In Conversation with Sufiya Khan
Today is Menstrual Hygiene Day and I got a chance to talk to ultra-runner Sufiya Khan who is running on a mission to cover 4000 k.m. in 80-85 days and spread the message to ‘Run for Hope, Humanity, Oneness, Peace, Equality’. She has started her run from Srinagar,Kashmir and is running strong covering over 1400+ k.m. since day 1. Today is day 34 of her run and she has reached Deoli in Rajasthan.
One thing that got stuck in my mind when I heard about her mission was that she would be running on her periods too. And not just 2 or 3 kms. but 40-50 k.m. daily. And today being a menstrual hygiene day, I got a chance to have an informal telephonic conversation with her around the topic of menstruation and hygiene.
Sufiya, since you are already on day 34, did you run on periods too? Was it painful?
Sufiya: When I started my journey, I got my periods in the first week itself. And I ran 50 k.m. on the first day of my periods. I had doubt and little apprehension about the long distance and rashes. But with little care of hygiene in menstruation, it was possible. I want to tell women runners that you can run in periods. Running doesn’t harm you.
Pain wise, I didn’t have any pain while running in periods. What I want to add here is once you decide it, when you make a commitment to yourself, you can run in periods too.
In periods, some women runners use pads, some use menstrual cups. It is totally your comfort that defines your choice. I have seen runners migrate to cups. And I have also seen women runners running in pads.
What do you use while running? Pads or Cup?
Sufiya: I use sanitary pads. I find them more comfortable. Oil or hygiene powder can be used to avoid rashes.
Many people find menstruation a dirty thing. In villages and many families even in cities don’t allow women follow normal life during menstruation. What is your message to these men and women?
Sufiya: In earlier days, these traditions were made because there wasn’t much access to menstrual hygiene products like pads. That’s why girls were asked to stay away from kitchen or they were asked not to touch anything and this rule was tied to religion. Now, with menstrual hygiene products available to women, these traditions need to change. This awareness need to reach these people that now menstrual hygiene is possible through these products and women don’t need to disrupt their normal life due to menstruation.
How has been your experience throughout in these 34 days of running from Srinagar to Deoli, Rajasthan? Anything that you loved the most?
Sufiya: For me, everyday has been the best day. I have been fortunate to get the love and support of local runners and people throughout my journey. Many non-runners have also come forward and ran with me in different parts of this journey till date. I would like to thank all of them for coming, supporting and running with me.
What is your message to all the women runners?
Sufiya: All women runners, please come out of your shell. We need to open up our minds. Don’t bother about what will others think or say about me. We need to run for ourselves. There will always be someone who will say positive and someone who will say negative. You will meet all kinds of people. We need to focus on ourselves. There is nothing that women cannot do. Everything is possible to do if we decide we want to do it. One just needs that will, that positive thought to do it. Then sky is the limit.
Let me share about an incident that happened yesterday. We halted at a house which was in the interior of a village. When we started, two girls joined me. And they were the girls from that village - dressed in salwar kamiz and slippers. They ran and supported me to cover 10 kms out of 50 kms yesterday.
What I want to say is branded clothes and shoes is not a necessity to run. All you need is that feeling, that will power, that positive thought that you want to run. Then you can run in any condition. Those girls ran 10 kms in slippers yesterday to support me.