Meet the runner who went tampon-free during the London Marathon to make a point about menstruation
Running a marathon is tough enough as it is. Running a marathon on day one of your period? Most people would have to make the choice between a pad (scratchy and uncomfortable) and a tampon (how will you change it?), but one woman took stock of her body, the journey she’d been training for, and her comfort level, and decided to run the London Marathon tampon-free.
Though she’d originally written about her account on her personal blog, Kiran Gandhi republished her story on Medium’s The Absurdist and expanded her original post to include reasons why she wanted to help destigmatize menstruation. An all-around ladyboss, Gandhi recently completed her MBA at Harvard Business School, toured with badass world pop icon M.I.A. as her drummer, and works with non-profits to get more young girls into making music. (Full disclosure: She was also my boss for a summer at Interscope Records.) But when it came time to run the race she’d been training rigorously for, she realized that she was menstruating.
Now, while you and I would like to grab a heating pad, swallow some meds, and perhaps call off any strenuous physical activity for the next few days, most people don’t have that option. Gandhi could’ve called off her momentous race, but as she puts it in her piece:
To make things even more badass, she ran while raising money for breast cancer research. Can we get a “Hell yeah, lady!” cheer going?
Whatever your feelings on free bleeding are for yourself, the truth of the matter is that there’s still a lot of stigma and superstition around menstruation, despite the fact that it occurs regularly for most of half of the world population’s life. Yet as Gandhi points out repeatedly, nations like America and the UK battle over social and economic taxes on menstruation; meanwhile, only 12% of women in India (where Gandhi’s family is from) use pads and tampons at all.
Though several runners pointed out her bleeding to her, Gandhi describes the experience of—again—running a freaking marathon as overpowering everything else that was going on: “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.”
We couldn’t agree with her line of thinking more. And, by confronting peoples’ fear of publicly acknowledging and accepting menstruation and the reality of imperfect female bodies, Gandhi continues a line of work that’s been covered by contemporaries like poet Rupi Kaur and is part of a legacy of feminist self-expression as a means to fight the patriarchy. You rock, Kiran, and your courage in sharing your story, as well as the work you do empowering girls and women in the arts, helps lay down the feminist framework for generations to come.