If you’ve ever heard the phrase “every end is a new beginning,” and dismissed it simply as a line of reassurance – think again. As she left both the man she was in love with as well as her life in the mountains of Darjeeling behind her, a chapter in Roshni Rai’s life came to an end. But this ending led to the beginning of a new one down in the big city by the sea, Mumbai. She began to run. She ran for herself, she ran for her community, she ran for her new found passion and never looked back. Roshni Rai now has become an avid marathoner not only in India but also abroad also running her own foundation – Run with Roshni, training and empowering runners from the Gorkha community and even having published an autobiography “From Mountains to the Ocean.”
Born and brought up in Kalimpong, Roshni is also known as the Marathon Princess of the hills and popularly known as the Pedong Express. Inspired by her story, Rachana from Livingit got in touch with her for a deeper understanding on how running has positively impacted her life. Running for Roshni is her ‘self-expression’ and passion that helps her become better every day.
RJ: What inspired you to start running?
Roshni: I would say heartbreak inspired me to start running. Back in 2013, I was devastated as a result of breaking off a relationship. I started running without knowing that it would be the path to my recovery. One morning I simply stepped out and started running; I was crying and running, but after some time the crying stopped. When I got back home, for the first time in a few days, I was actually hungry and had a good nights sleep. From the next day onwards it became my routine to run in the morning.
RJ: What got you into long distance running?
Roshni: In 2004, I moved down to Mumbai to do an LLM at Mumbai University, and for 2 years I didn’t actually have the time to run. However, towards the end of 2006, I saw the advertisements for the famous Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon and registered myself for the Half Marathon, without truly knowing what I had signed myself up for. Injured, I still managed to complete the race. In 2008 I was introduced to my running coach Daniel Vaz and started to train professionally. After that, there has been no looking back.
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RJ: What motivates you to continue running?
Roshni: The happiness that I get from completing a long run motivates me for the next one. Along with that, long distance running gives me the confidence I need to feel able to overcome any kind of challenges not only in sport but also life.
RJ: How many races have you taken part in so far?
Roshni: Almost 50 races including 10km races, Half marathons, Full marathons and Ultra marathons of 50km, 75km, 89km and 100km. I have also participated in the Prague International Marathon 2010, The Comrades Marathon 2012 of 89km in South Africa and Maiden head Half marathon 2013 in UK.
RJ: You are a corporate lawyer. Does running help professionally also?
Roshni: It is all about time management and the passion I have for running. Running has definitely helped me maintain and keep my profession and passion in balance.
RJ: How do you cope with long distance runs?
Roshni: Well really, for me, the long distance runs are the stress busters . I get time to think about so many things, and that is important to me during the runs. It’s like I am connecting with myself and I love that!
RJ: How do you train your body to go the distance?
Roshni: Being consistent with training and gradually increasing your distance as you train is what strengthens your body towards successfully completing the long distance runs.
RJ: Tell us about some of the challenges that you’ve faced while running in India?
Roshni: Runners are required to drink water before the marathon begins and of course, if the marathon does not start on time, our bladder gets full. In 2009, I had participated in the Pune Half marathon, which ended up starting an hour late. There was no toilet throughout the route; hence I ran the entire distance of 21km with full bladder – which I would never recommend. Thankfully nowadays organizers take precautions making sure toilets are accessible to runners or put more effort in getting the marathons to start on time, so I have not faced such challenges.
RJ: What advice would you give to beginners in running?
Roshni: To begin with, do not bother with the distance you are running but rather put yourself into a habit of running 20 to 30 minutes every day. Listen to your body. You must be disciplined, determined and dedicated to running and only then one can be a successful long distance runner.
RJ: You are not only passionate about running, but you run for a very personal cause – could you tell us a little about the idea behind your foundation “Run with Roshni”?
Roshni: Run with Roshni Foundation is a registered charity Trust. The main vision of the Run with Roshni Foundation is to empower Gorkhas and to enlighten people, who don’t know how Nepali speaking people are also Indians, by creating world class long distance runners from Gorkha Community. There is very little awareness of the Gorkha’s history in India. People do not know that Britishers annexed 30% of Nepal’s land along with our ancestors to India. That’s how we became Indian and we are proud to be Indians. However, whenever we say that our mother tongue is Nepali, people ask us if we are migrants from Nepal. We have to keep on explaining, how we are Indians.
In every marathon, we wear a t-shirt with the slogan, ‘We are Gorkhas, proud to be Indians’.
RJ: What do you talk about in your autobiography “From Mountains to the Ocean”?
Roshni: ‘From Mountain to the Ocean. Run with Roshni’ is my autobiography through which, I have highlighted the issue of identity crisis faced by Gorkhas in their own motherland through my story.
RJ: Could you tell us a bit about your experience at the impressive 89km ultra marathon that you ran: the Comrades Marathon?
Roshni: The Comrades Marathon in South Africa, is also known as the Ultimate Human Race where the runner has to complete 89 km within 12 hrs. There are five cut-offs before the finish line. If they fail to meet any of the cut-offs, the runner is pulled out of the race. If anyone crosses the finish line even a second after the stipulated 12 hours, they will be declared DNF (Did Not Finish in Marathon lingo). Runners over the age of 20 qualify when they are able to complete an officially recognized marathon (42.2 km) in under five hours. I ran a full marathon of 42.2 km at the SCMM 2012 in a dramatic 4 hours and 50 minutes!
I was very inspired by the history of the Comrades Marathon. It was started by Vic Clapham in the year 1921, as an act of remembrance to those Comrades who did not return from World War I. After reading the beautiful history of the Comrades Marathon, I decided to dedicate my Comrades marathon as a tribute to all the Gorkha soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for India.
I touched the finish line of the Comrades Marathon in 11 hours 50 mins with India’s flag flying in my hands and shouting “JAI GORKHA, JAI HIND!”
RJ: More recently you also took part in the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon 2016, how was that experience?
Roshni: After reading the review of my book ‘From the Mountain to the Ocean’ the Chairman of the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon invited me to participate in the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon 2016. I had checked the website of the Tenzing Hillary Everest marathon 2-3 years back and after finding the registration fee quite expensive, I had closed the website. But in 2016, I got an invitation to run the marathon, which was fully sponsored for me.
Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon (THEM) is an International High Altitude Adventure Sports Event held at Mt. Everest Base Camp, which happens every year on May 29 th , since 2003, to commemorate the historical ascent of Mount Everest by Late Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary on May 29 th , 1953. The trail crosses the Sherpa heartlands of Khumbu Valley between the Everest Base Camp and Namche Bazaar. This year’s Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon marked a special add-on value of a colourful dimension. A team from Nepal’s National Olympian Runners carried the Buddha Peace Flame from Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini to Mount Everest called the “Peace Flame March”. This was to convey the message of National Revival Post-Earthquake Destruction in Nepal followed by border friendly blockade along Nepal’s southern border with ‘mitra rastra’ India.
The Peace Flame Torch reached Everest Expedition Base Camp, (Marathon Start Point) on May 27, which was handed over to me by Champion Runner Deepak Rai and I was declared the Goodwill Ambassador of Everest marathon for India. I felt really blessed to run a few hundred meters with peace flame in the Everest Base Camp.
RJ: What are your goals for the future?
Roshni: My future goal is to create a world-class runner from the Gorkha community, who will win an Olympic marathon for India.
Roshni’s most powerful tools are her feet and her pen and she uses them skillfully. She wants to empower and enlighten the nation about Gorkhas in India. Her main mission is to make India proud by winning International and Olympic Marathons by the runners from Darjeeling. We at Livingit wish Roshni all the very best for all her future endeavours! You can follow her @ Run with Roshni
Another runner who used running as his ‘new beginning’ into a new chapter of his life is Navnath Dige, he and his now wife ran a 25k just to get to their wedding. Read more: Combining Marathon into Marriage: Bride and Groom run 25kms to Get Married!