Squat for a picture with Milind Soman

About 5,600 women gathered at Island Grounds to celebrate fitness by running the Pinkathon. The perks? Selfies with Milind Soman

Is Chennai generally in the habit of doing bhangra to ‘Ishq Tera Tadpave’ at 5 am? On most days, the answer would be no. But on Sunday, at Pinkathon Chennai’s sixth edition, about 5,600 women gather at Island Grounds dancing to it among other songs, warming themselves up for the marathon they are about to run.

The women-only marathon — spanning 3K, 5K, 10K, and 21K — is attended by everyone, from toddlers to senior citizens; people in wheelchairs to baby-wearing mothers. “The aim of Pinkathon is to encourage women to take time out for themselves, to focus on their fitness alone,” says actor and model Milind Soman, the founder of the marathon.

This very philosophy reflects in the tags the runners wore. While their runner numbers are displayed on the front as usual, their backs have stickers stating what they “left behind.” “I have left laziness behind,” says one. “Inhibitions,” says the second, “Fear,” the third, and “stress” says another.

The energy around is palpable, spurred on by zumba instructor Sameer Sachdeva on stage, whose voice now sounds like a scratched record from all the cheering. Most of the crowd is centred around the stage, where cancer survivors, doctors and ultra marathon runners are giving speeches.

Squat for a picture with Milind Soman

Thirty-one-year old Divya Krishnaswamy however, sits on the fringes in a wheelchair, waiting for the 3K run to begin. “For the past week, I have been doing arm workouts and on Friday, I finally managed to propel myself forward for three kilometres without any support,” she says. “This is the first marathon I’m taking part in,” she adds, cradling her one-year-old on her lap. Her husband, standing beside her, is here to take care of the baby while she takes part in the race.

On her other side, is wheelchair basketball player, Malathi Raja. The 35-year-old’s visibly strong shoulders and upper arms reveal her experience. Even though this is her first Pinkathon, she has run the Wipro marathon for five years, practices wheelchair basketball twice weekly, and swims on weekends.

It is a celebration of women’s fitness all around. Taking it a notch higher are city-based Sunita Raja, co-founder of, and model Khushbu Dinesh, and Rajeshwari Saklecha, who ran all the way from Puducherry, covering 140 kilometres, and are awarded on stage.

Before kicking off the marathon, Milind clicks selfies with the women. There is one condition however: you can take selfies only after doing at least 20 push-ups or squats.

“18, 19, 20…” Milind keeps count as a baby-wearing woman performs squats. “It’s very important for new mothers to stay fit,” says Nifra Naushad, Pinkathon’s baby-wearing ambassador from Colombo, who has two daughters, four-and-a-half years old and 18-months old. “Fitness is not just about being slim or in good shape. I want to increase my stamina to do more work, because I have two young ones depending on me,” she says.

“Aren’t you running?” Milind interrupts our conversation. “Run the 3K at least,” he adds. I take his advice and join the runners outside the grounds — some of them are making their return while the stragglers are being encouraged by photographers at the finish line. I run the 2.3 kilometre to the nearest metro station for the train home; you see, I had left my bed behind.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 5:10:04 AM |

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