Monday, June 15, 2015

Sole Sisters Run - A Tale of Two Marathon Runners

Sunita Tummalapalli and Anuradha Raju Kalidindi are sole sisters - bound by their passion for marathon running. Since 2008 (when they started on the journey) both have completed 20 full marathons and 2 ultra-marathons (as on date of the book). Their runs include some of the toughest in the world. That they found a passion like marathon running when most recede from life (they are both 45) and reclaimed with it, a large part of life that could have otherwise just gone by, is admirable and inspirational.

The story begins circa 2008 when they went on a trek to the Everest base camp and watched the Everest base camp marathon runners. Inspired by the sight of the runners running in conditions when even trekking was difficult for them, they decided to run the flat lands of Hyderabad to start with.They started working on the 'Hal Higdon' schedules, led by Sunita who had been a Reebok Fitness Trainer earlier. Anuradha was a first time runner. The duo prepared enough and completed the Hyderabad half marathon in November 2008. Soon they were running full marathons - Auroville, Hyderabad, Pittsburgh, Athens, Everest base camp. In 2013 they ran 13 full and ultra marathons.

Marathon running amazes me. It's a mind thing. There are no shortcuts- every step must be completed physically. You can only prepare for it and steel your body and mind. Sunita ran the tough Kepler Challenge ultra of 60 kms in new Zealand. Anuradha did the Bangalore Ultra (50 kms). Severe physical constraints - dehydration, cramps, stomach upsets are part of their story - but they always completed what they set out to achieve.

The journey grew them. People they met on the journey - Anuradha mentions an old lady of 70 kms who effortlessly ran the Kaveri trail and finished the run a whole hour before her - a humbling experience for her. Surely many such moments that kept them in touch with themselves.

Sunita and Anuradha  received complete support from their families. Rao Tummalapalli, Sunita's husband, a successful entrepreneur, is a friend of mine and I know his son Nikhil as a good cricketer who could have gone on to achieve greater heights in the game if he wanted. Rao was kind enough to send me a copy of this book and it was fascinating reading. I met Sunita once briefly but would love to connect with her and get more insights into the mind of a marathon runner.

The Hyderabad Runners Group, which has been instrumental in converting and growing many tentative beginners into full fledged runners, has been another huge support for them. Hyderabad Runners is rated as one of the best groups in the country with over 2500 members. My friend Ramaraju  is a huge fan of the way the Runners group motivates complete novices into running marathons. How do they do it, he asks, when I cannot make a person do a simple job well.

The sole sisters say - of pain - that its only temporary; if you look beyond it you shall achieve your dream. Running has given them discipline, confidence and resilience. An identity. It makes them feel good. It makes them respect life.

Marathon running is absolute reality. One either does it or does not - you cannot theorise about it. It's a journey of the mind, as it pushes the body beyond that seemingly last ounce of strength and opens up possibilities that did not exist before. You know then, that beyond the known there is a treasure, beyond pain there is a high. The runners high is the physical manifestation of the person we never knew existed within us, of the excellence within us. Its available to us if we dare to push boundaries.

Sole Sisters Run captures the highlights of the running career, till date of publication, of these two marathon runners. It's an inspiring tale compiled and edited by Lakshmi Chowdhari. As I read the highlights and saw the pictures, I wondered at how much Sunita and Anuradha had achieved in a short span of time. There are bigger stories surely, and I hope they do pen their stories more in detail so that many more can benefit from following a passion. I liked the sign off line - If I can, you can too.

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