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 Odisha Pants drape

There are more than 200 drapes worn across India. Each drape is unique, creative and functional for those who wear it. In a series of posts, Nikaytaa will be sharing videos and demystifying the drapes she wears. In this post, she will speak about her love for the Pants drape especially the Odisha dancer drape.

The dancer drape from Odisha is versatile, functional, and comfortable. It is a super practical drape for someone who is on the run. It is simple to wear, easy to carry off, and adaptable. With one change in the draping of the pallu it becomes a dress, a halter, and a gown.

History of the pants drape

People across India wear the pants drape albeit with some variations. It is worn by those who need to perform a range of functions such as riding, swimming, walking, and running. For example, the dancers of Odisha wear the Sari as pants assisting big strides across the stage.

Rani Lakshmibai wore a Sari while riding a horse and fighting the British army. The Koli fisherwomen of coastal Maharashtra wear the pants as shorts. They fish in the ocean, walk across the beach soaking wet, and squat in the marketplace to sell the fish: all in a day’s work. Maharashtrian women, mostly brahmin, wear the Navvari drape. The Dhangad drape (below) is worn by the farmers of Savantwadi. The farmer in the picture below shared that the shorts allowed her to squat and work with ease all day. She pees with dignity while in the field and manoeuvres the cattle with efficiency.

Where and how do you wear the Odissi pants drape?

Nikaytaa wears the Odisha pants drape for work especially on days she has to be on her feet or ride a bike. She also wears the pants as evening wear where she drapes the pallu around her neck as a scarf. At times, she has also twisted her pallu like a rope and draped it around her waist like a rope belt. One can choose to hang the end of the pallu by your waist or tuck it in. Both expressions are super classy and fun. Nikaytaa also loves wearing a version of this drape during her 10K practice runs and will be wearing it on race day this weekend!

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Dhoti drape with pallu as a scarf. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

What Sari does this drape demand?

Nikaytaa prefers wearing a handloom Sari for the comfort and thickness of the material. She does not wear a pair of tights inside the drape and thus prefers the opacity the handloom provides. “The handloom drapes better than a power loom Sari”, she quips. In the feature photo of this post, she is wearing a handloom Maheshwari from TheLoomSaree. The Sari in the video below is one of her favourites. It is a handloom Sari from Tamil Nadu sourced from GoCoop.

The original Odisha pants drape needs a Sari of 5 or 6 meters in length. This is not a hard and fast rule. The length required can vary according to your height and girth. Those who are tall and/ or voluptuous might need a 7 or 8 meter Sari. It is suggested one tries different lengths to find their perfect fit.

There are many variations of the pants drape. The Maharashtrian Navvari and Konkani Koli fisherwoman shorts need a 9 meter Sari. The Madhava Kacche requires an 8 meter Sari.

Dhangad drape
Savantwadi farmer in Dhangad drape. Photo: Baishampayan Ghose

How does one go to the toilet in this drape?

As you’ll see in the video, the two separate portions wrap on each leg and tuck at the waist. The Sari has two separates that join at the pelvis area: one from the left leg and one from the right leg. When you need to visit the toilet, part the two sides and squat. This is possible only when you are not wearing a pair of tights inside. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to take a dump in this drape as well. In case you are wearing tights, there is no resort other than to disassemble the whole drape.

Nikaytaa has gone to pee wearing this drape and she didn’t have any accident; in case you were wondering. On the contrary, she says she felt happy that the Sari covered her skin. She felt relieved knowing she wouldn’t contract a UTI from the loo.

How is it worn?

Watch the video below!

Are you now feeling confident of wearing and carrying off the Odisha pants drape? Do try it and feel the exuberance hidden in the weaves of the Sari. Use the hashtag #TheIndianDrapingCo when sharing on social media. Feel free to leave comments on this post. Do share your experience with this drape or simply say “hello”!