Sunil Sharma’s incredible story has its origins in the scenic mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh. The earliest memory of a race Sunil has is one from school, in which he ran a kilometre or two. The prize for the race was Rs 2.
This, till date, is one of the most memorable runs of his life. College saw Sunil win the silver in a cross-country race, in the year 2002. In 2012, Sunil started his ongoing affair with long-distance running.
While Sunil was pursuing his Masters Degree at the Punjab University in Chandigarh, he and a few friends ran an NGO, which provided blood free of cost to the needy. Apart from donating blood, the NGO also took care of treatment expenses of poor patients.
One such patient, a girl suffering from cancer, had the blood type A (negative). In order to organise blood for this girl, Sunil met all the students at the Punjab University. He observed that more than half the people weren’t aware of their own blood group, and 20% of the people were apprehensive when it came to donating blood.
Sunil wanted to prove that one can donate blood without any fears, even if one ran 40-50 kilometres a day. Combining his passion for running with his drive to help others, Sunil began to conceptualise events that centred around socially relevant causes.
Sunil started a Facebook page, titled “Run 4 Social Cause”. With this idea, Sunil has since organised and participated in several notable runs:-
The first initiative that he undertook in Chandigarh was the “Save Forest and Save Water” run, a 127-kilometre run that he competed in 13 hours and 55 minutes. Running from Sukhna Lake to Chandigarh Lake right up to Renuka Lake, on the 22nd of March 2015.
‘The Great India Run’. Participants had to run from Delhi to Mumbai, covering a distance of 1480 kilometres over the course of 19 days! Athletes from Denmark, South Africa and the U.S.A participated in this event, the objective of which was to provide funds to the Indian Athletics contingent bound for the Olympics – which they did.
Another landmark event that Sunil took part in was The Great Sirmour Run. The objective this time was to raise money for patients afflicted with kidney ailments Rs 3,46,000 was generated, out of which 10% went to the Red Cross. All the patients who this was done for, underwent successful kidney transplants. Sunil ran 150 kilometres in 14 hours. The first and second day, he ran 8 hours and 6 hours respectively. The event spanned two days, from 18th to 19th February 2017.
The Faridabad Bhatti Lake race, a 220 km run, India’s toughest. Out of all the participants, only two completed. The second place runner trailed behind Sunil by 10 km. This took place on the 6th, 7th and the 8th of October 2017.
This pure vegetarian runner used to be a district manager in a company in Chandigarh. He had to quit because, as a professional athlete, it is difficult to maintain a full-time job. Exercising for 21 hours, and sleeping for just 3 hours a day, leaves little time at all for anything else.
Naturally, the sacrifices made to attain this level of athleticism are many. Waking up at 3 a.m, Sunil does an hour of yoga from 4 a.m to 5 a.m, then runs 40 km or 50 km till around 9 a.m. Hours of stretching later, he’s in the gym or cycling or swimming. At 11 p.m, he returns home, at midnight, cooks dinner, eats and goes to sleep. This is his calendar every day, and he makes sure he donates blood four times a month.
So what does Sunil want from all of this? He always hopes to combine his love for running with his love for carrying out socially relevant initiatives. He wishes to run to promote peace and love, “Amman and Shanti”, as he says in his own words.
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The big dream, Sunil says, it to start running in China, carry on to India and end in Pakistan. Sunil also wishes to run from Gangotri to Kolkata, along the banks of the Ganges, in an attempt to save the rivers.
But above all, he hopes his example motivates people to donate blood regularly to save more lives. So take a cue from Sunil, and even if you can’t run 40 km daily, try donating blood at least once a month.