Latha Kare: 61-year-old woman clad in sari and running barefoot wins Baramati Marathon

Age: 61; sex: female; dress code: sari; gear: barefoot; event: Baramati Marathon; finish: FIRST!!
Yes! That is the unexpected and surprising tale that emerged from the Baramati marathon as Lata Bhagwan Kare outran every other conventional runner to emerge victorious at the event.
She took everyone – the organizers, the spectators and fellow competitors – completely by surprise, as not only was this her first ever race of such a kind, but she also established a big lead over the remaining participants within minutes of the start.
Everything about this runner was a surprise element, right from her being 61-years-old, to running barefoot and the fact that she wore a traditional nauvari (Maharashtrian sari) while running.

And the final bit of the puzzle that stumped everyone present was the fact that not only did she perform well, but she beat all the experienced marathoners in the fray to finish first.
Kare is a farm labourer who stays in a town called Pimpli, which is about 7 km away from Baramati. Some of her relatives informed her of the event just a few days before the main race day after which she left to compete.
“When I came to know about the competition, I decided to participate in the event. I gathered courage and informed my son that I wanted to run the Marathon. Initially, he gave me a weird look as in his opinion it was not possible, given my age. But I was determined, so he finally gave in,” Kare told DNA.
She revealed that she was used to walking one kilometre every day to get home from where she worked and that it held her in good stead during the event.
“I used to go for morning walks daily, but I had never run. If I had even tried to run, people would have found it strange and they would have asked me uncomfortable questions,” Kare laughed.
Kare stays with her husband and son in Pimpli where they have been residing for three years now. They originally hail from the Buldhana district and had migrated to Pimpli for work.
Kare revealed that she felt a little nervous standing at the start line – “I felt a little awkward, as all the other participants were staring at my dress. That also made me a little nervous. However, when the race began and I started overtaking them one by one, I gained my energy. While running I was talking to myself and telling that I want to win this race and I did it.”
Kare, in fact, did not start the race barefoot; she initially ran with her slippers on. But she did away with them a few metres into the race, when one of them slipped out from under her foot and she decided to abandon the other one.
Organizer Sachin Satav said on this surprising development, “We never expected a participant like Kare to be the winner of the race. It was pleasant surprise. We were extremely happy while handing over the trophy to Kare.”
After her miraculous run, there was only one question on everyone’s mind – whether she would run more races in future?
To that query she replied – “I want to. But only god knows whether I remain as strong then as I am today.”
From Mid-Day

Her son forbade her from running the marathon in Baramati as she was running a temperature the night before. But she defied him. Too much was at stake for her to let it go. She ran, and won. And now, she is an inspiration for miles around her village.

Going the whole nine yards: Lata Kare ran barefoot in the Baramati Marathon event, despite a fever. Pics/Rohan Vanne
Lata Kare, the 65-year old woman from Pimpli, a village located a few miles from Baramati, participated in the 3-km category in the district last Sunday, running barefoot, clad in the traditional nine-yard sari, called the navari.

Four days after the achievement, Kare tells MiD DAY that she ran to win, hoping she would bag the prize, Rs 5,000 cash money, with which she wanted to pay for the medical treatment of her ailing husband, Bhagwan.

“When I heard about the marathon first, I instantly felt like being a part of it. But what really lured me was the prize money of Rs 5,000 for the winner. We very much needed money for my husband’s treatment.

Praying hard to win the cash prize and pay for Bhagwan’s MRI scan
Doctors have asked him to get an MRI scan done - he has a heart problem – and for this we have to collect Rs 15,000-20,000,” says Kare to MiD DAY.

Kare works as a farm hand at the fields of the more affluent in her village, making Rs 80-100 in a day. The mother of four, and grandmother of one, resides in a 10x15 sq feet room with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

Her family shifted to Pimpli from Buldhana four years ago in search of work. But steady employment eludes them even here.

Kare got to know of the marathon from her neighbor, Sudhir Sakat, while she was still trying to figure out how to get together enough money to pay for the MRI for Bhagwan. Another neighbour put it in her head that the prize money would solve her dilemma.

Jumping the hurdles
The thought that her advanced age or the downside that comes with it might throw up a hurdle did not cross her mind, she tells us. The fact that she had a fever did not matter, either. She was determined, perhaps even destined, to take home the prize. But her son did not approve.

Barefoot in Baramati: Lata Kare, a farm hand, usually goes without shoes, a luxury she cannot afford
“My family supported me, but my decision came as a surprise to Sunil, my son. He was not okay with me taking part in the run. I had not been keeping well before the race so he was worried. But I went for it,” said Kare.

Sunil ships in, “Though I was sure about her fitness level and will, I was still worried, because the night before the competition she was down with fever, so I told her to forget about it. On the morning of the race, she tricked me and snuck out of the house after popping a tablet. I got to know about her win later.”

The whole family, and village, is proud of her. But Bhagwan is specially happy with his wife’s accomplishment. He intended to run alongside her, but a shooting pain in the chest held him back at the last minute, he says.

Kare with her family at their house in Pimpli
Like any other labourer, her diet consists of a simple meal of roti and sabzi, but she left behind her more athletic, well-endowed and physically vigorous competitors to the cross the finish line.

Practice was never an issue for Kare. She has three daughters, all of whom are married and reside 3-4 kilometres from her house. She frequently hoofs it down to their places.

“I like to be fit. I go for a walk every morning. Actually, you cannot call them typical health-oriented walks; they are more errands than walks. I step out every morning for bringing milk and what not, and later in the day I drop by at my children’s. That probably helps me stay fit,” said Kare.

Matter of priority
When the family moved to Pimpli looking for better-paying work, they were in for disillusionment. The sense of security that comes with a consistent income was not to be theirs. They somehow scrape together Rs 3,000-4,000 each month through odd jobs.

This is not enough to put enough food in the kitchen, she tells us. So the family members, who earlier wanted to use the prize money for the MRI, have now decided to pay for ration with the cash.

Big beads of tears roll down Kare’s eyes as tells us, “I ran for my husband’s treatment and for a bright future for my son.” After a pause, she pleads, “I want some help from society, or a job for my son, so that we can run our house.”
Way ahead of time
Race organiser Sachin Satav said, “As it was the first marathon for us Baramatikars, we organised it on a relatively small scale, dividing it into four categories. Kare participated in the fourth level, which was for senior citizens. The distance in this category was three kilometres.”

He continued, “The other competitors were fully prepared for the run, but Kare defied the odds by winning the competition. She was a first-time participant, and she left all the other runners way behind.

The first runner-up was 2-3 minutes behind her. She stole the show, without any proper training, or even footwear. She ran without any shoes on. As the motto of the competition was ‘Run For Health’, this grandmother of one has proved to all that age is just a number.”