|“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
― Sophia Loren
These days when it’s not easy for people to get out for a morning walk, can you imagine a 68 years young lady out on the track, not walking but running. Age is not coming in her way to prevent her from running, because her grit and determination are taking her forward. Meet Mrs. Manjushree Banerjee from Kolkata. She had never stepped on a running track till she was 60, but there’s no stopping her since. In the past eight years, the retired Chemistry teacher has won many medals at various championships and even made it to the World Masters for veteran runners.
She accidentally discovered her interest in Athletics a few months before her retirement from Ramjoy Seal Sishu Pathshala in north Calcutta Her track-and-field debut happened during a district athletics tournament in North 24-Parganas in February 2005, where she had gone as a spectator. In an attempt to make the tournament interesting by adding something new, the organizers appealed to the spectators to come forward and participate in the tournament.“I took part for the fun of it, but ended up competing against several runners who had come prepared with spiked shoes and proper gear. I came second in both the 100 and 200 meters and many veteran athletes told me to take up running seriously,” said Banerjee
It has been years since she participated in any race. Way back in 1968 when she was doing M Sc from Kalyani University, she participated in the 100 m race casually. She didn’t have her sports gear, so she borrowed her roommate’s salwar kurta.Surprisingly she came first, but that was the end of it, because she didn’t pursue it any further.“More than four decades later, her modest two-room house on Bidhan Sarani boasts shines with medals and certificates, all won over the past eight years.
She started practicing in Hedua and then graduated to “spiked shoes” at Deshbandhu Park. She participated in the state meet at Yuva Bharati Krirangan and won in 200m and 400m. “That opened the gates of possibilities for me “said Manjushree with a smile .At the SAI complex she started from the “ABC of athletics” and requested coach Kartik Nath to teach her the very basics — jogging and stretching. In May 2006, she participated in the All India Masters Athletics Championships and won gold in 100m and 200m.
Though officially retired by then, Banerjee still had to go to school, either filling in for vacancies or correcting Madhyamik and Higher Secondary papers. But she took all that in her stride and kept running. Starting in 2006, she’s participated in the Asia Masters Athletic Championship thrice and also travelled to Italy and California for the World Masters Athletic Championships.Banerjee shows no signs of slowing down, winning one gold and three silver medals in the Annual (Open) Championships 2013 in Sri Lanka. The one thing that can slow down this 68-year-old sprinter is lack of sponsorship. “I try to arrange for funds but it’s difficult. I cannot go to Brazil in November for the world athletic meet because it seems difficult to raise Rs 2 lakh,” she said. Banerjee can give up on a few tournaments but she cannot give up hope. Her next target? A medal hauls at the Asian Championship in Japan in 2014.
Her parting shot? “Winning medals is like an addiction now.”