Woman runs marathon without tampon

A Woman Ran the London Marathon Bleeding Freely, Without a Tampon. Here’s Her Experience

A version of this essay was published on Medium and has been edited to fit Mic style.

Have you ever run a marathon on the first day of your period? I got my flow the night before the London Marathon, and it was extremely painful. It would be my first marathon, and I remember already feeling so nervous for it. I spent a full year enthusiastically training hard, but I had never actually practiced running on my period.

I thought through my options. Running 26.2 miles with a wad of cotton wedged between my legs just seemed so absurd. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I knew that I was lucky to have access to tampons and Thinx. I was fortunate to be part of a society that has somewhat normalized menstruation — as long as there’s no visible evidence.

I could definitely choose to participate in this norm at the expense of my own comfort and just deal with it quietly. But then I thought, if there’s one person society can’t eff with, it’s a marathon runner. You can’t tell a marathoner to clean themselves up, or to prioritize the comfort of others. On the marathon course, I could choose whether or not I wanted to participate in this norm of shaming.

I decided to just take a Midol, hope I wouldn’t cramp, bleed freely and just run.

A marathon is in itself a centuries-old symbolic act. Why not use it as a means to draw light to my sisters who don’t have access to tampons and, despite cramping and pain, hide menstruation away like it doesn’t exist?

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Mile 6

I ran the marathon with two women who are very close to me, Ana and Mere. Both of them had run marathons before. I thought we would split up, but by mile six, they were still with me, right at my side. It was inspiring.

As I ran, I thought to myself about how women and men have both been effectively socialized to pretend periods don’t exist. By establishing a norm of period-shaming, male-preferring societies effectively prevent the ability to bond over an experience that half of all humans share monthly, at some point in their lives. Because it’s all kept quiet, women are socialized not to complain or talk about their own bodily functions, since no one can see them happening. And if you can’t see it, it’s probably “not a big deal.” Why is this an important issue? Because it’s is happening, right now.

And so I started bleeding freely.

Mile 9

I was having all these crazy thoughts, analyzing whether I was a crazy chick who needs to just calm down and reach for an effing tampon — in fact, someone came up behind me making a disgusted face to tell me in a subdued voice that I was on my period. I was like, “Wow, I had NO idea!”

Or maybe I was a liberated boss madame who loved her own body, was running an effing marathon and was not in the mood for being oppressed that day.

As we come up on mile 9, I saw my dad and brother. I kept trying to awkwardly pull my shirt down to my knees so they wouldn’t see that I was bleeding. But as I approached them, I realized they just wanted to scream and hug and take a photo and celebrate together. They were so completely amazing, smiling and laughing and cheering. They were so in the moment with me and there was so much love. It was their blood too. I realized they couldn’t have cared less.

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The two most important men in my life were down for team feminism.

Ana’s mom and sister were both there too, screaming and holding up adorable signs. Seeing them made us feel uplifted, like part of something really epic. Our families made our decision to tackle 26.2 miles feel right.

Mile 13.1

Around us we saw other people exhibit acts of pain and persecution — running barefoot, running while singing karaoke, running with a 40-pound backpack and even one guy running dressed as Jesus, with a huge wooden cross on his back.

Everyone was running on their own personal mission. Seeing them made me realize how it felt entirely appropriate that I got my period on marathon day.

The sidelines were packed, and maybe it’s delirium and exhaustion, but every single sign I read was hilarious. Even the funny hydration signs. I was in love with them.

Mile 18.5

They say you hit the wall at 18.5, so I tried to focus my mind on the next milestone. The first was to get to mile 6, then to mile 9 to see family, then the half-marathon point at 13.1 over the bridge, then to mile 18.5 to see the breast cancer cheer point (we ran for Breast Cancer Care) before the final stretch to 26.2. I remember thinking, “My body has my back right so hard right now. The female body is incredible. We haven’t even stopped running once. I want us to finish strong.”

Finish Line

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The 2015 London Marathon was everything for me. I trained for a year, and then it happened, and it really was an epic, epic thing. We ran for women who can’t show their periods in public and for women who can’t compete in athletic events. We ran for our friends who have suffered through period cramps at work and for women who have survived breast cancer.

We ran in sisterhood, side by side, and we crossed the finish line hand in hand.

Three months later, I analyze a lot of what I do against how I felt during the marathon. I recall the strength to channel positivity, to value working as a team over working individually. I think about goal-setting and executing. I think about pain and fear, and what it feels to overcome those. And I think about feminism, body positivity and having the ovaries to practice what you preach.

The 26-year-old runner decided to share the story of her first 26.2. Find out why everyone is talking about it.

Photo: Kiran Gandhi

When Kiran Gandhi realized the first day of her period coincided with her first marathon, she almost didn’t run. The 26-year-old had trained for a year to complete the London Marathon, but had never run on the first or second day of her period due to intense pain. However with the encouragement of her two training partners, she made it to the starting line—without a tampon.

Officially Gandhi was completing 26.2 miles in London for the charity Breast Cancer Care, which she and her friends raised more than $6,000 to support. Because of the cause, she wanted to make it through the marathon.

However her decision to run without a tampon was one made right on race day. By mile 9, she had bled through her tights. Instead of letting it bother her, she used her run as an attempt to remove the stigma that surrounds women and their periods. She was tired of pretending that the pain and discomfort associated with her cycle didn’t exist on a monthly basis.

“I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist,” Gandhi wrote on her blog.

Despite some pain and discomfort, the whole marathon experience was one of empowerment for Ganhdi. She finished in 4:49:11. She is also heartened by the response to sharing her story.

“Men and women alike, they get it,” Gandhi told Cosmopolitan. “That is my favorite part about this whole thing, that people are remembering that women have this thing that they have to deal with.”

Woman Runs London Marathon Without a Tampon, Bleeds Freely to Raise Awareness

Courtesy Kiran Gandhi

Kiran Gandhi, who has played drums for singer M.I.A. and Thievery Corporation, decided to run the London Marathon without a tampon. Gandhi let her blood flow freely to raise awareness about women who have no access to feminine products and to encourage women to not be embarrassed about their periods.

“I ran the whole marathon with my period blood running down my legs,” the 26-year-old wrote of the April race on her website.

Gandhi, a Harvard Business School graduate, wrote that she got her period the night before the big race and thought that a tampon would be uncomfortable while she ran. But that isn’t the only reason she decided to let it flow.

“I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist.”

She added: “I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.”

Image zoom Kiran Gandhi (right) Courtesy Kiran Gandhi

Clad in all pink for breast cancer awareness, the 26-year-old finished the race in four hours, 49 minutes and 11 seconds. She told Cosmopolitan that she ran through the pain of cramps and the anxiety of the race (which she had spent a year preparing for) and felt empowered as she did so.

“I felt kind of like, Yeah! F— you!,” she said. “I felt very empowered by that. I did.”

Image zoom Kiran Gandhi (center) and fellow runners Courtesy Kiran Gandhi

After the race, she took photos with her family and friends, wearing her period-stained running pants proudly.

Gandhi tells PEOPLE that she decided to run without a tampon to highlight the sentiment of period-shaming and the language surrounding women’s menstrual cycles. She wrote on her site that “on the marathon course, sexism can be beaten.”

Image zoom Kiran Gandhi Courtesy Kiran Gandhi

“If there’s one way to transcend oppression, it’s to run a marathon in whatever way you want,” she wrote. “Where the stigma of a woman’s period is irrelevant, and we can re-write the rules as we choose.”

Meet Kiran Gandhi, a Harvard MBA graduate, drummer and possibly one of the bravest women ever – as you’ll soon see.

Kiran ran the London Marathon this year and, like the other runners, wore the professional-looking gear, running shoes and a runner’s number. However, there was one thing she was missing – Kiran was on her period and she was not wearing a tampon or a sanitary towel.

RELATED: THIS IS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF A MAN HAD A PERIOD

Kiran decided to embrace her monthly bleed, take a few paracetamol to ease the cramps and run tampon-free.

Image: Kiran Gandhi

But, why?

Well, Kiran is fed up with the taboo surrounding women’s periods and how society tends to hide them and pretend they don’t exist.

She also wanted to raise awareness of women who don’t have access to sanitary products and promote being proud of her body, its functions and her feminist beliefs.

Image: Kiran Gandhi

RELATED: THE LONG AND INTERESTING HISTORY OF PERIODS

Kiran wrote a blog about her experience, opening with, ‘If there’s one person society can’t eff with, it’s a marathon runner. You can’t tell a marathoner to clean themselves up, or to prioritise the comfort of others.’

‘On the marathon course, I could choose whether or not I wanted to participate in this norm of shaming.’

Image: Kiran Gandhi

So how do we feel about this? Is it a liberating movement for women or is it just unnecessary? Let us know what you think @GHmagazine.

RELATED: 5 REASONS YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PERIOD

Kiran Gandhi is making headlines for an inspiring, empowering reason. She not only crossed the finish line at the London Marathon, but she also did it after making a bold choice: to run while on her period and to bleed freely. The 26-year-old, who recently got her MBA from Harvard Business School and toured with Grammy-nominated artist MIA as a drummer, got her period the night before the marathon, a day for which she had been training for a year. Imagining running 26.2 miles with “a wad of cotton material wedged between my legs” wasn’t sitting right with her — it “just seemed so absurd.” Kiran explains it all in a piece she wrote entitled “Going With the Flow: Blood and Sisterhood at the London Marathon.”

But then I thought . . . If there’s one person society can’t eff with, it’s a marathon runner. You can’t tell a marathoner to clean themselves up, or to prioritize the comfort of others. On the marathon course, I could choose whether or not I wanted to participate in this norm of shaming.

I decided to just take some midol, hope I wouldn’t cramp, bleed freely and just run. A marathon in itself is a centuries old symbolic act. Why not use it as a means to draw light to my sisters who don’t have access to tampons and, despite cramping and pain, hide it away like it doesn’t exist?

So that’s exactly what she did, and we couldn’t applaud her more for it. Kiran wants to use her widely circulated story to send a positive message to other women and to inspire a global conversation about the stigma surrounding women’s menstrual cycles, especially for women in other countries who don’t have the same access to materials as we do. Ahead, see photos from the marathon and read what Kiran has to say about the experience in her own words.

Woman Fights Period-Shaming by Running Marathon Without Tampon

Courtesy of People:

Kiran Gandhi, who has played drums for singer M.I.A. and Thievery Corporation, decided to run the London Marathon without a tampon. Gandhi let her blood flow freely to raise awareness about women who have no access to feminine products and to encourage women to not be embarrassed about their periods.

Source: Kiran Gandhi / Kiran Gandhi

“I ran the whole marathon with my period blood running down my legs,” the 26-year-old wrote of the April race on her website.

Gandhi, a Harvard Business School graduate, wrote that she got her period the night before the big race and thought that a tampon would be uncomfortable while she ran. But that isn’t the only reason she decided to let it flow.

“I ran with blood dripping down my legs for sisters who don’t have access to tampons and sisters who, despite cramping and pain, hide it away and pretend like it doesn’t exist.”

Source: Kiran Gandhi / Kiran Gandhi

She added: “I ran to say, it does exist, and we overcome it every day.”

Clad in all pink for breast cancer awareness, the 26-year-old finished the race in four hours, 49 minutes and 11 seconds. She toldCosmopolitan that she ran through the pain of cramps and the anxiety of the race (which she had spent a year preparing for) and felt empowered as she did so.

“I felt kind of like, Yeah! F— you!,” she said. “I felt very empowered by that. I did.”

Source: Kiran Gandhi / Kiran Gandhi

After the race, she took photos with her family and friends, wearing her period-stained running pants proudly.

Gandhi tells PEOPLE that she decided to run without a tampon to highlight the sentiment of period-shaming and the language surrounding women’s menstrual cycles. She wrote on her site that “on the marathon course, sexism can be beaten.”

“If there’s one way to transcend oppression, it’s to run a marathon in whatever way you want,” she wrote. “Where the stigma of a woman’s period is irrelevant, and we can re-write the rules as we choose.”

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