Despite Early Menopause & Ulcerative Colitis, 47-Year-Old Smita Kulkarni becomes a Celebrated Marathon Runner
Smita Kulkarni is a 47-year-old marathon runner from Pune. She is a baker, home-maker, a fitness enthusiast and a doting mom to a 16-year-old boy! To say Smita defies age would only be an understatement. Despite various medical issues, she has combated them head-on and has turned the tide in her favor.
Smita was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis during her pregnancy and then early menopause at 37. Both are debilitating conditions, especially Colitis, which has no cure. It can only be treated. It is a form of irritable bowel syndrome, which causes long-lasting inflammation and sores in the digestive tract. It also makes the person weak and tired all the time.
Combine this with early menopause, and Smita had to go through a tough phase health-wise. Women usually have to deal with menopause after 50, when they are ready and expecting it. But Smita was still a young mother and still in her 30’s. She noticed herself getting irritated and moody frequently. She also started gaining a lot of weight, in spite of always being conscious of her health and working out.
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That’s when she decided to take up running: She knew she needed to change her pattern to battle the emotional and physical changes. Soon she started seeing positive changes in her body and mental health. Someone suggested participating in a 10km race, and before she knew it, she was hooked! She followed the 10Ks with 2 half marathons. She realized how much joy running brought to her and since then she has never looked back. Today, Smita has done more than 21 half marathons, 5 full marathons and one International Marathon in Berlin.
“Running is a de-stresser and a solution to most of the problems!”
What Smita enjoys the most about running is the runner’s high she gets, she calls running a de-stresser and a solution to most of her problems. The friends she has met through this journey are an added bonus and continue to inspire her.
Smita says preparing for a race begins four-five months before the marathon. She trains with Dr. Kaustubh Radkar and is very particular with her diet and schedule. She says that she doesn’t follow a strict diet, but ensures that she eats everything in moderation. The key is to stay positive.
It is a funny co-incidence that Smita is a baker and a passionate cook, and then she is a fitness-enthusiast as well. She says that she doesn’t restrict herself from anything, but ensures she makes smart choices. For example, when she wants to eat a cupcake she has made, she will split it with her son instead of devouring the whole thing. She believes that we get one life and we need to make sure we live it to the fullest.
Talking about her achievements, Smita says that running has brought her recognition. She was a brand ambassador of the recently concluded Bajaj Plankathon in Pune. She has won a lot of podiums in her age category. In 2018, almost every race Smita participated in was either a podium finish or a personal best of her career.
She says women are admired and respected for running and she has experienced only love in the running community. People find it inspiring to see a woman running and hence the admiration. The only difficulty that women face according to her is access to washrooms on the running course.
The biggest myth that she has encountered on her journey of running is when people say that running is bad for the knees. In spite of her condition, Smita says that she has managed to complete so many races because running doesn’t cause any issues. But she suggests to support running with strength training to increase muscle strength.
The running culture in India, in her opinion, has drastically changed. Running has caught on big time in all ages and she is happy to see this change.
“Running is a Science!”
Her suggestion to anyone who wants to take up running is to join a running group. She says running is a science, and doing it alone can cause injuries because you are new. A running group or a coach can guide you in all the areas of running like warm-up, stretching, distance, etc. which will make it easier to run.
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