On the morning of October 2, 2022, Kranti Salvi joined the hundreds of runners heading to the start line of the iconic TCS London Marathon. The Mumbai-based runner was dressed in Welsh costume.
Welsh runners in the crowd turned to Kranti and spoke to her in the Welsh language. Dressed in red skirt, white blouse, a Welsh shawl around her neck and a Welsh hat, she looked like one of them. All she could do was smile politely.
“I should have learnt a few Welsh words,” Kranti said with a tinge of regret.
At the heart of her tryst with the Welsh dress, was a quest to author a new record.
Kranti, a recreational marathon runner, has been running since 2011. She has participated in running events since 2012. An occasional podium finisher in marathons, Kranti is not new to the ecosystem of Guinness World Records. In September 2018, she set a Guinness World Record, running the Berlin Marathon in a Nauvari (Maharashtrian style saree). She finished the marathon in 3:57 hours. At Berlin, her feat was tracked live by Guinness World Records officials.
According to Kranti, the challenge is not confined to running in a chosen attire. “Applying to attempt a Guinness World Record is also a lengthy process,” she said. She was originally scheduled to run the 2020 edition of the London Marathon. The race was not held due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, the pandemic forced a major slowdown in running worldwide. Lockdowns kept recreational runners indoors while running events got cancelled left, right and centre. It took months for the restrictions to ease and longer for events to return. Normalcy was still farther away. Following the cancellation of the event’s 2020 edition, Kranti’s registration for the London Marathon got shifted to 2021. But that year, she could not make it because of the requirement for a long quarantine period.
“The registration was then shifted to the 2022 edition,” she said. On the bright side, it gave her time to seek out something interest to do alongside the planned run. She dug into the world of Guinness World Records to find a challenge for herself. She found that at the 2019 edition of the Toronto Marathon, a runner had set a Guinness World Record, covering the 42.2 km distance in 4:30 minutes, wearing a Welsh dress. The time taken seemed within reach.
“I chose to run in Welsh dress because it is a national costume of the UK worn on St. David’s Day,” she said. A country by itself, Wales is part of the United Kingdom (UK). St David is the patron saint of Wales. St David’s Day is observed on March 1.
In both her Guinness World Records, she chose existing records to break. “The process for attempting a new record is very lengthy and involves payment in pounds,” she said.
In the world of running, participating in the World Marathon Majors is a pursuit many enjoy. London Marathon is one of the six city marathons that figure in the World Marathon Majors list, the others being Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, Chicago Marathon, Berlin Marathon and Tokyo Marathon. The 2022 London Marathon was set to be Kranti’s fifth World Marathon Major. Tokyo Marathon is the only one she hasn’t run yet.
In the weeks leading to the London Marathon, Kranti had to focus on her marathon training and pay attention to the Welsh outfit, which was being designed by her friend Malvika Kothari. The Welsh shawl, hat and a daffodil pin had to be procured from the UK.
“My overall training was conservative as I have an injury in my foot,” she said. Years of running may give the runner an idea of self and body. But what about the variable introduced by requiring to run in a type of attire for a record? Dressing up and running is a departure from the norm. Typically, runners wear light, streamlined outfits – like shorts, slacks and T-shirts – that don’t get in the way of the activity and also ventilate adequately. The traditional Welsh costume on the other hand, included skirt, blouse, shawl and hat.
Kranti knew that running a marathon wearing a Welsh dress was not going to be easy. So, she decided to do two training runs in her Welsh outfit to get a sense of the discomfort before she headed to London. She chose to do her training run in a secluded area in Mumbai. Unfortunately, one of her training days was on a rainy day and to her dismay she found that the red colour of the skirt had come off and spread on to her white blouse. She had to partially redo her outfit for the official run.
At the start line in London, the Welsh outfit kept Kranti warm. However, as the run progressed and the day turned out sunny, she started to feel the discomfort. “My race was scheduled to start at around 10 AM. By 12 noon the sun was harsh and I was only halfway into the marathon. The Welsh hat, the woollen scarf and sleeved outfit – it was far from an outfit meant for running. At some point I felt like my head was on fire,” she said.
Kranti crossed the finish line in 4:03:51 hours, a new Guinness World Record for a marathon done in Welsh dress. Overall, the experience of running in a Welsh outfit was memorable. “There were Welsh colonies along the marathon route. There was so much cheering in those parts. It felt awesome despite the discomfort,” Kranti said.
The London Marathon typically has a large number of runners attempting different Guinness World Records. “This year, 30 runners were attempting Guinness World Records. Seventeen of them ended creating new records,” she said. Kranti was one of those 17 runners.
(The author is an independent journalist based in Mumbai)