It’s not easy being an athlete, especially with age proving to be a major factor for most. But Hyderabad-based Divya Bollareddy has made India proud by winning the Gold medal at the 21st Asia Masters Athletics Championships in Kuching, Malaysia, which saw over 2,500 athletes from 29 countries participating.
From being a non-runner until 35 to running marathons, and then taking a U-turn into athletics, 42-year-old Divya not only won the Gold at the Asia Masters, but also made an entry into the World Masters Athletics Championship to be held in Toronto in July 2020. “It was a qualifying event for the World Masters,” beams Divya, who won Gold in the Goa Nationals in 400 m and 800 m in July this year to qualify for the Asian Masters Championship.
Divya reveals that she had been training for the Championship for the past six months with her coach Rajasekhar Kalivenkata. “It was a hard challenge to train alone every day. Although you can push yourself to get to the next level, it always helps to train with a group. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. I used to ask my marathon friends to run with me sometimes and that helped,” says the mother of two school-going kids, for whom managing work and kids is a daily challenge.
So how did she get fascinated with running? “I started cardio exercise on the treadmill after my second child just to keep in shape, and kept challenging myself to better my timings. Then a friend from Hyderabad Runners suggested I try a road race, in which I came third. That egged me on to join my first half-marathon training from where I graduated to full marathons,” narrates Divya.
After winning the Golden Mile run at Gachibowli stadium, Divya went onto the Masters Athletics District selections, eventually reaching the State and National levels. “Since training for marathons was too time consuming, I continued to train for the shorter distances. My kids are extremely supportive and my husband also takes on double duty whenever I am training,” she adds. Of course, training at her age without sustaining any injuries is a challenge in itself. “Thanks to my coach’s suggestions for proper recovery and nutrition, I was able to stay away from injuries during this training,” Divya says.
Going to the Asian Meet has been a real eye-opener for Divya, who says, “Meeting other women of my age and older, and talking to them about common issues that they also face each day brought about a sense of camaraderie amongst us. It was a thrilling experience competing against the best,” exults Divya....