Women’s Day 2023 Sufiya Sufi: When I run, I’m transported to another place
Guinness Book of World Records holder Sufiya Sufi Runner talks about breaking her own record in a marathon in Qatar, and inspiring people with her passion and positive mindset. She continues to strive and achieve new milestones in long-distance running.
Earlier this year, runner and multi-record holder Sufiya Sufi became the fastest to run across Qatar. Recently, she made headlines as her latest achievement entered the Guinness Book of World Records, confirming her as the fastest runner to run across Qatar (north to south), covering a distance of 200 kilometers in 30 hours and 31 minutes.
Her previous records were all set in India, and the decision to take on the challenge in Qatar was inspired by the recent FIFA World Cup and the country’s excellent sports infrastructure. With this achievement, Sufiya once again proved that she is not just a runner but a symbol of inspiration and motivation for people across the world. “I had never done such a long run before, but I wanted to challenge myself and push my limits... For me, breaking world records doesn’t matter as much as people getting inspired by such achievements,” she says, adding, “When people tell me their lives have changed because of my achievements, that gives me the most satisfaction.”
The athlete, who goes by the name Sufiya Sufi Runner, has set numerous records for long-distance running in India as well as abroad. This includes the Guinness World Record for Most Marathons Run in a Calendar Year by a Woman, in 2018. Recalling that and her other milestones, she shares how her journey took off: “I started running to break a daily routine. Once I started running, it just changed me — physically and mentally — and became my passion!”
Her decision to pursue running full-time did meet some resistance from her family and the society. But that couldn’t hold her back, says Sufi, adding, “My family was upset, especially my parents. They asked me to not leave my job, (wondering) who runs for this long. Everyone in the society also told me the same. But I had this belief, and was so motivated that neither did it matter what they said nor the negativity outside. I just wanted to do this, and I did it.”
Her family’s concern for her well-being still exists, despite her entering the world records on four separate occasions. “My family is always worried about my well-being. My mother just cares about my well-being, and that’s the only thing that she worries about,” shares the 37-year-old, who despite the societal pressure continues to inspire others with her determination and success. “I get messages on a daily basis. It’s a big achievement when people tell me that their lives are changing because of what I am doing... There is an awareness now. There was no one before (me) who did such long expeditions. Now, I get calls from people asking me to guide them. I tell them it’s just like an adventure sport, like mountaineering,” she adds.
One wonders if her passion for running led her to include the word ‘Runner’ in her name, and she confirms: “I got my name changed to Sufiya Sufi Runner because when I run, just like a Sufi, I am transported to another place. I love the Hollywood film Forrest Gump (1994) because I can relate to its character somewhere... It’s all about the mind. Having a strong mindset is very important. People who start running, there comes a phase when your mind blocks everything, all the pain and every other worry you have. But one just needs to keep the focus on achieving a target.”
Author tweets @SammySamarth