mid-day's 39th anniversary: She's like the wind!

By Sandra Almeida Thevar | Mumbai

She has smashed every hurdle, including the stigma of being mother to a child with a neurobehavioural condition, to become the city's top marathoner

Sayuri Dalvi makes it a point to get in at least 100 kilometres of running a week. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Sayuri Dalvi, 38
Marathoner, autism activist

Engaged at 20, married at 21, a mother at 23; by 25, Sayuri Dalvi's plate was piled so high with setbacks, the weight of it could have tipped an elephant over. Thirteen years later, a floor-to-ceiling showcase of trophies and medals in her living room is proof of how she turned her destiny around.

Tall and lissome, Dalvi is a fixture on the city's running scene and sprints 15 km every day. You will often hear fellow runners whisper, 'she's like the wind!' She has been pounding the tar for 13 years, scooping up the top prize at almost every competitive race. She says she still gets the jitters when she limbers up at the starting line, because, she "runs to win".

But, running happened quite by chance. Studying commerce in college with an eye on an MBA degree after that, Dalvi had no idea that life had something entirely different in store. "I had hit 85 kilos when I was carrying Vihaan. Then came the shocker when he was diagnosed with autism. A year later, I went through an acrimonious divorce. I was finding it hard to cope and decided to hit the gym," she says. "One day, the gym was closed and I thought I would run outside. And, I was hooked."

Her first podium finish came in 2010 at Powai, and today, she has more than 80 trophies and medals to show for her determination. Her inspiration? "I do it for Vihaan. I love to bring back the winner's cup for him." She is thrilled that the 14-year-old sometimes, runs with her. "For a child with autism, that is incredible. We run a kilometre or two when we can, and walk the rest of the way," says Dalvi, who is now a certified fitness trainer, who also helps train the children at Vihaan's school.

The antipathy she faced towards Vihaan's condition led to the AweTism Run, which Dalvi launched four years ago to raise awareness about the neurobehavioural condition that impairs social interaction; the first medal was handmade by Vihaan. She is firm that the run will always be free and has ensured that the 10 km marathon is pulled off without a hitch every year, in the Autism Awareness month of April.

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