Sonia Kulkarni – Pinkathon Ambassador / BusinessWomen
Mypencildotcom: Sonia Kulkarni, From where did the pinkathon start from where did your journey start? What motivated you?
Sonia: Pinathon stands for pink in health, pink as a woman, woman’s marathon. This is being created, founded, conceptualized by Milan Soman himself, who was a runner, an ultra man, fitness freak, supermodel, and whatnot. I’m a very small part of this movement but it’s an honor to be associated with it for the past 8 years now and when I started my journey I was in the middle of a personal emotional turmoil, my elder son was 8, and a half years old told me that physical fitness is important and he wanted me to be physically fit.
“I ran 160 Kms ( mumbai – Pune ) for Pinkathon “Sonia Kulkarni
“I believe both men and women are a part of the ecosystem”Sonia Kulkarni
I used to play tennis, go to the gym earlier. Then the typical Indian story happened marriage, kids, responsibility. Parallelly I had health issues that I kept ignoring and it kept mounting up. So when I had my issues, my marital issues, he put a mirror in front of me that I was so much into my sorrows that I didn’t realize they were also observing and absorbing it. So that’s when I thought that I should do something to prove to him that adults stick to their promises. That’s when my fitness journey started.
When I delivered my second son I was 104kg the day I delivered and I started my fitness journey in February 2013 that time I was 90. So from 90 to 54 55, that’s the journey now. When I started working out, had a personal trainer who went on a diet, went to a rigorous 6 to 8 months of the strict regime because I have hyperthyroid. This time I didn’t want to give up as I had done many times previously. So I started running that was in December. It was 5 km and then I ran for a pinkathon for 10 km. I wasn’t trained but I felt liberated and running gave me that. To do something that you aren’t used to, you need to push yourself mentally and physically. I had to prove myself an independent, educated woman not meant to surrender. I can rise above it. The fun part was as I cross the finish line I met Milan Soman, he was so humble and asked me if it was my first run and said I must continue.
I met him again in another run and there he asked me to join him, to become an ambassador as I had separated by then, was a single mother, so it would be inspiring to many as I had a hectic job, health issues, and still took running after the 40s, coming out of depression and trying to get out of it. And that was my moment.
Mypencildotcom: Now that you are so much into fitness, how do you manage your household and children.
Sonia: I tell myself every time that if I love my family, my children, my work, I need to love myself first, if I prioritize myself, I can prioritize them. The only thing I need to do is make out 30 minutes in a day which is not a big thing if you determine to do it. It’s a mental and physical thing everything else is a by-product. It’s about being active not just running or gyming. Even when I’m traveling and busy with work I cut it down to 5 minutes or we go 4 to 5 times to the washroom, so do wall pushups or squats. I do that. It helps. Because it’s all about feeling good not just looking good especially in such a time. I believe if a woman is fit the family is fit. Milan’s mom at the age of 80+ still works out, runs, and is an inspiration :
Mypencildotcom: Recently you’ve been a speaker in TedX. What was it like? What motivated you to be there?
Sonia: That was an interesting opportunity. It helped me connect with students. One of the students of SITM ( Symbiosis Institute of Technology and Management) followed me on Facebook and Instagram. He read about me and my journey. He told me that I must share it and offered me this platform. In TedX you have to pick up a topic, speak for 18 minutes, and connect with the audience. It all went well. I talked about passion and the youngsters are restless, we all have gone through that phase where you are trying to know yourself, discover so it’s very important to have a passion in life that’ll keep you going. You can do multiple things at any age, it doesn’t matter. It was amazing for me and the audience connect is what matters to me and I found there. I don’t want to be immodest but there was pin-drop silence and it went unedited because everything was perfect. Every person gave a standing ovation and came to talk to me.
Mypencildotcom: So like TedX and our platform that’s in line with them trying to bring up inspiring stories. Do you think that all these latest trends are inspiring to many and coming up in a big way?
Sonia: We live in a virtual and disconnected world where we are trying to find a connection. In the olden days, we lived in a joint family, we didn’t have challenges in terms of time exposure thing to do that is being built now so it’s important to stay motivated and share it because a lot is going on. It’s also important to realize that we aren’t alone, yes we all have friends and family but each individual is going through a lot and each journey is different. Hence we aren’t alone there’s someone out there sharing a similar kind of story. It is the need of the hour. We are all very very connected to whatever we do.
Mypencildotcom: Please tell us how was the journey when you decided to run for 160 km? How was your reaction, your courage? From where did you get this much courage?
Sonia: It has created a huge impact on my life and the life around me. I have the deepest gratitude to Miland for this. I do not believe in male-bashing kind of feminism, I believe in equality in business, in talent, in merit and I believe in that. At the same time, I believe both men and women are a part of the ecosystem, we all need to contribute equally to make it functional for us. So I believe if men encourage women to go out and do what she wants to I’ll make a huge difference because the way our society is we still do seek validation and nothing’s wrong with it. Men do not have to plan to go out for run they just go but women have to plan everything and they do it so beautifully but a man in her life says to her that I’ll be there you go out, it makes a huge difference. We have many male ambassadors are there who support this and likewise, my son and Milind supposed me. In 2016 we were in Goa when he just declared it. We had a lot of male ambassadors doing city to city marathon promoting the agenda and only one female doing it. So he said we are having a pinkathon in November and you’ll be doing city to city marathon. I was shocked. He said to me to think about it on what a difference I would be creating and inspiring so many people. We all have role models like Deepika but we know we cannot be there it’s not relatable. But if somebody so ordinary like me with so many challenges can do it anybody can. So this was the message he wanted to put forth. I agreed to it but I said to him to train me and it’ll be an all women’s team. So three of us were there who ran the marathon. Three things I learned from this were Dedication, Discipline, and Dare and then I launched my platform called SheDare. That time I lost my father but still I kept motivated, my children kept motivating me that I should run. It’s not about speed or time, so it’s not to be scared of. It was challenging. We had to be trained for 3- 4 months before that and ran for 2 days with a break but it was a great journey. We’ve trained a lot of women after that. My last long run in Japan. We ended the ran on 31st December 2019 and on 1st January we were there. Even the Mumbai Pune run was different as there were a lot of challenges. Even a couple of bikes stopped asking me why are you running I’ll drop you. It was quite interesting. I had terrible blisters. It was like board exams where some questions come out of the syllabus. But I remembered my sons telling me that I can do it. I felt my father guiding me.
Mypencildotcom: You seem to be very disciplined. So do you expect your children and family to be equally disciplined?
Sonia: I do not pressurize them. Though I have a border OCD also. But if you pressurize and you expect them to follow a certain routine then they’ll rebel. If you want them to do something you need to take them along with you and allow them flexibility. The elder one especially has seen my transformation so he joins me for the run, he volunteers some of the runs but if I tell him every day to wake up and go for a run with me, he’ll not do it. He doesn’t wake up that early but he appreciated that he needs to be fit so he goes to the gym, he plays football and I let him do that. We all have a mind of our own. We have certain set patterns and structures that we follow and we respect that and respect each other as individuals first. They’ve also gone through tough times. I need to respect there wisdom and maturity and their thought processes but certain things are a no as a mother and they know it and follow that gracefully. Regarding my colleagues and teams, there are certain set guidelines that we follow but if I make a mistake I’m more than happy to accommodate that. Discipline is good but it should come with flexibility.
Mypencildotcom: One message that you want to give our viewers and readers.
Sonia: I want to tell everybody is that be unstoppable until it’s over. It’s not over till it’s actually over and if it’s over it starts again. Nothing should stop you from who you are be it any situation or circumstance in life be it a relationship, family, finance anything. Be fearless, be bold. You’ve got just one life. Take a step forward because unless you take that step you will not know where you’ll go. Also, I would like to tell you that we all run behind happiness but what happiness is. It’s not a destination, it’s a journey. You need to experience it in every part of your life even in this pandemic, this moment is important. My father passed away