story by Allie Allsup // portrait by Lindsay Pace
As Mud & Magnolia’s Influential Woman of the Year 2021, Rashni Barath has already captured hearts with her continuous service for her community. However, when she is off the clock, whether it be with work or family, Barath feels most comfortable in her running shoes, hitting the streets or trails of Tupelo whenever she gets the chance.
When Barath first moved from South Africa to the U.S. with her husband over 20 years ago, she didn’t know at the time how much running would become a part of her life. Yet, she credits running for helping her settle into a new culture and make lots of friends.
Since then, it’s been a constant for Barath. Running has brought her joy and a sense of belonging over her years in Mississippi.
“You will meet all kinds of people when you start running,” Barath said. “I mean, it’s just amazing how many friends you make out of it.”
Once she discovered her passion for running and nurtured it, Barath found herself running marathons, even going as far as to run an ultramarathon. For those who don’t know, a regular marathon is 26.2 miles; an ultramarathon is anything above that.
Barath’s ultramarathon had her running 36 miles.
As someone who’s grown accustomed to running, Barath knows firsthand the kind of rigorous training these marathons require. Yet, she stresses that each person, no matter their experience level, should go at their own pace.
“Generally, I would say one to three months is a good amount of training time for a marathon,” Barath said. “If starting from zero, it’ll take a bit more time.”
Diet and nutrition is the other key to going the distance, although Barath said a strict diet isn’t wholly necessary as long as the would-be marathoner uses some dietary common sense.
“You know fried foods and greasy foods are not recommended,” she said. “ Lots of vegetables, protein, and tons and tons of water.”
Having been running for several years now, Barath has loved every marathon she’s run. Two, however, outpace the rest.
“I know this is going to sound weird for many people, but my ultramarathon was one of the best experiences I’ve had,” she said. “The ultra-marathoners are a whole different ball game. The runners are much more relaxed and enjoy each other’s company more than your normal marathon runners, and you get to meet so many people from all over.”
However, it’s the marathons for St. Jude, no matter the distance, she loves the most.
“St. Jude is one of my favorite marathons I’ve done just to see those little kiddos,” Barath said. “As you run, you go past the hospital, and those babies are out there, and they go up and say, ‘Thank you for running for me.’ To know that you are able to do something for them in a small way, it’s a good feeling.”
While running is a passion of Barath’s, and she’s run many marathons, she wants to make it clear that you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get out there and enjoy the benefits.
“I think a lot of times people are just intimidated to go out there, and you know, speak to a runner, or run with someone, but that’s just the furthest thing from the truth,” Barath said. “All of the people that I run with, not one of them would not help someone run or would not stay with someone that wanted to just get up, even if it was to just walk.”
Whether it be her family or her running buddies, Barath knows she has a support system. It’s one of the things that’s made her both physically and mentally strong.
“One of the things that really helps keep me accountable and motivated are my running buddies,” Barath said. “It’s such a great little network of fun, easy going people who come from all different aspects of life.”
Those easygoing people are just some of the ladies and gentlemen Barath runs with at the Tupelo Running Club. Because they tend to run the same sorts of races, they generally train together.
Runners like Barath who are balancing work, family, and running life, tend to pick up their running shoes whenever they have the chance. Whether that’s early in the morning or late at night.
“Generally, on a Saturday morning we will all be on the road at 5 a.m.,” Barath said. “Those of us with kids, we have to work around their schedules sometimes. So, that has us up and running while everyone’s asleep. That’s how we balance the two. Either running really early or really late. We’ve even run at midnight from time to time.”
However, Barath knows first hand how hard it is to take that first step (literally), get outdoors and begin running. As with most things, the more experience a runner has, the easier running will be.
“I generally know the first mile is always going to be the most challenging,” Barath said. “But if you can just get past that, afterward, and every mile after that, your body just kind of settles in and it’s so worth it to push past that in the end.”