Chandigarh: Ultra runner in city during her 4k km run across country

Nitin Sharma
Sufiya Khan with Vikas at Mohali on Tuesday. (Express photo by Jasbir Malhi)

Earlier this year, when 33-year-old Sufiya decided to run for more than 4,000 kms starting from Srinagar and ending at Kanyakumari, the aviation professional quit her job in Delhi to prepare for the ultra run. The runner, who originally hails from Ajmer, Rajasthan, started the run on April 25 this year from Srinagar and reached Chandigarh Tuesday morning. The first thing she did upon reaching the city was get her lungs scanned.

The last 20 days saw her one lung suffering from infection, which forced her to take a break of four days in Jalandhar.

Sufiya resumed her run in the evening with her fiance, Vikas, following her in the car. She aims to complete 4035 kms in less than 100 days. "When this idea of undertaking ‘Run for HOPE (Humanity, Oneness, Peace and Equality)’ occurred to me, I knew I had to quit my job to prepare for this run and to spread this message in whole India. Quitting my job also meant that I had to worry about finances but we managed through crowd funding. As a aviation professional, I have met people from varied backgrounds and to meet people during this record run and inspiring more people to run, has been the biggest motivation for me so far," said Sufiya, who worked as duty officer with Air India SATS in New Delhi.

A native of Ajmer, Sufiya shifted to Delhi in 2008 and has worked for airlines like Air Nippon Airlines, KLM Airlines and Air Saudia Airlines. Sufiya started running in 2016 and completed the Delhi Airtel Marathon in 2016. In 2018, the ultra runner made it into the Limca Book of Record when she completed 720 kms run in 16 days, starting from New Delhi.

The run for HOPE has seen her running more than 700 kms so far with her covering place like Banihal, Qazigund, Jammu, Qadian, Jalandhar and Chandigarh. Post Delhi, Sufiya will run to cities like Jaipur, Kota, Indore, Nashik, Pune, Belgaum, Bengaluru and finally Kanyakumari.

"When I started from Srinagar on April 25, it was raining but I was happy to see people coming and cheering for me. After I ran 36 kms, two Kashmiri ladies waved at me. Even though I could not understand Kashmir, they wanted us to have tea with them and took us to their home. It motivated to me to finish the challenging climbing run afterwards and it’s something that I would never forget. My aim is to run close to 50 kms every day. At small cities like Qadian, people called me to address school students and runners. Talking about running and such experiences has made me more determined to finish this race. Due to heavy construction work going on some highways, I suffered from infection in one of my lungs and I spent four days in Jalandhar recuperating. Runners like Dr Pooja Kapoor supported me and made me resume the run," shared Sufiya, who was also hosted by Weekend Runners at Mohali and given funds raised from fund raising runs held earlier to support her cause. At Chandigarh, the runner was accompanied by runners from run clubs like Weekend Runners and Chandigarh Runners. The running community in North India has also come forward to help her. The ultra runner also finds Chandigarh a city most suitable for running.

"Wherever I went, I was surprised to find immense support shown by running clubs here in North India. From Kathua Distance Runners to clubs like Jammu Runners, Jammu Hill Runners, Jalandhar Running Club, Ludhiana Runners, Chandigarh Runners and Weekend Runners, have extended their support to me and have also contributed towards financing the run. Chandigarh, with its well designed roads and gardens, is a perfect city for running and I hope more people start running here. Sometimes, children and elders too joins me in the run for short distances and to see them run and believe in HOPE, makes me aim for more," concludes Sufiya.