Women Marathoners Smash Stereotypes By Acing The Strength Test

Last updated 17 Feb 2017 . 6 min read

https://img.sheroes.in/img/default_img.jpg https://img.sheroes.in/img/default_img.jpg


When you think of running as a sport, the one name that pops in our mind, is of course of the great, Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter has not only broken records, but has set the bar crazy high. Reigning world and Olympic champion, he is considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time. 

But there’s another side to running races--Marathons. Man oh man! The test of strength and stamina along with persistence and focus is what defines a marathoner.


Every skeletal muscle contains two basic fiber types -- slow-twitch or fast-twitch. Slow-twitch muscle fibers, or Type I fibers, are slow oxidative fibers that produce slow muscle contractions and are highly resistant to fatigue. Fast-twitch muscles fibers, or Type II fibers, produce fast contractions that fatigue quickly. As a result, marathoners typically contain a significant amount of slow-twitch muscle fibers while sprinters primarily have fast-twitch muscle fibers.

The training programs for sprinters and marathons vary according to the specific demands of each running event. Sprinters focus on developing fast-twitch muscle fibers by improving speed, strength and power. Marathoners, however, focus on developing cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular endurance and stamina.

That was the technical aspect of the training, but another important side of training is gaining mental strength.

It has happened so many times, that in spite of planning an evening before to add a certain number of Surya Namaskar sets to my Yoga regime. Quite often I either skip it or simply put, don’t push myself to try a few more cycles of Surya Namaskar. Lack of strength, nope. I can vouch for my strength and stamina. But yes lack of determination, to try out more cycles of the Surya Namaskar. We need to train our mind too. Half the battles are won if you makeup your mind to succeed and not give in.

Negativity destroys performance because you are telling your body that you are not good enough, and your body will follow your mind. Instead, energize your mind with positive thoughts.

For marathoners, it is not just about legs and lungs, they have to get their complete self to the table and integrate mental, emotional, and spiritual training into their build-up and racing.

Female marathon runners are not a rarity. Of course, they are not featured in the popular media as frequently as their male counterparts. We have got for you a quick, short list of women marathoners.




Mary Keitany is a world-class marathon and half marathon runner from Kenya. In 2007, Keitany earned a silver medal at her debut performance at the IAAF World Road Running Championships. Within two years, Keitany married, had a child, and ran a 1:07:00 half-marathon that qualified her for the World Half Marathon Championships, which she won with a new personal record of 1:06:36. In 2011, Keitany ran 1:05:50 for the half-marathon, setting the world record. At the 2012 London Marathon, Keitany ran 2:18:37, a time that makes her the third fastest woman in history.




Paula Radcliffe, the women’s marathon world record holder with a time of 2:15:25 at the 2003 London Marathon, had a frenzied 2015 after retiring from competitive running last April at 41. An English long-distance runner. She is the current women's world's best holder in the marathon with her time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds. She is a three-time winner of the London Marathon (2002, 2003, 2005), three-time New York Marathon champion (2004, 2007, 2008), and won the 2002 Chicago Marathon.




Lalita Babbar is the current Indian national record holder and the reigning Asian Champion in the same event. Babar was named as the Sports Person of the Year in the India Sports Awards 2015 organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports of India. She was recently honored with prestigious Arjuna Award 2016 at the hands of Hon. President of India for her contribution in the field of athletics.

At the 2015 Asian Championships, Babar won the gold medal clocking 9:34.13 and broke her own personal record. Being the first Indian woman to qualify for the steeplechase final, she placed eighth in the final. At the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, she bettered with a time of 9:19.76 in her heat, qualifying to the final, and in the process became the first Indian in 32 years to enter a final in any track event.




She is the current national record holder in the marathon, a distinction she achieved by clocking 2:34:43 at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. She is also a former national record holder in the 3000 metres steeplechase.

Jaisha competes in the middle and the long distance events, including 1500 metres, 3000 metres, 3000 metres steeplechase, and 5000 metres. She won gold over 1500 metres and 3000 metres at the 1st Asian Indoor Games held at Bangkok in 2005.

On August 22, 2016, post her return from the 2016 Summer Olympics, Jaisha sparked a controversy when she alleged that she had fainted at the finish line post her race. The reason cited by Jaisha was; "not given" enough water and energy drinks in between the race, during the Women's marathon event.


Asha Agarwal is a former Indian women marathon champion and a recipient of Arjuna Award. Asha Agarwal won the Hong Kong marathon on January 27, 1985. In September 1985 she won the gold at the Asian Track and Field meet in Jakarta, setting a record of 2 hours 48 minutes and 51 seconds, which still stands. She also won the Freedom Race in Delhi in 1989, Trinidad Marathon in 1986 and has run eight out of 26 marathons below 2 hours 50 minutes.

These women marathoners prove that strength is not akin to men only. It is a matter of immense pride for us, as a country to count the likes of women marathoners, OP Jaisha and Lalita Babbar. They undergo the pain and struggle to represent our country, only to drift into oblivion in our cricket-obsessed nation.


Lola Jutta
An unapologetic writer, budding travel enthusiast and a default optimist! Life is what you make out of it.

Share the Article :

Similar Articles You love
Download App

Get The App

Experience the best of SHEROES - Download the Free Mobile APP Now!