Lahaul/New Delhi- Tanuja Sunilmungarwadi, a 46 year- old lady from Vapi in south Gujarat, finished five kilometre in all of 70 minutes in the recently held snow marathon in Sissu in Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh. Among over hundred marathon runners from different parts of the country who took part in India’s first snow marathon, Tanuja was the only one who represented Gujarat at an altitude of 10,500 feet in sub zero temperature.
A mother of two, Tanuja has been running marathons of five and 10 km in Gujarat since 2013.
Apart from an extraordinary experience of making a round trip of 3,500 km to run the marathon, Tanuja returned home with very pleasant memories of sharing the world famous Gujarati snack ‘Khakra’ (thin crackers) with the French owner of a cottage in Kais in Himachal Pradesh and with Aakriti Sharma, her train co passenger from Hamirpur district. “ The Frenchman William Toffolon was delighted to get a packet of Khakra from me. Aakriti who has lived in Bharuch district said that she had never tasted such delicious Khakras.’’
This is the first time Tanuja, a content writer decided to run a snow marathon which she heard about while visiting kais village in Kullu district (near a famous wildlife sanctuary). “ I was trekking with friends from Kolhapur, Mumbai and Pune in the areas around Kais when I learnt about this event from my friend, Vishal Gudulkar, one of the brand ambassadors of the snow marathon. Vishal is an ultra runner based in Kolhapur. I needed no persuasion as I just could not resist taking on the challenge of running in high altitude.’’
Tanuja is jovial and gregarious. After being away for ten days trekking in Himachal Pradesh, she returned to Gujarat briefly in April and left for Hubli in Karnataka to attend a family wedding. “ I travel a lot. I am literally living my life in a suitcase. Mt husband is senior Vice President in a multi-national company and is a workaholic who starts his day at 8 a.m. His office in Umargaon is a an hour’s drive from Vapi. He is completely married to his work. I am his second wife,’’ chuckled Tanuja whose daughters are busy with their career and job.
She kept her decision to run a closely guarded secret from her husband. “ I wanted to give him a surprise but I told my daughters. Like me, my younger daughter is a solo explorer. They are very proud of me.’’
And Tanuja’s long journey from Vapi to Lahaul, miles away from the comfort of her home, is truly inspiring. It was on March 18 that she boarded the Paschim Express from Vapi to Chandigarh covering a distance of 1458 km over a 26 hour long journey. After reaching the Chandigarh railway station, she took rest for a couple of hours in the waiting room at the station before proceeding to a southern Sector of Chandigarh to board an overnight bus to Kullu, a distance of 265 km over nearly nine hours. On reaching Kullu the next day (March 20) at 6.30 a.m., she took a bus from the Kullu central bus stand to Kais where she spent some time looking for a homestay. I must thank the Almighty that I have a lot of stamina and enthusiasm. I took a bus from Kais to Sissu and reached there 48 hours before the marathon.’’
Recalling her experience, Tanuja said, “ I just about managed to reach the starting point in Sissu on the marathon day on March 26. During the medical test the previous day, my blood pressure was a little on the higher side. I just about had time to get my blood pressure checked. I grabbed my label and began running as the marathon was flagged off within minutes of my reaching there. I had lukewarm water and dry fruits before the marathon. I was lucky to be acclimatised as I did some trial run. After finishing the marathon, I went back to Kais village and spent some days in Manali before returning to Vapi on April 1.’’
Tanuja put out videos of the snow marathon on her Facebook and Instagram account and she got a huge applause from friends.
Born in Belgaum in Karnataka in south India, Tanuja grew up in Sankeshwar. She remembers that she was good at Javelin, Discus throw, Kho Kho, a traditional Indian sports, in school. Perhaps, it is this fitness that helped her run in a challenging weather.
Her message to women is that they should overcome their limitations and inhibitions about travelling. “ They must take a chance and break shackles of domestic obligations to follow their wanderlust. Life is too short. One must explore, experience and enlighten.’’