In endurance sports, everyone has a story of How it All Started. When our story is shared, it may very well become the blueprint for someone who is trying to take that first step. As an Indian American in ultrarunning, I have learned the importance of telling my story. Truly, there is a weight attached to the importance of telling your story as an underrepresented athlete.
Finding running took me time. Naturally, finding ultrarunning took a lot of stumbling. Endurance sports vary in their audience size, but ultrarunning is a fairly niche sport that has witnessed several booms in participation. Recently, ultrarunning is witnessing another surge as races reopen across the US and the world. Throughout my two years as an ultrarunner, I can count on my hands the number of other Indians I’ve met. Yes, I know they’re out there, but how about their amazing stories? What about the stories of amazing people like Arun Bhardwaj of New Dehli? Arun got sponsorship to go to the Aravaipa Running Across the Years 10 Day Race after 15 years. Before that, he ran all the way from the North tip to the South tip of India in 61 days, an almost 2,500 mile stretch.
What about the story of Dalip Shekawat, who has run the Marathon Des Sables, climbed Everest, and plans to do expeditions in the North and South pole? No matter which group you’re representing, somebody is always watching. Think about what it means to a brown-skinned person to see someone who looks like them in endurance sports. Sometimes, it can be just like seeing your reflection. You see a piece of yourself in that person, find a role model, and find the courage to take that first step.
Endurance sports has many amazing groups that are trying to bring underrepresented groups into the fold. For example, there are many organizations and clubs for women trying to become triathletes. The non-profit Fund Her Tri is all about helping a female triathlete fund their race. Fast Chix is a nation-wide club with over 1000 members encouraging female triathletes to be their strongest versions! Then, there’s organizations that target even tighter niches, such as the Amputee Blade Runners and Native Women Running. The very foundation of Run Tri Bike is letting underrepresented groups such as minority, LBGTQ, and disabled athletes know that they all have a spot at the start line.
When a person of an underrepresented group shares their story, it helps these organizations achieve their mission. On an interpersonal scale, the words can be a spark. For example, I will be the first runner to represent India in the Moab 240-mile endurance run and I can’t express how excited I am to represent my heritage. Your story could be the spark that ignites someone’s passion to be great. Whether that is by your actions or simply because they see their own greatness in you, it’s a positive change.
All of these amazing things become possible by sharing your story. Today, I ask you to sit down and ask yourself what your story is. First, ask yourself where you came from, what obstacles you overcame, and why. When I became an endurance athlete, I found some amazing runners who embodied the qualities I wanted to have. From the Courtney Dauwalter optimism to the David Goggins work ethic, I formulated my blueprint. Ask yourself what it would mean to someone if they knew what you overcame to become who you are today. Sometimes, that struggle is internal, such as addiction or mental health. In other cases, that struggle could be external in ways related to race, gender, orientation, or disability. That’s why there is importance in telling your story as an underrepresented athlete. Share your story and you might just change one life.