Meet Sufiya Khan, who gave up her job, took up running, and created world records

Health, according to the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity”.[1] A variety of definitions have been used for different purposes over time. Health can be promoted by encouraging healthful activities, such as regular physical exercise and adequate sleep,[2] and by reducing or avoiding unhealthful activities or situations, such as smoking or excessive stress. Some factors affecting health are due to individual choices, such as whether to engage in a high-risk behavior, while others are due to structural causes, such as whether the society is arranged in a way that makes it easier or harder for people to get necessary healthcare services. Still other factors are beyond both individual and group choices, such as genetic disorders.

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Meet Sufiya Khan, the first female runner to complete the Manali to Leh Ultramarathon in just 6 days. She quit her job and worked hard to fulfill her dreams, and in the bargain, created a world record! In a freewheeling conversation with Health Shots, she opens up about this inspiring feat, her dreams, and how she got here!

An increasing number of people are quitting their 9-to-5 jobs today! In fact, most of them take a career break to do something completely out-of-the-box. This may seem daunting at first, but it could be one of the best decisions you have ever made! And today we have a shining example of a woman, who quit her job and chose a completely different career. Ladies, meet Sufiya Khan.

Who is Sufiya Khan?

Sufiya Khan (35) was born and brought up in Ajmer, Rajasthan. She worked in the aviation industry for almost a decade, but the turning point in her life came when she decided to run her first half marathon in Delhi in 2017. 

Later in 2018, Khan quit her job and took up running to relax and de-stress herself. Her efforts paid off in 2018, when she broke a national record by covering the Golden Triangle — 700 km in just 16 days. At the same time, she became the first female runner to achieve this feat. 

It was at this juncture that she realised that giving up her normal routine was the only way forward. But her journey didn’t end here. Wonder how did this two-time Guinness World Record Holder come so far? Let’s find out more.

A look at all her milestones

In 2019, Khan created a world record by becoming the first-ever female runner to run from Kashmir to Kanyakumari (4000km in 87 days). In April 2021, she became the fastest female runner in the world to cover ‘The Indian Golden Quadrilateral Road’ (6002 km in 110 days). 

Also, read: If you love running, get your form on track with these 5 tricks

Her string of achievements doesn’t end there! Khan scripted history yet again by becoming the first female runner in the world to complete the long-distance run from Manali to Leh in 2021, covering the distance of 480 km in just 156 hours. This is an incredible accomplishment, we say!

How did Sufiya achieve this next-to-impossible feat?

On September 25, 2021, at 7:34 AM, Khan started her Ultramarathon “Himalayan Ultra Run Expedition”, which concluded on October 1, 2021. She completed a distance of 480 km in 156 hours. The journey began at an altitude of 2000 metres, reaching up to 5,328 metres, and gaining 8,200 metres elevation throughout the expedition. Alongside, temperatures plummeted from zero to -5 degrees, and oxygen levels were less than 50 percent on the mountain passes. 

Sufiya Khan. Image courtesy: Sufiya Khan

What is the reason behind her success? Khan bares it all, while speaking to Health Shots, “My biggest success is my ability to change myself, due to which I have gained a positive mindset.” 

The Under Armour athlete adds, “Through every expedition, I try to give this message to common people, so that they can change their life and daily routine, and move ahead with a purpose. And if I am able to do this, it is my biggest achievement. So the idea behind this run was to spread the message of unity, peace of mind, and positive living.”

The rigorous prep

Not everyone can survive in the Himalayas, because it needs rigorous training and acclimatization. So when we asked Khan about her training, this is what she had to say, “After completing the ‘Kashmir to Kanyakumari’ and ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ run, I wanted to take up this challenge, because it is all about survival and pushing limits. The Manali to Leh route is the toughest route in the world, so I studied every single detail about it and the obstacles too. After this, I trained for 15 to 20 days to acclimatize myself to the cold weather and low oxygen levels by staying in the mountains.”

Also, read: Harnaaz Sandhu wins Miss Universe 2021, and this is her advice for the youth on handling pressure

Since she didn’t face any problem, she decided to go ahead with the Manali to Leh marathon!

Being a part of frequent runs, her body was largely prepared, but she was required to do more strength and core workouts. Khan made them a part of her daily fitness routine, and at the same time, worked on strengthening her lungs, so that she could survive in a low-oxygen environment. 

“I used to do pranayam and yoga daily. There wasn’t any particular diet that I followed, but I included protein and carbohydrates and avoided spicy and oily food,” she adds. 

Pranayama has massive health benefits. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The last word

Being a part of a middle-class family, she always saw her parents struggling but they never gave up. This is what has always inspired her to move forward in life! 

“Not just that, they have always been supportive towards my dreams and my choices to live life. After my parents, it is my husband who has supported me the most in this journey,” she says.

Even after setting a world record, Khan says she has a lot more to achieve! “I feel stronger after completing every journey, so this is just the beginning of my life. I have many such projects, which I have to complete. I want to push my limits even more. I am planning to run from Delhi to Mumbai in a sari so that I can spread the message of women empowerment,” she concludes.

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