CHENNAI: With just 5.5 km to reach the finish line, she saw familiar faces ahead as she ran forward. The minute she crossed the finish line, hugs, cheers and applause surrounded her. Meet Eswari Andiappan, the first woman to finish the iron triathlon — 3.9 km swimming followed by 180 km cycling and finally a 42.2 km run. The cut-off time for women is 22 hours. She finished it in 20.3 hours.
She could have finished it earlier had it not been for her injury. “A few days before the triathlon, I suffered an injury in my leg, a ghastly wound that needed stitches. My doctor told me to skip the event. But how could I? I had been waiting for it for two-and-a-half years. I told him I would try and if it hurt, I would quit. But I didn’t mean it, I was determined to finish. I took antibiotics. The wound was tightly bound and by the time I finished, it was only bleeding. I was fine. Plus, the overwhelming happiness was nothing to yield to the little pain,” she says heartily.
If you think this 36-year-old is an athlete, you are mistaken. Eswari has a corporate job, is a mother of two and she was never part of any school athletic team either. It all began with her father’s frown over her increasing weight. “I eat a lot and was on the heavier side. During my school days, my dad urged me to play badminton, but once studies took a toll, I stopped playing.” The only time she entered a race was when her friend dropped out of the relay team, and she stepped in.
Eswari followed the usual routine of life — college, job, marriage, and first child. But after the birth of her second child, things began to change. “I started to get on the heavier side again after my daughter was born. I decided to accompany my brother and run but I couldn’t go out because I had to feed her. After she turned one, I got some time and I would run a couple of rounds near my apartment; the circumference was 700 m. Then, in May 2014, I joined the Vibrant Velachery Group as I took a break from my work at Ascendas IT park,” she narrates.
Since then, Eswari has been cycling, running and swimming with her motivator and guide Anil Sharma. She has participated in many cycling marathons, two half running marathons, three full, and one ultra marathon. “The experience is amazing, but it’s not all about physical fitness. I cycle with my brother sometimes and also swim with my son. My family has a history of asthma. My son fell victim to it and sports is a much better treatment than many nights at the hospital. When we swim together after school, we talk about his day and bond at the pool. Now 11, he was the first triathlete at the age of 8, in a smaller category. Sports is more of family time for us,” she says.
Eswari is looking forward to the iron triathlon next year. She hopes to break her record and also encourage more women to train, participate and cross the finish line.