Running For Glory: Bhumika Patel

From running marathons to guiding visually-impaired runners and cancer survivors, Bhumika Patel has become a flagbearer for women empowerment. Let's hear her inspiring and heart-warming story!

By Monali Bordoloi

Running For Glory: Bhumika Patel
Bhumika's foray into running led her to train visually-impaired girls

Every morning you can find Bhumika Patel in Cubbon park or a stadium in Bengaluru. She would either be running for herself or training young visually-impaired girls for marathons. Once dubbed as shy and an introvert, this professional runner is now the ambassador and head coach of the women-only Pinkathon event in Bengaluru!

Bhumika started running in her late thirties. And once she started, there was no looking back. Now, sponsored by a leading sportswear company, Bhumika participates in marathons all over the world. She was a part of marathons in London, Berlin, Copenhagen, Chicago, Mumbai, Delhi and of course in all the Pinkathons events in Bengaluru.

ParentCircle catches up with this enthusiastic runner to know about the importance of being fit, the challenges of training the visually-impaired, about her family life and more.

Excerpts:

What motivated you to take up running?

It was way back in 2009, I lost my father and my mother was diagnosed with cancer. As I was having a tough time coping with the trauma, my husband urged me to start running. He coaxed me to attend weekend running sessions with him to keep my mind occupied. After a couple of running sessions, I became confident and decided to take part in a running competition — my first-ever. Surprisingly, I ended up winning the competition. When I received my medal at the podium, was when I recognised my potential and decided that I wanted to pursue running. That was my turning point.

Also read: 5 Ways To Encourage Your Child To Run

Why fitness is important for women?

Women tend to take their health for granted. They are too caught up with job and family, they don’t pay attention to fitness until it becomes too late. I realised the importance of fitness only after my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Running is a good way to keep fit. And the best part is that you don't need any equipment or a gym membership to start running. 

Through our running group in Bengaluru, from time to time, we invite nutritionists, yoga experts, and doctors to discuss issues related to women’s health.

You train visually-impaired runners. How challenging is it?

The biggest challenge in training the visually-impaired runners is to get them to the training venue. The next step is to win their trust as a coach and guide runner. Training them for the run is a different ballgame altogether. There are several challenges to face, but I enjoy taking it up.  

Many visually-impaired girls have the passion and aptitude for running. But they either shy away from expressing their interest or they do not find the right person to guide them.

How running can help underprivileged girls?

Training the visually-impaired girls for running helps open up different avenues of career for them — not just the routine education-related career lines. They become confident and independent, ready to take on the world and will be willing to explore working in other fields.

Do you think we have enough awareness about cancer?

We do need more awareness about this deadly disease. Cancer not only shatters the patient physically, mentally and financially but also traumatises the entire family of the patient. So, when a family member is diagnosed with cancer, all those associated with the person also need counselling as much as the patient needs. 

What does Women’s Day mean to you?

I believe you cannot celebrate women on one specific day. There need not be any women’s day celebration at all. Women really do not need that kind of ostentation. We, as women, need respect and appreciation for the great work we do. That would be the best celebration of all.

What is your take on gender equality? Are there equal opportunities for women?

Of course, there are equal opportunities for women. Women have equal capabilities as men. They just need to focus on their ambitions without getting unnerved by what people talk about gender inequality. The onus of raising a child who is gender-neutral with leadership skills is on the parent.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Each time my trainees — cancer survivors, visually-impaired, cross their finish lines in races, it is a big achievement for me. On a personal front, I have been invited to be the official guide runner for visually-impaired Ironman and world record holder Erich Manser at Boston Marathon this year. It is a huge recognition for me.

How do you manage work, home and your kid?

Running For Glory: Bhumika Patel
Bhumika with her family

I am blessed to have a kind husband and an understanding daughter. I have a supportive workplace and colleagues too. Therefore, I do not have to juggle and struggle at all.

What was the role your family played in your road to success? How about your spouse and in-laws?

They have been pillars of support in my entire journey.

Can you share a challenging moment in your life and how you overcame it?

Earlier, I used to fall apart easily and challenges bogged me down. Now, I have become much more resilient. Because of my disciplined fitness routine, I have become strong — mentally and physically.

How do you spend quality time with your teenage daughter?

I try to catch up with my daughter in the evenings. I like to spend time as a family during the weekends too. Watching our favourite TV shows together or reading books with her, are our idea of spending quality time.

What is your success mantra?

Running For Glory: Bhumika Patel
Bhumika travels all over the world to participate in marathons

I believe in only one success mantra – that there is no shortcut to success!

Who is that one woman you look up to? And why?

I look up to every woman who fights for her identity, her space, her name in the society. Every such woman is my hero.

Running has given a new identity to Bhumika. It has opened a new world for her. From a 9 to 5 corporate job to the running tracks and training others, Bhumika has come a long way. Let’s salute her sporting spirit and wishing her many successes in the days to come.

Hall of fame

  1. Bhumika trained a group of visually-impaired girls supported by the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. Under her guidance, the runners completed the full marathon for the first time in India.
  2. Voted as one of the Gamechangers of 2017 by Women's Running Magazine. 
  3. Received an award from Run For Diversity, an awareness initiative for corporates to spread the message of gender diversity in the workforce. The award is named as UinspireMe Award which was conferred to Bhumika for her grit and determination to hold onto her dreams and pursue her passion against all odds.
  4. Invited to be the official guide runner for visually-impaired star Ironman and world record holder Erich Manser at Boston Marathon this year.
  5. Featured as one among the 21 women who are changing the world through running.

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