Born and brought up in Mumbai, the only form of Sports that young Gita Agrawal indulged in were the Catch n Cook games with her friends after school. Every once in a while, their Mother would take three girls for a walk from their home in Zaveri Bazaar to Nariman Point. Like many other families, they were brought up on good wholesome homemade food and either travelled by Bus or walked everywhere.
At 23, Gita met and got married to UP Brahmin, Rahul Mishra becoming Mrs. Sonal Mishra. Living in a big traditional joint family was a whole different ball game and Sonal got busy with cooking and myriad other household responsibilities hardly stepping out of the house over the next five years.
By 26, despite two unfortunate abortions Sonal was a mother of two beautiful girls- Rashi and Riddhi. The kilos had piled on thanks to her pregnancies as well as sedentary lifestyle and she weighed a portly 75Kg 😔. Diagnosed with High BP and Cholesterol at the time, her Gynecologist suggested that she start going to the nearby Borivali National Park (BNP) for daily 1-hour walks.
That’s when Sonal started going for regular walks wearing slippers and saris accompanied by her friend, Rita Jain. She met the dynamic Rashmi Singh Thakur, a vivacious lady was instrumental in inspiring and encouraging others to join in regular walks and exercise in BNP 😎. Soon Sonal joined the group and started enjoying her morning walks even more.
Having missed out on registering for the SCMM (Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon) in 2003, the ladies decided to register for the HM (Half Marathon) in 2004. Flabbergasted, Sonal totally refused when 5 of them registered for the same. However; as D-day approached, she asked Rashmi if she could join them and run along as much as possible without a Bib. That day Sonal enjoyed her Run so much that when Rashmi started walking after 10K, she moved ahead jogging, slowly meeting different groups as she went along. Despite her non-running attire of a Mango-colored Silk Salwar-Kameez and Brother-in-Law’s borrowed shoes, she managed to finish her very first HM in 2:44 😎.
The following year the girl gang were back all dressed up in their coordinated White Salwar-Kameez as they all ran together eating, joking and having a blast finishing together in 2:45 😁.
In 2006 the other girls were no longer interested in participating in SCMM again. Luckily, Sonal met Kaushik Panchal and Mahadev Samjiskar who invited her to join them for the Race. On D-day she tagged along on the train with the bunch of 14-15 boys as they made their way to the starting point in Bandra. Sonal enjoyed the whole atmosphere particularly the free post run Coffee and Massage that they were treated to in Barista 😄. The same continued for the next couple of years with her timing improving to 2:30.
In 2010, the Nike Run Club (NRC) opened up another branch at the SAI grounds, near BNP where Coach Daniel Vaz would train the Runners. Since the very first day, Sonal was a Regular here. She met and interacted with many other MRR Runners and Stalwarts like Sunil Shetty here as well as when they all travelled together for Surat Night Marathon.
In 2013, Sonal joined Kaushik who was pacing the 2:30 Bus at the SCMM finishing in 2:26 that year. They discussed about participating in the FM in 2014 and Kaushik told her that they would have to train and finish the same within 6 hours. With just this thought in mind; clad in her usual Salwar-Kameez, Sonal attempted her very first FM at BNP the following Sunday carrying some Relispray, Halls and Spray Bottle 😒. She felt disheartened as she managed to complete the same in 6:05 that day.
Post this foolish gimmick, she started training with Kaushik in earnest. Unfortunately, when doing their training run of 35K in September, she had a fall after 16K but somehow managed to complete her Run.
All set for her first FM at SCMM she realized the morning of D-day that her shoes to which she had attached the RFID timing tag were stolen 😐. Though upset, she wore her borrowed old shoes and reached the venue hoping to get a replacement timing tag. However, with no success, she ended up starting 15 minutes late along with her friend, Kashmira Dave. Sonal still managed to finish her FM in 5:37, albeit without a Bib once more 😯.
When she read about the Mumbai Ultra 2014 posted by Sunil Shetty on the BNP group, she immediately wanted to do it. Since she hadn’t trained for it, Sunil forewarned her from participating. However; the prior day, this crazy girl decided to go and attempt the same from 7 am to 7 pm as she hadn’t registered for the same 🙄.
Sonal initially went along with Deepa Katrodia and later joined other Runners. Anand Kotiar ran along with her from 5 pm-7 pm while the rest of the BNP gang waited for them to finish. The Organizers were kind enough to support her as well with 4-5 volunteers waiting and handing her the Finisher Medal and T-shirt once she was done 🤗. She managed to cover a distance of 68K in those 12 hours. Needless to say her family was upset when she finally turned up as they were totally clueless about her crazy escapade 😮. There were mixed feelings amongst her BNP gang as well. Guess Sunday being her busiest day; the long hours being on her feet, working and rushing everywhere contributed in building her Endurance big time 🙃.
Later that year, Sonal who was suffering from major heel pain was diagnosed with Bone Spur. On being advised Surgery, she visited several other doctors and was alternately advised rest for 8 months.
In September 2015, Coach Dan organized a 50K ultra in Aarey. Just a week after she resumed running, Sonal decided to go and do 21K 🙄. Later, she decided to support her friend Kashmira who was attempting her first FM. The Duo ended up doing the same in 6:25.
Since July 2015, Sonal wisened up and joined the Road Burners for regular coaching by Daniel Vaz 😊. Despite her busy home and work schedule as a Salon Owner, with regular training, mindful eating and yoga she is now a sprightly 51Kg. Though it isn’t easy, she ensures she finds time for her training by cutting down on other social activities though she does not venture too far so as to save time. Her hard work was recognized and Sonal was even nominated for the Most Improved Female Runner Category by MRR in 2016. Ever since, she has around 30 podiums to her Credit in just the last three years itself, the latest being at the recent AFMC FM in August 2018 😎.
Her Current Training Regimen consists of:
Monday- Rest Day
Tuesday- Speed Intervals with Melvin at SAI (Sports Authority of India)
Wednesday- Varied Running Drills and Exercises with Manish Jaiswal
Thursday- Tempo Run with Daniel Vaz
Friday- Gym workout
Saturday- Workout with Sketchers/NRC
Sunday- Long Run
Sonal says that though Running requires a lot of hard work and dedication, if you really love something you will definitely achieve it. All you need to do is Keep Going. Don’t Give Up even if you have to take a Pause or Break. Just make sure you Restart and always Stay Positive. After all Nothing beats that feeling of being on Top of the World after your Run 🤗.