Running 10k in a Sari at Pinkathon Pune 2018

I ran ten kilometres.
I ran ten kilometres in a Sari.
I ran ten kilometres in a Sari effortlessly.

Being a fitness fanatic and a Sari Researcher, I had to find a way to pair the two effortlessly. I would be running a 10K race for the first time in my life. As I started mentally and physically preparing for the 10K Pinkathon Pune 2018 run, questions regarding the Sari plagued me. Would the Sari hold up to the challenge? Can I make the Sari equally, if not more, comfortable to run in than a pair of tights?

I focussed on the technicalities of the drape, the material of the Sari, and general safety.

If you’re interested in knowing how I maximised for running efficiently, read on.

1. The drape

My mind ran through varieties of drapes suited for running. The drape needed to fit the bill on many fronts.

  • Allow big leg strides
  • Avoid loose unmanageable fabric
  • Avoid chaffing
  • Easy to go to the toilet in

With this functionality list jotted down, the pants drape seemed number 1. The question was which one? There are many variations of the pants drape after all. In the past year, I have draped 10-12 variations of pants. I shortlisted three and tried them all during my practice runs. Two of them were the Odisha pants drape and a variation of the Dhangad drape.

The Odisha pants drape worked well when worn short but did not turn out to be comfortable with a below the knee length. The second drape was essentially a pair of shorts inside and a tennis skirt outside. The tennis skirt drape increased my body temperature as it was very compact. It did not help much with chaffing either and I dropped it after a 3-kilometre trial run.

For the final drape, I decided to create a customized drape selecting the best parts of all the pants drapes I knew. I looked through my past photographs in pants and stopped swiping when I saw the pants drape I’d worn in San Francisco on the occasion of my partner’s birthday. I would need to change one step to pee faster. One thing I am aware of is that textures affect the outcome of the drape. Getting the cascade effect below was not my priority. Getting the sturdiness at my waist, was.

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Ready for a birthday party, San Francisco January 2018. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

2. The material

Running, as any other sport, generates heat. Since the start time varies race to race, I needed to be prepared for running in full sun. Undoubtedly, it would be a handloom cotton Sari.

I made a list of the fabric features. It had to

  • Allow rapid heat dissipation
  • Be lightweight
  • Be soft and comfortable

I had worn the Sari in the picture above for a 3K run with Milind Soman just a week ago. I chose it for the brightness and festive look. But wearing it for the final race was not an option. The thick border coupled with sweat gave me rashes on my stomach. The rather dense body did not help with heat dissipation.

The right Sari would need to be lightweight and porous to allow effective air and heat exchange. I never wear tights under my pants and this time wasn’t an exception. In fact, this time around I also wanted to avoid wearing an underwear. I needed a fabric that would have the minimum opacity for covering the pelvic region.

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The missing weave Sari

After trying many fabrics, I finalized on my one and only missing weave Sari. A missing weave Sari is one where the Weft yarn is missing regularly or at intervals while weaving. This results in a gap in the weave and makes it permeable. As you can now imagine, this pervious fabric effectively regulated my body temperature and kept me from overheating.

A silk fabric would have the opposite effect. The thick silk fabric traps heat. In the absence of heat dissipation, the temperature of the body rises. This impedes the run and makes it uncomfortable and tiring. While working out, one needs clothes that allow quick and efficient heat dissipation.

3. General safety

I prioritize functionality over the aesthetic. I did not want a surprise on D-day and went to the toilet in each of the trials. If it added even a second extra to my regular peeing experience, I changed the drape.

I avoided loose fabric flapping such as the pallu to avoid distraction. I twisted the two ends of the Sari into ropes and finished the drape by tying my Sari at the back in a tight knot. I gave it the illusion of a bow 🙂 The ankle length drape prevented the Sari from getting stuck in my shoes.

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Front view of the pants Sari drape

Experience

On 28th October 2018, I completed the 10K Pinkathon Pune run in 78 minutes at a pace of 7.51 minutes per kilometre. The Sari seemed like second-skin to me and did not impede my running at all. I even tucked a 500ml water bottle in my rope belt for the first 5 kilometres. For most of the experience, I had forgotten that I am wearing a Sari. Running has never felt this liberating and simple before.

This 10K race has inspired me to be a long-distance runner. After a week of post-race cool-down, I will begin my preparation for a half-marathon. Among many things, running has taught me patience and commitment. Seven weeks prior, I couldn’t run more than two kilometres without losing my breath. I learnt the importance of taking it one day at a time. All I focussed on was improving my last timing. And here I am a finisher. It took me all of seven weeks to prepare for the 10K Pinkathon Pune 2018 race.

I sincerely urge you to try running a few kilometres. As Desiree Linden, Boston marathon 2018 winner says “No one’s ever finished that and said ‘Wow! I wish I hadn’t gone for a run today!'”.

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Rear view of the pants Sari drape

 

The value of treating people as people

Feminism: The radical notion that women are people.

I started teaching draping and conducting workshops with the intention of making an impact on people’s minds by opening them up to the possibilities of the Sari. My intention is to allow people to experience freedom for themselves.

Freedom from matching petticoats.
Freedom from having to conform to a standard expectation of gender and clothing.
Freedom from body shaming.
Freedom to understand self and express fluid self-identity.
Freedom from man-made fabrics such as polyester, which does nothing for the self, environment and culture.
Freedom from too many clothes & capitalism.

However, since I have started on this journey, I find that some people think my art and knowledge is tradable for money. Just because I can drape, doesn’t mean I will do it anytime anywhere on demand. Just as I am not a programmer because I am good at math or logic. And I am not a doctor or scientist just because I am good at science.

Don’t get me wrong. I do drape my friends and have even randomly draped people I have just met. But I do that because they are enthusiastic. I do that because they are excited to learn. And most of all, I do that because they respect me and more importantly, art & knowledge. There is nothing wrong with being a professional draper who drapes you for a wedding in exchange for money.

But. I don’t do that. At least not yet. I might someday if I feel that that is a necessary and logical next step for me to achieve the impact I’m seeking (above) but not yet. Not today.
Today I believe in teaching a person how to fish and not in giving them the fish. I will teach you if you are enthusiastic and respectful. And will certainly drape if you say please. But not otherwise or by demanding.

So women & men & people: It is easy for one to read a definition of feminism but it takes a lot to understand what that means. Treat me like a person and you will be rewarded. Treat me like someone whose art is tradable for money, gifts & favours and you will be disappointed.

*Takes a bow*

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People are beautiful. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

 

Happy Raksha to me!

For the longest time, I have excitedly looked forward to Rakshabandhan. I would collect Rakhis all year round keeping in mind the person who would be wearing it. I would mail about 14 Rakhis to my brothers all over India. And then tie another 10 to the local brothers. Spongy ones for my elder brothers. Thin ones for my younger ones.

In the last year, I’ve had experiences where my (girl) friends and I have been followed in the middle of the night by six men in two cars. I’ve had people ogle at me lustily in safe spaces. I’ve been harassed by men and women at workplaces and have had folks reported and taken action against.

In all of these experiences, I had to rely on myself, my intuition, my knowledge (of roads, procedures, and people), and my faith to find a way out of this situation. I’ve had to grow patience, perseverance, confidence and identity to come out of this strong and safe. Physical. Mental. Emotional.

On Raksha Bandhan, we tie a Rakhi on the person we expect to protect us at all times. But in reality, it is unrealistic to expect someone else to be there to protect one at all times. This is like the superman theory where the smart yet ultimately helpless Lois Lane needs to wait for Superman to come and save her when she is in distress. This is patriarchy at its best. Putting the responsibility of safety on someone else; usually, a male, while making yourself; usually a woman feel like a damsel in distress.

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Tying a Rakhi to myself. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

This year onwards I reject the traditional concept of Raksha Bandhan. My safety is my prerogative and my responsibility. I have a pepper spray in my bag, a baseball bat in my car, and will also learn self-defence. And if anyone deserves my Rakhi this year then it is me and ONLY me. Ultimately it is I who needs to be responsible for my own protection. Cause only I can and must keep myself safe.

To all my strong, intelligent and amazing women, I can only say let’s take the responsibility of creating safe spaces for ourselves.

Happy Raksha to me!

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Cheers! Photo: Baishampayan Ghose