In the recent years, many sportswomen have emerged as champions who have made their mark on the records of achievements. To name a few there are P.V Sindhu in Badminton, Saina Nehwal in Tennis, Mithali Raj in Cricket, and many others who have earned accolades in the records of achievements. In a country where patriarchy is dominant, women are subjugated under the societal pressure of fulfilling their role in the society. Born into a family which is into sports, Karen saw herself following in their footsteps. Having worked as a finance professional, Karen as she quoted ‘stumbled’ upon her long-repressed dream of being a long distance runner.
Karen Maciel was born in Goa and brought up in Dubai. She spent her childhood playing with her friends who were originally from Sudan, Somalia, Lebonan, and Iran. She says describing the twisty-turns of her life, “Although I enjoyed sprinting, I never imagined myself to be a long distance runner. It required a lot of discipline, patience, and commitment and I didn’t know if I had it in me at the time”. In 2002 when she came to Goa she pursued her education in Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and practiced as a Financial Professional for 9 years. Although she came from a family which passed on sports genes to her, she acclaimed good results in sports as well as in academics; but the talent for long-distance running had been untapped for long. She moved to Bangalore as she was hired from the college campus by a Bangalore based firm as an analyst in investment banking. Her friend persuaded her to take up long-distance running which she reluctantly did. To her contentment, she started developing a likeness for the sport.
In 2015 she vigorously started training as a long distance runner. Karen had a keen interest in fitness and wanted to pursue it as a career. In the beginning, she did not know how to go about the process but subsequently and gradually she got her certification done. She began training children about in fitness and nutrition and simultaneously underwent training herself. In addition to that, she also did a Strength and Conditioning Course as well as a Sports Nutrition Course by the International Sports Science Association. She also trained herself to become a personal trainer in 2017. “Initially it was a bit tough, as I found training others along with my own training schedule a bit strenuous, but now I am able to manage a lot more with my time. I have also learned to prioritize according to the need of the moment be it a race, or work, or training clients”.
Life is not as easy as we want it to be but we can make it suitable for us. Between training and work, Karen managed to balance her schedule. She says she is still learning to handle them both, “I train twice a day and meet up with most of my clients on weekends. But yes, there are moments when it gets challenging, and I try to be patient with managing expectations on all counts”.
Through her journey as a distance runner she has accomplished qualities of mastered self-discipline, patience, and commitment, “It forced me to grow out of myself into a much stronger person. My work forced motivated me to become more patient, stable and attentive. I am still learning and growing every day under excellent coaches and guides”. She continued working towards being becoming a long distance runner by following Eliud Kipchoge who is a Kenyan long-distance runner, and the 2016 Olympic marathon gold medalist. He has been described as “’the greatest marathoner of the modern era’”. Following his path, Karen has participated in numerous marathons held in the nation. She follows a systematic diet which consists of a balanced diet minus the junk food. She believes in following the anecdote “’the simpler the lifestyle, the better for running’”. She says, “I sleep early and wake up very early too. My training schedule is highly structured with a lot of running and gym work. My food is very simple. and I don’t consume much spice in my food I don’t eat or junk food at all”. Besides physical training, she opts to does mental training as well which will helps boost knowledge about the sport. She shares her interest in studying kinesiology in the future which she finds essential to understand the function of the human body. Currently, she is reading a book called ‘Applied Kinesiology’ by Robert Frost.
The spirit of sportsmanship has become deeply rooted in her body. Despite long-distance running not being an officially recognized sport, her family has accepted her transformation from a finance professional to a long distance runner. “I have a lot of support from my family. But the general acceptance for a long distance runner is not as great as it is not as recognized a sport in India as cricket or hockey, and sponsors are few”.
In between her training, she works part-time at NEB Sports. She helps with the social media aspect within the company, assisting in coordination between organizer and runner as well as customer relationships. It involves working around various aspects of relationship building for the company with the outside world. “It could be in the form of giving talks to people to spread awareness about health and fitness or to encourage kids to take up sports as a profession”, she said. In the recent marathon held in Bangalore, she secured the second place in her age category for the 10 km challenge.
Beyond her preparation and her work, she assists in educating runners through daily training tips on running, which helps them to understand how truly multi-faceted the sport really is. For this, she reads many books every day. Very soon she will launch her own website and will act as a Consultant in Sports Nutrition.
A woman in sports is difficult. It is difficult for a woman to make a career in sports in a male-dominated society, but when you’ve got your family’s backing, you can make mountains move. As a message to women whether they are into sports or not, she says, “Your health is an investment to yourself and to your family. Make it a priority. Keep your exercising simple, and consistent. Focus on building habits first and look for results later. If you fall off the wagon, be kind to yourself and get back on. Lastly, don’t fall into the trap of comparing your progress with others. Everyone is different and everyone’s progress will be different. Start from where you are and not where you want to be”.