MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP: ENDURANCE RUNNER SUMEDHA MAHAJAN SPEAKS ON HER INCREDIBLE JOURNEY TO SUCCESS AND ABOUT BRAKEFREE
(WHY SUMEDHA CAN RELATE TO THE MOVIE DANGAL)
She has fought asthma and a degenerating bone disorder. She ignored a patriarchal society that finds it difficult to accept a girl as an athlete. She challenged all odds and is a success story today. Sumedha Mahajan is indeed an inspiration. If the movie Dangal was an eye-opener to how women are treated and groomed by their families in sports, Sumedha’s life is no less than a filmy tale. Though she comes from a North Indian state which has one of the highest rates of female foeticide, Sumedha’s parents treated their children equally, though they often faced the wrath of their extended family for being ‘so liberal with their girls.’
Like Geeta and Babita of Dangal, Sumedha and her sister Mrinalini were coached by their father in tennis. Though her dad was a great friend and loved his girls beyond words, he was a tough coach and showed no sympathy even when asthmatic Sumedha would go breathless during her training sessions. She had to take inhalers and again go for practice. Even her long hair was chopped off and she had to get up every morning at 5am for her training. But Sumedha feels her dad gave her immense strength and she owes a lot to him.
Sumedha’s health was a constant challenge. It is really tough to believe that a girl who has been suffering from asthma could even think of sports! But she did. She overcame any challenge by sheer tenacity. In her childhood she often had to miss her tennis tournaments because of her asthma attacks. Next, came a degenerating bone disorder and SI joint dysfunction in 2012. Her spine and hip joint malfunctions forced her to take a break from running between 2013 and 2015. But she was unperturbed. She returned to the tracks in November 2015 and won the 100km trail ultra in Bangalore.
By 2016, she gave up running and decided to launch her own women sportswear brand called BRAKEFREE. Her 30-day experience while running in the Delhi-Mumbai Marathon and her interaction with several female runners from India, made Sumedha believe there is an immense need for quality sportswear for women. The women sportswear brands in the market till then were mostly international brands that were high priced and difficult to afford for most Indian sportswomen. Hence most women in India were forced to wear men’s sportswear. As she says: 'Quality sportswear for women is a basic necessity for all women athletes. When I tried to talk it out with international brands with which I was associated, I was told they can’t help. Instead, some sarcastically suggested I should launch my own brand if I was so concerned about women athletes and their sportswear.'
'I took it as a challenge and risked all my finances, took loans and severed ties with prestigious brands that I endorsed, to launch my dream brand BRAKEFREE. As an athlete I realized every sportswoman needs comfortable, sweat free and odour free clothes to help her perform on the tracks or courts. That is the basic necessity, something that was lacking.' Sumedha also believes Indian parents must encourage their girls to take up sports and this country should spend more on women athletes. 'Most sports grants that colleges and universities receive are spent on male athletes, this must change.’
Sumedha is so correct. Last Olympics was an eye-opener where the medals won by Indians all came from female athletes. Her brand BRAKEFREE is supporting a few female athletes too and trying to promote sports among girls. Like Sumedha has miles to go before she sleeps, so does her brand BRAKEFREE has challenges ahead, to compete with internationally established sportswear brands.
But BRAKEFREE was Reborn to Win and so shall it be.