Can You Run A Marathon in a Saree ??? Well Meet Kranti Salvi – Fastest Runner in a Saree

by Vrinda Birla

Nationalism is nothing new to Indians. Like citizens of any other country in the world, they too take a sense of pride when due to their own feat or achievement in any endeavour on the world stage are able to gain recognition for themselves and earn a proud name for the nation in the process.

Strange are the ways in which individuals attempt record breaking feats, sometimes to accomplish, at other times missing the mark. What counts is the dedication that goes into the effort, the pain to accomplish the gain.

When Kranti Salvi, a marathon runner broke the Guinness World Record of the fastest Marathon run in a saree, it was once again nationalism that came to the fore. “I feel proud that I could showcase India, Maharashtra, and the nauvari on the world’s platform where more than 140 nationalities were present”, she said after winning.

What exactly did Kranti Salvi, the lady in question achieve?

 The 50 year old lady woman, on Sept. 16th, 2018 became the holder of the Guinness World Record and she is described as the “Fastest marathon dressed in a sari (female)” on its website. Wow! No mean feat this, when so many mortals who attempt to finish the grueling 42.195 km. sometimes do not manage to finish while she completed the race in 3hrs 57min 7sec and in style, breaking the previous record of a marathon in a saree by more than an hour.

But then what led up to her world record achievement?

Salvi when at school was a prolific long distance runner whose specialty was the 8oo metres. When she pursued her studies in Engineering, she was forced to give up the sport. Later when her son began his first athletics lesson and trained under Dinanath Maurya, Kranti’s feet automatically got her to also train under Maurya. Fate took a turn for the better when she signed up her first half marathon race in Mumbai in 2012 and came fourth. Outracing her rivals in the 40 + category in her first marathon her thirst to do well in the sport grew.

So passionate had she become that she even pursued a certification course from the American College of Sports Medicine conducted in Bandra in order to learn the science behind the sport. Running was natural for her and she participated and won in many races.

“It was great to come back home with a medal every time. But my husband said that if I really wanted to test myself, I should target a race such as the Boston Marathon,” recalled Salvi.

She had to divide her time between running her computer and digital hardware supply company and participating in running events. So she planned her vacations in a manner that she could participate in an international running event then. The idea was to get her fit and ready for a timing close to the qualification mark for Boston.  Two unsuccessful attempts in Mauritius and the Philippines, saw her finally clocking 3 hours 47 minutes in the Gold Coast run to make the grade in 2016. She had the Boston medal round her neck in 2017.

The festival runs gave her a new idea

During Gudi Padwa or the Maharashtrian New Year she used to participate in the festival running events and most times she donned the Indian saree – the navvari or the 9 yard saree being a favourite.

During one such festival one organized by the Girgaum Runners of Mumbai, she, Salvi stood at the start line in a navvari sari to flag off the race. The race started and soon she was sprinting in her sari alongside her friends. “A lot of people wondered who this mad lady was,” she says.

This planted the seed in her mind what her next race was going to be.

It was around this time Guinness confirmed that a woman had set a new record of running in a sari at the Mumbai Marathon. She said “My friend tagged my picture on social media and suggested that I try for the record. As I had already registered for the Berlin Marathon, I felt this would be the perfect opportunity to take the Navvari to the world.”

Many mails went to and fro, till the authorities at Guinness approved Kranti Salvi’s costume. In the bid to get ready for the Berlin run she took part in the half-marathon at IIT Mumbai. In a rain-drenched event in August 2018, she clinched top spot in a totally wet saree.

Subsequently she went to Berlin in September’18. The rest is history.

The inspirational run – a follow–up of earlier runs

As the story goes during one of the earlier Gudi Padwa festival runs she had worn heavy jewellery along with her patent Nauvari saree. Her nose ring slipped and fell twice, the running was difficult with so much load on her. Yet she persisted for the 5 Km. length. Many saw her in the traditional costume and her photos appeared in tagged messages in social media. She knew that she wanted to make the Berlin run in this very costume and should she win she could make her country proud by the achievement.

She ran with the backing of PUMA, the shoe company, who from the time they got associated with her, supported her throughout with shoes that were comfortable and suited her style of running. It was PUMA that fitted her with shoes that went well with her costume.

For the Berlin run she wore a pinkish-red navvari, a peaked cap and a belt stashed with hydration gels

What does it feel like, running such a distance in the nauvari?

“While a tail wind is of great help for runners, in my case, it only ballooned up the sari, forcing me to stop every few kilometres to adjust it. I would tuck it into the socks and the shorts, but eventually had to stop again to fix it. The sari didn’t allow me to maintain my usual stride, but I made up for it with increased cadence,” she says.

Because of the length of the saree, the borders kept on touching at the same spot on the feet causing hurt to severe chafing. She did not come to know of it till she sat to relax after the run.

What next then?

Success always goads the winner to the next objective. overwhelmed with the response and the attention she says her next objective is to earn the six-star medal of WMM- World Marathon Majors in which one has to complete the six majors marathon. Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York. Of which she has already completed the Boston and Berlin.

How does she stay fit?

 “I usually run on alternate days and if I’m running in the morning I wake up earlier than usual. Once I get ready with running gear I’m off for a run”, she says. Being an ACSM certified coach she follows a strict schedule that includes focus on strength, core or plyometrics. Along with my personal fitness, I also train women during Pinkathon sessions on Saturday mornings at Girgaon Chowpatty, Marine drive.

 Diet consists of a lot of fresh home cooked food that she herself cooks where protein and carbohydrates form a vital component. Seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs are a regular part of the diet.

A talent marked in History

She is part of a rare breed of individuals who use their talents to popularize something that is close to their heart. It is more in the spirit of completing the event rather than trying to win prizes in the bid to get the focus or spotlight on the object of their desire. Like her Mulund-based businessman, Prafull Sawant also ran the 10K International Maybank Marathon at Bali, Indonesia, this September in the traditional, Maharashtrian attire – the dhoti.

Kranti Salvi shall move on to other destinations in her bid to complete the remaining of the six majors and we do hope she does it with the same spirit and verve with which she achieved her world record at Berlin. She shall maybe carve more records for herself and do the nation proud in her progress but she has already carved out her name in the hearts of millions of her countrymen. For to all of us – She’s Different.

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