Non-runner Sufiya quits job sets Guinness World Record with her expeditions

The runner commenced the Ultramarathon from Manali on September 25 this year and completed it at Leh on October 1—covering a distance of 480 km in 156 hours.

author_img Anjani Chadha Published :  27th October 2021 01:15 PM   |   Published :   |  27th October 2021 01:15 PM
Runner SUfiya

Sufiya during one of her expeditions

With no professional background in sports, Sufiya—a former ground handling officer at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport— decided to quit her career in 2019 to complete a gruelling run from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. As a non-runner, her dream seemed bizarre. However, she went on to set a Guinness World Record by recording the fastest time achieved by a female runner to complete this route. Post her first achievement, the runner has set two more records, the most recent being the Manali to Leh Ultramarathon, which she accomplished in six days, making her the first female runner in the world to achieve this feat. “It is all in the mind,” she says, undeterred and resolute than ever.

Breaking the boundaries
The urge to run across a mountain range surfaced as a desire to challenge herself more than before. “My last two expeditions were road-running, but I wanted to do something that would be more exciting. I wanted to test my limits.”

 

The challenges Sufiya faced were countless. In areas of higher altitude, less oxygen makes it difficult to sprint. Add to this, the rocky terrain makes running even more risky. In order to accustom herself to the weather and the ground, Sufiya began practising 15 days prior to the expedition. “I wanted to be prepared because I knew it was going to be difficult,” she says. 

The runner commenced the Ultramarathon from Manali on September 25 this year and completed it at Leh on October 1—covering a distance of 480 km in 156 hours. There were times when her oxygen level depleted; she fainted twice on her way back but continued running after seeking help from her support team. “It was a trek for survival,” she recalls.

There is no doubt that commencing a challenging journey calls for a lot of steadfastness and perseverance—Sufiya is a human embodiment of these qualities. “It is a matter of will power and determination,” she affirms. 

Unleashing her dreams
Sufiya turned to running at a point in her life when her job had started feeling mechanical. Weary of her graveyard schedule, she was seeking an activity to help her stay physically fit. She started running in 2017, a decision that transformed her life in the years to come. 

“I felt an immediate switch in my mood, and had started feeling mentally fit. I had found something that made me happy,” she says. On realising that running came naturally to her, Sufiya attempted marathons. The training process was undeniably strenuous. Initially, she began running herself but she later hired a coach to train her. Her hardwork and zeal to achieve something eventually paid off in 2019, when she set her first record. 

Her second Guinness World Record was in 2021 for the fastest time by a woman along the Golden Quadrilateral (Sufiya covered 6,002km in 110 days, 23 hours, and 24 minutes).

Running for peace
Running, Sufiya explains, has helped her explore the country better. Every time she covers boundaries, she meets new people and tries to understand other cultures: “I run to propagate the message of humanity, oneness, peace, and equality.” 

After three successful expeditions, Sufiya does not intend to stop anytime soon. In fact, her dream is to go global with her passion. “I am planning to tread on an around-the-world expedition in 2024. Indian scriptures teach us the message of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam [the world is one family], I want to take this message to the world,” she concludes.

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