Kripa Sagar tells Priyadarshini Paitandy how she quit smoking and became a marathoner to campaign for a healthy lifestyle
Old habits die hard but for Mumbai-based Kripa Sagar all it took were a few days of running to quit smoking. “I had been smoking for 26 years. Every time I tried giving up I eventually went back to it. I remember I used to tell myself that I haven’t smoked for six hours so I can reach out for a cigarette now. But surprisingly once I started running I was able to give it up without any craving,” says Kripa.
As a school kid who preferred lazing on the couch to the open fields and sports, little did she know that as an adult in her 40s she would be running marathons and embarking on a cause. She started ‘Take A Breath of Fresh Air’, a campaign that aims to help smokers give up the habit. It all started three years ago when she accompanied a friend on her practise run. “I ran 1.4 km and was thrilled. It was a wonderful experience. And I started running regularly, clocking longer distances. While running I would turn back and go ‘oh wow I have covered quite a distance’,” says the 47-year-old. She started training four times a week and covered around 50-80 km in a week. Gradually she discovered that running gave her a high that was far better than smoking.
“I lost two very close friends to smoking. They had cancer and I saw what their families went through. It was tough. So when I was running the 2011 Airtel Delhi Marathon suddenly I realised that I had got a chance to make good my life and maybe I should reach out to other smokers and promote the message of quitting joyfully.”
As part of the campaign she also started ‘India: Run to Quit’, a series of runs where she completes full marathons (42.2km) across different cities and talks to school/college students and other young people about quitting smoking, the importance of running and busts a few myths about it. Kripa has been pretty much living out of a suitcase ever since August, that’s when the India: Run to Quit marathon took place in Hyderabad. After that it was Mysore and then Chennai.
The run in Chennai that was organised by Chennai Trekkers took place in Sholavaram and had around 1057 participants. The youngest was a three year old and the oldest participant was a 76-year-old man.
Next Kripa heads to Kochi. “I have 31 more cities to cover. My two children and husband are beginning to get a little flustered without me,” she laughs. While she has managed to get her son and daughter to run and lead the off the couch life, getting her husband to run is still an ongoing challenge. She signs off with a message, “Get up and run…you will quit smoking, trust me. Running is a positive way to do it. It works. Give it 21 days.”