Our latest Runner Profile is person with a big heart and a smiling face. At least, for her students, who she calls “her kids”. This runner is a part of the Teach For India NGO, and she’s posted in a Government Primary school in Hyderabad. A ‘Monsoon Princess Jaipur’ title winner, she has also modeled and walked the ramp in the past, along with occasionally trying her hand at stand up comedy. She recently joined the Long Distance Runners’ Club, and she tells us how it has helped her develop as a person and why it’s so important for parents to let their kids out to play. We’re glad to introduce to you, Tanya Sinha!
What are your earliest memories of running?
I was introduced to running by my father when I was in 5th grade. He was the one who got me out of my “hopscotch” phase. Since then it has become a habit. I don’t feel the need of any external motivation to keep me running.
And then in my 11th grade I had a crunched schedule leaving me little time to concentrate on any other sport or physical activity. Running seemed to me the most refreshing, simplest, and quite frankly the cheapest way to fitness! It feels wonderful that one can just wear shorts, put on shoes and begin to run. So, those were the qualities of running that made me fall in love with it
What made you realize you love running?
I had never participated in any kind of race or marathon until Manipal. So, in the first year of college, a walkathon was organised on “Say no to drugs”. Even though I had fun walking in the walkathon, I clearly remember feeling restricted because I couldn’t run as everybody else was walking! That’s when I realized I love running.
In the four years of my stay in Manipal, I had participated in various races which were usually around 4-6km. I was never one of the early people to reach the finish line but the feeling of completing the race itself gave me a lot of happiness.
When did you evolve into a long distance runner?
Recently, I participated in the 21k Airtel half Marathon and completed it in 2 hours 46 minutes. I had gone there with only one aim i.e. to reach the finish line alive or dead. It was the first time ever I had run for such a big event. It wasn’t anything like Manipal. This was a huge leap from 6km marathons to 21km! How I registered for HM is a funny story. I registered under peer pressure. Some of my friends registered just for fun. None of us were trained. So, one fine Sunday morning, me and 4 other friends of mine started off the marathon with an aim to reach the finish line. To my surprise, all of us did finish successfully!
I got a medal when I completed the race which I showed to my 5th grade kids. They were so excited and happy for me that to this day, the medal still hangs in my classroom.
What are your running goals?
Till college I used to make sure I run, at the very least, from Sharada hostel to end point and back, 5 days a week. Running has never been competitive for me. I run for fun. I run for fitness. I run to relieve stress. I run because I like to run. Quite honestly, I don’t even have any running goals but I definitely look out for opportunities.
I was thrilled to complete the half marathon and this has definitely boosted my confidence.
Looking forward to reaching many more finishing lines!
How has running helped you?
Running definitely helps me personally and professionally because it is the best stress buster I know!
Have you ever considered talking about your experiences in running with your students to motivate them?
Yup. I talk about eating healthy and being physically active. Even when I visit my student’s parents, I tell them it’s important for their kids to go run and play out in the open. A lot of my kids live in slums and the parents feel it’s unsafe/unnecessary to let their kids out in the evening. So, I’m still trying to talk to kids and parents and explain to them that this is important and why.
How has teaching changed you as a person?
My kids impact my life every single day. I think that is quite obvious from the fact that i call them “my kids”. My kids have made me more patient and systematic. Trust me, when i’m trying to get a concept through 50 brains, it’s a challenge. It was disastrous initially and i used to lose my cool. But now i’m more organised. I try to go down to each kid’s level of understanding to make them learn. I’m far from being an expert at this, though. There’s still a lot to learn. My kids have taught me how to smile at the worst of situations and also to just let go of things and cry if you feel like it. When i went for home visits to my kids’ community, i came to know the challenges they face every day, and yet, they come with the brightest of smiles to school!
What’s the best thing you like about these kids, and about teaching them?
They don’t mix personal and professional things. It might sound absurd, but yeah. Even if I punish a kid multiple times in class, the same kid would give me a high-five with a big smile before leaving school. They never get mad at me for punishing them.
I love how even little things like, “your heart is the size of your fist” gets them super excited.
Are there any memorable incidents in your teaching career which you’d like to share with us?
This teacher’s day it was so epic! The whole day I couldn’t believe I was the teacher this teacher’s day. All these kids got me an ice cream brick as a surprise, but they forgot to bring spoons and plates. The ice cream was melting every second. So without any other choice, I had to act immediately. We ended up eating the ice cream with our hands!
Have any of your students had a story which touched you deeply?
One story that has impacted me in a major way is that of one of my students, who’s also the bravest person i know. She used to live on the streets near my school till she was 7 years old. Things went from bad to worse and she lost her parents on the way. One of the Teach For India Fellows got her off the streets and placed her in a government hostel. She was practically cared for and groomed by that person for 2 years. Since then, this kid has shown a lot of grit and courage. She didn’t fight through all this but she also happens to be one of the brightest in the school. She speaks English fluently, loves Harry Potter and wants to write books like J. K. Rowling some day. What really bowled me over was that she wants to write books but not fiction. She wants to pen her life down.
Do you have any big plans involving your students?
I want to do a fashion show with them one day.
When might we see you in Manipal again?
I’m coming to Manipal next week to speak at IGCLA about ‘Teach For India’.
Any word of advice for new runners?
Advice for the ones who are yet to leave their couch- The only thing that is stopping you is YOU. Just tie those laces and start off!
Read why you should start running own your own steam here
Sign up for our Couch to 5k programme here