them waited for the flag off. Some were running in their first marathon, for others it was one of many they had run. While the goal for a lot of these women was to complete the marathon, some were trying to beat their best time and few even trying to win. However, at a deeper level the reasons were very different. It varied from wanting to prove a point, to discover their own limitations, to battle a physical condition, to overcome stress, or simply to join the celebration of women running together. Regardless, for all of them the moment was empowering, which is what Pinkathon stands for.
Addressing the gathering, Indian Supermodel, Actor, Film producer, Fitness promoter, Ironman, Barefoot runner and founder of Pinkathon Milind Soman said “The Pinkathon is more than a Marathon. It is the seed of change. It is the beginning of a movement carried forward by a growing community of empowered women across India, who share a belief that a healthy family, a healthy nation and a healthy world begins with empowered women. The first step in empowerment is taking control of your own health, respecting yourself and understanding and celebrating the value you bring to your family and society. Empowerment is not a gift of society, it is a gift you give yourself. We are delighted to have such diverse crowd right from young school students, housewives, corporate, cancer survivors, underprivileged and visually impaired girls participating in Pinkathon at Pune.”
Following Milind’s address, an insightful talk was given by Dr. Ami, where she spoke about three stages of a woman’s life – adolescence, adulthood and menopause and how the changes when transitioning between these affects them. She spoke about the need to take care at every stage to prevent major issues like PCOD, menstrual irregularities, cervical cancer, breast cancer and thyroid. She urged the participants not to underestimate the benefits of healthy diet and exercise which can help prevent all the major issues mentioned before.
After an energetic Zumba warm up session, Milind Soman flagged off the 21km, 10km, 5km and 3km run categories between 4:45 am, to 6:45 am. Like waves of an army charging 7,000 women were off. All categories started the run from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pashan, Pune. The route for the race was Pashan road and Necklace road Bavdhan.
Diversity of Runners
This year’s edition was special as it had women from all different strata of society, there were visually impaired and hearing impaired, from cancer survivors to mothers carrying babies. Milind Soman’s 78 years old mother, along with celebrities and prominent women personalities like Priya Bapat, Sai Tamhankar and RJ Shruti from RED FM, participated in the race while expressing their wholehearted support for the Pinkathon movement. Furthermore, Divyanshu Gantra, blind psychologist, para glider, advocate for disability rights and founder of ‘Adventure beyond Barrier’, an organization which organises adventure sport events for the able-bodied and disabled community, brought forty differently abled participants to take part in the event.
A unique initiative by Pinkathon was for domestic helps. All participants could register their domestic help for free. The opportunity to take part in a potentially life changing experience was enhanced by a free medical checkup. Medical Partner Apollo Spectra Hospital provided mammogram to all the participants above 44 years of age & a medical check-up for those under 44 years of age.
The highlight for 21km race category was “He For She”. Pinkathon provided individual pacers for half marathon i.e. 21km to finish the run and achieve the target timing. Husbands and friends partnered with the women to help and motivate them to the finish line.
Tireless Pinkathon Ambassadors
The Ambassadors and Milind himself organised pre-race events like a cycle ride wearing nauvari, Diwali Pahat event, etc. These events were done free of cost, where people were invited and motivated to register for Pinkathon. Ambassadors like Dr Mitali Upadhye, Radhika Gupta, Trupti Dalal and few others were actively spreading the word, a month prior to the event. They covered orphanages, blind groups, cancer hospitals and this year they even went to Pune’s red light area, and spoke to women about health, hygiene and fitness. Pinkathon even has a cancer patient squad who are felicitated and given medals separately.
In addition, the Ambassadors also conducted training programmes for those who had never ran before and trained them one on one. Priya bapat and Sai Tamankar were non-runners and got trained for the 10 km run, basically to convey the message that even the busiest people can find time to train and run. Another brave initiative by Pinkathon Ambasaddors Sonia Kulkarni, Sharmila Munj and Aparna Bhingarkar was to run all the way from Mumbai to Pune, 160km in three days in an attempt to inspire more women to start running.
Quoting Pinkathon ambassador Leena Choudhri, “It really gives you some kind of happiness that can’t be explained when you encourage your friends, family, teachers , colleagues to run. I am happy, my teachers from college were inspired by my running & participated in 5 k run for the first time. And their enthusiasm & happiness was just priceless for me”
The Pink History
Founded by Reema Sanghavi & Milind Soman, Pinkathon started in 2012 in different cities and states in India. It is India’s biggest women’s run, organised by Maximus MICE & Media Solutions Pvt. Ltd., under the aegis of United Sisters Foundation and created with the specific purpose of getting more and more women to adopt a fitter lifestyle for themselves and their families, and to highlight the need for increased awareness about Breast cancer and other issues that put women’s lives at risk.
The Pinkathon inaugural race was on December 16, 2012 in Mumbai which hosted 2,000 runners. In 2013, it was organised in Bengaluru, Delhi, Pune and Mumbai with participants between 5,000 and 10,000 in these cities. In 2014, it expanded to Chennai and Ahmedabad with the latter registering a record 14,000 participants. The expansion continued in 2015, when the run was organized in two additional cities Hyderabad and Guwahati.
Across the Finish Line
Pinkathon Pune 2016 held on Nov 13, successfully culminated with Monica Raut, last year’s winner defending her title by winning the 21km race category. She was followed by Swapnita Padekar and Neha Neharkar in second and third positions respectively. One by one, 7000 women crossed the finish line, their tired faces glowing with happiness and reflecting empowerment. Everyone was a winner as they had defeated their doubts and fears. The true podium finish was in their hearts where all of them stood first. This was the moment when they felt #IamLivingit.