Girl outpaces all hurdles
No mountain of obstacles is too high for Preity Rai.
At 22, Preity is the sole breadwinner of her family and is battling a kidney ailment to keep her career as a hill runner alive. But the young girl from a Darjeeling village outpaced all adversities to win gold in Asia’s largest marathon.
Back in Darjeeling, Preity said she had to sell cosmetics and blankets to fund her trip to India’s financial capital to participate in the Tata Mumbai Marathon. In her first-ever full marathon (42km), Preity won gold in the 18-24 women’s category.
“My father, Saran Rai, was a daily labourer but now he cannot move his left hand (following an accident). I have to run the family,” said Preity, whose mother died a few years ago.
Preity, a resident of Dilaram village about 20km from Darjeeling town, said she earned around Rs 6,000 by selling cosmetics and blankets to pool money for the Mumbai marathon on January 19.
“I had also saved some money from the prize amount I received on winning the Darjeeling Hill Marathon (organised by Darjeeling police in association with The Telegraph) and the Mirik marathon,” said Preity.
She had won Rs 25,000 at the Darjeeling marathon and Rs 7,000 on winning the Mirik marathon.
Preity started running in 2017 when she was in Class XII at St Xavier’s High School, Dilaram. She is now pursuing a distance-learning course from Salesian College Sonada.
“Students who would participate in the Independence Day marathon at Sonada would be called during the assembly and everyone used to clap loudly. I, too, had the desire to get claps at school,” she said.
Preity trains daily from 4.30am to 7.30am.
On her coach Subarna Subba, Preity said: “She is my coach, but now she is like my mother. One day she saw me run and offered to train me. I have improved after the training.”
A proper diet has always been a problem for Preity. “My coach sends me milk and eggs as often as possible,” she said with a smile.
During one of her innumerable runs — she has so far participated in more than 20 marathons, winning most of them — Preity said she felt a pain in her back.
“I went to Kurseong Government Hospital where they said I had a kidney infection. I was referred to North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. I was discharged after a few days with a month’s medication,” she said.
However, Preity did not feel well. An acquaintance suggested that she stop the medicine and start another medicine of a particular company that would cost Rs 15,000 a month.
“I could not afford this medicine but after hearing about my financial problems, the acquaintance got me in touch with one Dawa Sherpa, who is settled in the US. She bought me those medicines,” Preity said.
Preity thinks she is “80 per cent cured”.
Doctors at North Bengal Medical College and Hospital had advised her not to run for the next two-three years. “If I don’t run, how will I manage my family?” Priety asked.
The young runner has begun preparing for the IDBI Delhi Marathon scheduled for February 23.
Preity has to go for regular medical check-ups at the primary health centre near her home. “I cannot afford private clinics,” she said.
Preity hopes she can get a “proper job” so that she can run her family and also pursue her passion.
But she has no complaints. “When I go to the market, I see many beggars around and I thank God that I don’t have to beg,” she said.
Preity has one advice for young people. “I see the parents of many of my friends encouraging them to take up sports but they are not bothered. They are so lucky and I suggest they heed their parents’ advice.”