Insha Wadoo, a girl in her trek suit flaunting a boy cut hairstyle, is the only international female runner and cyclist from Jammu & Kashmir State who has won all road races and cycling championships she has participated in, since 2012. And her victories actually corroborate the aver that she has remained undefeated in both running and cycling championships organized by the Government authorities as well as private clubs for many years.
Insha has participated in prestigious events such as Senior National Inter-state Athletic championship held at Hyderabad, which is one of the blings in her career. She stood third in First international Marathon and the only Indian to grab a position; first two positions being claimed by Kenyan athletes. This is the event that won her the tag of being only International runner of the state. She secured first position in State Open Athletic Championships in 1500m and 400m run as well as in J&K Amateur Athletic Championship in both 800m and 1500m run. She has secured second position for three times in Jammu Marathon (21.5kms), in which she was the only female runner from Kashmir. In Kashmir J&K Police Marathon, she has won five times in and came atop for two times in cycling. In the college annual running and cycle races, she has stood first consecutively for three years, which also gave her the title of ‘Best Athlete of the Year’, all those years. But it did not stop at college; she also bagged Best Athlete award last year from Kashmir University, where she is pursuing Bachelors in Physical Education (B.P.Ed.) from Physical Education College, Ganderbal. Only last year, in 2016, she was the only female runner in the state who participated in ultra-marathon runner with Australian Pat Farmer from Banihal Tunnel to Nishat Garden and covered around 110 kilometers in a day, the last stretch of his ‘Spirit of India’ run which had flagged off in Kanyakumari and ended in Srinagar after he covered a distance of over 4,600 km through various parts of India in 60 days. Her words “I am working hard to pursue my dream to earn medals not only in the State but at National and International level” speak a lot about Insha. But when did her journey as a runner and cyclist begin and how did it shape up resulting in all these achievement? To get the answers let’s know more about Insha Wadoo.
Insha Wadoo was born to Tasleema and Abdul Rashid Wadoo from Rainawari in Srinagar. Abdul is a cab driver upon whose earnings, his family of five including Insha, depends. So obviously, Insha was not born entitled to any luxurious life and she feels blessed that the basic needs of her family were covered. “At times, he cannot make the both ends meet. We are putting up in one-room tin shed and lack decent accommodation. And therefore, being an athlete is not at all easy because it requires investments in clothing; footwear, diet and so on,” shares Insha. This makes one wonder that despite being limited by such conditions, how could she dare to dream so big while many with comparatively sufficient facilities could not?
Being the youngest in the family next to elder brother and sister, Insha shares that she was the most pampered child in the family. “Right from the childhood, I used to prefer to dress like boys and hang out as well as play cricket with them and my family never told me to do otherwise even when everyone used to crib them about it. I even have a ‘peculiar’ haircut right from my early days; although it is not unusual for me to have short hair but there are many who would mock me for looking like a boy,” shares Insha, about how she has been subtly bullied right from the childhood.
She started running at the time she was in class 8th. “It started because I was over-weight and used to feel lazy and tired all the time. My mother insisted that I should start going for walk and so I did,” explains Insha. But it was not easy to tame mind to endure the changes and challenges that Insha was about to put her body in. After two days when this girl was found by her mother at home and not at ‘Badamvaari’ park, where she used to go for the walk, instead of scolding, her mother told her that it is not just to reduce weight but to become fit; that to become an athlete that she must go to the park. It was after this instance that Insha became aware of what an athlete is and also about the honor associated with being a professional athlete.
“I started running after that day. I ran not just to become physically but mentally fit as well. I started practicing everyday with utmost sincerity,” Insha reminisces. Although now after winning series of competitions, she wants to run like great athlete PT Usha, but then, Insha neither had an idol to follow nor a coach to train her. But eventually, due to her efforts she was noticed by Khursheed Ahmad Bhat (professional athlete) who later guided her and motivated her to retain and elevate her interest in athletics. “Joining that group comprising professional athletes under guidance of Khursheed Sir was a great decision as it developed my physical, mental and social attributes as well as broadened my horizon,” says Insha.
Till 2009, almost a year after she had started her endeavors, the hard-work was getting channelized within with no significant outcomes in the field. In 2009, Insha participated in a Marathon at district Pulwama, in which she stood at 16th place. Being only girl and not grabbing any position in the marathon, made Insha get ridiculed by many. “I got disappointed. The failure made me doubt if I could do anything in my life but my mother always motivated me to stay focused by advocating that I can achieve everything but that requires me to practice hard and step up day by day,” tells Insha. She had no tracksuit, no shoes until she won for the first time, in 2010 after which she was rewarded by her mentor with a pair of shoes and a track suit. The event was organised by Shaheen Sports Syndicate in Srinagar. It was a dream come true experience for Insha to secure first rank and it could be gauged by the fact that she was thrilled to be awarded with Juicer Mixer Grinder for winning the race. Now she is at the point where she believes that her life revolves around running. “Running means everything to me, I want to run all my life and even the thought of ever being unable to run results in horripilation,” tells Insha.
Now, when Insha Wadoo is up and about in her tracksuit and a pair of running shoes, even before dawn, ready to take her daily run covering several miles which can extend longer on holidays, people are not as surprised as they used to be few years ago. Lips of people, who used to frowns upon her for taking to sports as a career choice, are now sealed to criticize. But those concerns hardly seem to bother Insha, who on her own has trained herself to compete at the professional level.
“My family has helped me to keep on going until I reached the point of becoming the only female runner in valley. Though it is very difficult for a girl to choose this field in Kashmir but I am very thankful to those who supported me, especially my family and coach,” tells Insha. Everything after that is what we already know. She grabbed positions, bagged prizes and awards and checked off many achievements and experiences on her list. Meanwhile, while she was in Higher Secondary School she was encouraged by the physical director of school to participate in a cycling competition but since Insha did not have cycle, he even provided her with one to practice. After three days of practice, Insha won a mint new cycle for her, by standing first in the race. Such commendable spirit!
All the hardships pay off, not at once but in pieces and every time it is like opening a gift wrap. And such is the case of Insha; though she is hardened by her struggle but she too feels bliss on being appreciated and encouraged. “I was guest of honor in Punjab, where Navjot Singh Sidhu as well as foundation Ludiana Chairperson awarded me with cash separately for my accomplishments in the field of athletics and cycling,” shares Insha. But she also expressed how disheartening it is that she does not get appreciated and encouraged the same way in state as she has received it outside. Still she is positive that she will prove herself worthy and would succeed in opening up, both minds and eyes of everyone who doubts her potential, merely because she is a girl, by her achievements. She strives to stay dedicated and leave a mark, despite the indifference towards her. She is leaving for Russia to participate in an International event in August this year before which she is attending a National Camp this month.
“I belong to a poor family and as a result I have faced many hardships and made several scarifies. But I have never succumbed to my circumstances and I have always dreamt of a better life for my family. I could not have accomplished the little I did, without my family, especially my mother. She has directed me, supported me, motivated me, shielded me, have lied for me, took loan for my studies; I can never repay her debts,” says the loving daughter of Tasleem. To women, Insha’s message is simple and clear “Run. I am not saying this because I am a runner but because in our sedative lifestyle we need to work out to stay fit. Taking care of yourself, your health is the first step towards being successful.”