Neilima Pudota is no normal woman you meet in a marathon. She has an iron will and steel nerves. She is a brand ambassador for Pinkathon, a popular marathon which is held in different cities all over India to raise awareness about Breast cancer.
Neillima ran from Vijayawada to Vizag for 340 Kms barefoot for seven days to raise awareness on breast cancer and women fitness. She always felt that awareness should be brought up from grass root level especially among people like farm labourers, factory workers who don’t have much knowledge regarding health and the related risks. So she chose to spread awareness in a unique way. She ran barefoot, on the streets, meeting women and girls in schools and spoke to them about women empowerment, fitness and health issues.
On asking why she ran barefoot – her reply to The Positive India was astounding – “Humans are natural runners. By wearing shoes, I feel constrained. Once I remove them, I feel liberated. It was not so easy to run barefoot. I underwent a long and arduous training before this run.”
Asked what were the impediments she faced during the run, Neillima said she faced a lot of criticism all through the journey. Many people questioned her – “Can we prevent cancer if we run on roads ?”. Her answer was simple and straight – “Being fit is the only way to fight many diseases which are caused due to today’s sedentary lifestyle and one of the easiest and affordable ways of exercise is running. So I am promoting it”. Apart from that, the weather was another constraint, as she moved close to the coast the high humidity caused her to dehydrate fast, which was challenging. The fear of snakes added to her woes. At every point of time, for her, there were more reasons to quit than to go ahead. She credits her guide and team mate Milind Soman for the constant support due to which she could go ahead, undeterred.
Once she reached Vizag, she ran wearing a saree, to prove to the world, nothing is a constraint for women. The best part of all the journey was, she gifted that very saree to her mother who couldn’t see her achieve this feat live.
Neillima worked in corporate world for more than five years and during that period, she used to spend her weekends travelling alone trekking mountains. Asked why she left a lucrative corporate career for a path in fitness she replies – “ Too many people are after materialistic things today. But I wanted to invest time in myself and I give a lot of importance for experiences like this run”.
It is to be noted that Neillima is the first woman from the sunrise state to scale Mount Everest. Just 200 meters away from the summit, her guide’s health deteriorated and she had to retract before scaling the peak and thus the dream of scaling the peak still remains partially fulfilled. “ It is a difficult journey. While we are on the way up, we see many dead bodies which scare anyone”. She is very grateful to her sponsors TV5 and to her parents for the support throughout.
The roots of her fitness passion lie in her childhood. From early days, her parents, both Govt employees, encouraged physical activities. She is a Bharatanatyam dancer and her liking towards mountains started when her family lived in North India during her childhood. When everyone questioned Neilima’s decisions, her mother supported her saying “ If she wants to do it, she will do it”.
The Positive India salutes this great woman’s efforts and wishes her the best in her future endeavours.