Sunmbul Rahman has completed all 6 global marathons, scaled Ladakh peak

Story by  Rita Farhat Mukand | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 27-06-2024
Sunmbul Rahman at Summit of Stok Kangri in Ladakh
Sunmbul Rahman at Summit of Stok Kangri in Ladakh


Rita Farhat Mukand

Sunmbul Rahman, 50, has become the only woman from Kolkata to have completed all six major marathons - London, New York, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and Tokyo - and also scaled Stok Kangri peace in Ladakh.

All this happened after Sunmbul lost her husband to cancer and she was left alone to face life and raise their two girls.  Despite these circumstances, she managed to discover her innate strength to run and scale mountains and by these qualities, she qualifies to be called the quintessential personification of it's never too late to start a phenomenon.

She is also a 10 K Pacer aiming for a 55-minute pace bus at Tata TSK 2022, a prestigious marathon launched by the Tata Group for women runners.

“The journey goes back to around ten years and the marathon did not start with a passion. I had a tragedy in my early life when I lost my husband to cancer in 2005.  Left with two little girls, I emerged in the process of grieving and in about 2010 realized I was rapidly gaining weight.  It was at this point that I decided to take up running, gym, and marathon running,’ Sunmbul Rahman says.

Sunmbul Rahman at the breathtaking Stok Kangri peak in Ladakh

She started enjoying running, especially marathons, and participated in national events. She lives her belief that it is never too late to start anything new. She narrates her story:

“I was very fond of hiking and climbing mountains. I had a sudden calling to the mountains.  I heard someone speak about the Everest Base Camp and it fascinated me. I did not even know what it was like to go to the mountains. I had zero knowledge, I heard somebody talking about it and told myself, Okay, I’m going to try it, and without really knowing what I was getting myself into, I looked it up and found the camp was at the base of Mount Everest.  A friend of mine informed me that they were going to Bhutan for a trek and asked me if I wanted to join, so I agreed and said, Yes, let’s go. 

“Unfortunately, I could not go due to a death in the family.  At the same time, I noted on Facebook that a group of ladies was going to Sandakphu, the highest point in Bengal, and I decided to try and join it.  This was in 2014, and on the trip, I stunned the guides with my fast pace of walking and aptitude for altitudes and they told me, “You know what, you’re flying! You are walking faster than anyone else, you are comfortable in the mountains and you belong to the mountains.”

Sunmbul Rahman flaunting her medals

“These words gave me a huge boost and I trained myself further and went to Everest Base Camps, and later on I looked at Lakadh’s Stok Kangri Mountain in the Stok Range of the Himalayas. It’s the highest point in Ladakh.  Climbing that mountain was extremely tough, but I managed it. It triggered my passion to climb mountains and I scaled three more mountains after that. Now, I am planning to climb a 7000-meter mountain; It's a big endeavor.

“I was trying to build myself up and become a strong person; I continued running keeping in mind that I want to climb mountains. I discovered that I was excelling in running and winning prizes like crazy.  While running in 2020, I won awards and qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon, and you only run by invitation. 

Sunmbul Rahman receiving the gold medal at Jaisalmer Border run

“Unfortunately, at that time, the COVID-19 pandemic swamped the world and when I did come out of COVID, I did not get a visa, so I had to wait for two years.  In 2024, I took it up again.  There are six major marathon races in the world, London, New York, Tokyo, Boston, Chicago, and Berlin.  The next two years got me competing with the six stars which I competed with Boston in April this year.  So, now I want to go back to my passion for mountains.”

Educated in Kolkata and Mumbai, Sunmbul’s journey began with her first half marathon in 2015, and she has since achieved podium finishes at events such as Tata TSK 25, NEB Sports Kolkata Marathon, Kolkata Police SDSL, Pinkathon, and SBI Green Marathon. Notably, she triumphed at the challenging Jaisalmer Border run, a grueling 50 Km race testing human endurance.

Sunmbul Rahman with runners up and second runners up after winning gold medal at the Tata 10K run

Sunmbul showcased her prowess at the Chicago Marathon and has since conquered the London, Berlin, and New York Marathons this year. Sunmbul aims to achieve the prestigious 6 Star WMM finisher status by 2025.

She boasts impressive personal bests: 10K @ 0:46:50, Half Marathon @ 01:44:12, Full Marathon @ 03:39:18.

A strong advocate for charity and philanthropy, Sunmbul combines her passion for running with social responsibility. She credits her running group, Kolkata Road Runners, for their unwavering support throughout her journey.

Sunmbul Rahman running the Tokyo Marathon

Beyond running, Sunmbul is a multifaceted individual. She balances motherhood, entrepreneurship in the Food and Beverage Industry, and passions like trekking and fitness.

Choosing to pace at Tata TSK to empower women, Sunmbul aims to inspire female marathoners in Kolkata, believing in the value of hard work and perseverance on the path to success.

Sunmbul as she embarks on the iconic Tata TSK route in Kolkata, a city rich in heritage and culture.

Sunmbul Rahman's Record of Abbot World Marathon Majors

Sunmbul shares that as they topped Stok Kangri the exhilaration she experienced as she looked over the plateau was surreal and she bowed her head in reverence to God, thanking Him for giving her so much, but also how He was supporting her and making her discover things she would have never imagined in her life.  She told God though He brought her through challenges, she could come out of it. 

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“I lost my dad at the age of seven, so even as growing up, I faced troubles and losses, so always the Almighty tests His own ones in His own ways but I have learned to never give up hope and from every low, I have learned to make the best of everything.”

Rita Farhat Mukand is an independent writer