Grit meets passion - How Sufiya Sufi Runner set three Guinness World Records in ultra running

Published on May 14, 2022 12:09 PM IST

Sufiya Sufi Runner's last entry into the Guinness books was for her latest expedition, the Manali-Leh stretch on foot last year. She completed the 485 km distance in 6 days, 12 hours, and 6 minutes, making her the fastest female to cover the distance.

Sufiya Sufi Runner is a three-time Guinness World Record holder.(Instagram/sufiyasufirunner)
Sufiya Sufi Runner is a three-time Guinness World Record holder.(Instagram/sufiyasufirunner)

While the concept of ultra running may appear unheard to most in India, Sufiya Sufi Runner is setting benchmarks every time she steps into long distance running. The 35-year-old ultramarathon athlete boasts of setting three Guinness World Records, a massive achievement indeed, and now has her eyes set on a fourth one, for which the preparations have already begun, a proud Sufiya tells Hindustan Times.

"I'm planning a circumnavigation in 2024. I want to cover the globe on foot, which is almost 30,000 kilometers. This is going to be my biggest project and I've already started my preparations for that," she says.

If we look at her past records, Sufiya's last entry into the Guinness books was for her latest expedition, the Manali-Leh stretch on foot last year. She completed a distance of 486 km in 6 days, 12 hours and 6 minutes, making her the fastest female to cover the distance.

Besides, the 35-year-old holds the Guinness record for setting the fastest time by a female to complete the Golden Quadrilateral, a network of highways connecting Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Chennai, in 2021. Sufiya had then covered the 6002-km distance in 110 days, 23 hours, and 24 minutes. Sufiya even holds the Guinness record for being the fastest woman to traverse from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in 2019, running the length in 87 days, 2 hours, and 17 minutes.

However, despite these records, Sufiya wasn't inclined towards track and field from a young age. In fact, she took up the discipline to break the monotony of her job as a ground staff at the New Delhi airport, where she mostly worked graveyard shifts.

"The situations I experienced pushed me to pursue running. I used to work at the airport and it mostly used to be night shift, so taking out time for my fitness was extremely difficult. So in order to break free from my daily routine, I started running. So for fitness purpose I started running in 2017 and in the due course the purpose turned into passion," she said.

Why ultra running?

Sufiya's baby steps into the running circuit delivered quick results in terms of mental well-being. "When I started running, I noticed changes within myself and not physically but mentally. I used to stay frustrated due to the workload, or night shift but running gave me mental peace."

Sufiya began participating in marathons, for which she trained under a professional for about six months. In her maiden distance run, which was the golden triangle (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur-Delhi), the runner covered the distance in just 16 days, 1 hour and 27 minutes and smashed a national record.

Revisiting her experiences from her initial days, Sufiya said: "When I started running my message was hope. I wanted to spread positive values through these expeditions. Second was to push human limits and show how much a body can endure. How far can we run was another challenge. And the third reason was to explore India," said the three-time Guinness world record holder.

Difficulties and support

Vikas, Sufiya's partner, was the only individual to accompany her during the first expedition, but with her rising popularity, support has started to pour in for the long distance runner. She is currently associated with renowned sportswear brand Under Armour, who partnered with her during the Golden Quadrilateral.

"We connected in 2020 through social media. And their gears, in particular the shoes have helped me a lot. In the quadrilateral run the shoes that I used was Under Armour Machina and I didn't get any blister. We need to be mentally prepared for such expedition but if we are not comfortable physically then you are bound to face problems," said Sufiya.

From Sufiya Khan, she has rechristened to Sufiya Sufi Runner and wants people to know her by this name. Sharing her mindset about the sport and how she excels in it, Sufiya mentions: "Ultra running is a mental sport, because if our mind is strong then only we can push ourselves. But my concept has always been not to take part in contest but exceed my limit and achieve something that no one has.

"I want to do things with ultra running that is unthinkable, like all the expeditions I did made it into the Guinness World Record, so I want to continue on the same direction and set more records."

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