On January 8 two years ago, Deepa Rupani was doing a practice run on the streets of Mumbai along with about 40 other runners when a car driven by a drunken man hit her and sped away.
She fell unconscious, but luckily, the hospital was just one building away. Her fellow runners carried her there, and she received emergency treatment for a gaping wound on her knee.
Exactly a week later, she ran the Mumbai half-marathon – against the advice of her doctor, and braving the displeasure of her parents who did not speak to her for three months.
“I was bleeding at 18 km, but I didn’t want to stop. It was my worst timing ever,” says the 39-year-old nutritionist, who had to go off running for six months after the episode. “But if I hadn’t finished it, I would have felt like a loser.”
Deepa belongs to a family of fitness enthusiasts: her businessman father was a yoga aficionado and her brother, like her, an avid gym-goer. She even won a fitness pageant two years in row.
After doing her BCom followed by Master’s from Bombay University, she got married at 24, and had a daughter. Devoting herself to the home, she stopped caring for herself, emotionally and physically. “I was at my unfit worst,” she jokes.
When her daughter turned four, Deepa consulted several dieticians to lose weight. “But I kept gaining it back again,” she says. So she decided to do the two-year course herself, and experimented on herself and her friends. “We all lost weight beautifully, and kept it off!” she smiles. Soon, she had a full-fledged practice running and an office of her own.
“But I still felt some space was empty inside me.”
At the age of 36, she discovered running. It began with short runs armed with good music, and then the five km ‘Pinkathon’, which she completed in a comfortable 36 minutes.
“Why not train professionally?” her friends encouraged her, so she joined the Be Fit Academy, and over the next three years, ran over 10 half-marathons in Mumbai. “I don’t know where to keep all the medals now,” she laughs.
She’s now part of GETFIT, an NGO that organizes runs for a cause. “I’ve even encouraged my clients to run,” she says. Three of them ran for the first time at GETFIT’s Juhu half-marathon this February with her guidance, “and finished well!”
For Deepa, running is as good as breathing: “I don’t drink, smoke or eat junk food. The only high I ever get is from running.” She’s observed a huge change in herself in the recent past: “I used to crib a lot about life earlier; now nothing fazes me. I am able to give my work and my family my 100 per cent, and don’t take on unnecessary stress.”
Seeing the changes in Deepa, her family is supportive too: “If I’m in a bad mood, my husband tells me to go run! He knows I am always calmer later. And my daughter, who is 13, just completed her first four km run last month.”
Deepa is now training for the full marathon: “I want to run 42 km by the time I turn 42!” She dreams of running in prestigious marathons in Pune and Delhi, and then Boston or New York.
And after that? “The 89-km Comrades ultramarathon in South Africa!”
First published in the March 2018 issue of eShe magazine. Read it for free here.