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Tummalapalli has fulfilled her dream of running the Everest Marathon.
Tummalapalli has fulfilled her dream of running the Everest Marathon.

Sunita Tummalapalli | Six on six so far

A running and adventure addict, the homemaker from Hyderabad is running a marathon a month this year

On the Run | Sunita Tummalapalli

Six down, six more to go. That’s Sunita Tummalapalli’s marathon calendar for this year. The 44-year-old homemaker from Hyderabad is half-way to fulfilling a dream that will push both her physical and mental endurance to its limits and beyond—12 marathons in 12 months.

The indefatigable mother of three was always drawn to adventure and fitness, but only began running marathons in 2008. From her first running event, the Hyderabad half marathon in 2008, till her latest, the 2013 Minneapolis Marathon, she has completed 14 full marathons and two ultra marathons. She shares her running story. Edited excerpts:

When and why did you get hooked to running?

It was 2008 and I was on a trek to the Everest Base Camp. At Namche, I stood next to the finish line of the Everest Marathon and was amazed by the fitness levels of the runners coming in. I couldn’t stop thinking about them for the rest of my trip.

We were huffing and puffing just to walk on the trails, while these people were finishing marathons. I was really inspired by those runners and wanted to run at least one half marathon in my lifetime. I prepared for the half marathon in Hyderabad and started enjoying the runs. Once I successfully completed the half marathon, the running bug bit me and now I can honestly say that I am addicted to running.

What do you like and dislike about running in Hyderabad?

I really like being part of a wonderful group, Hyderabad Runners. The support and encouragement I received and continue to receive from them has been a big part of my running. I also like the hilly roads and KBR Park in the city.

The roads and traffic conditions are not runner-friendly, as is perhaps true with many cities in this part of the world.

I run in the KBR Park regularly and I go on Whisper Valley road and Financial District road for hill training.

What is your favourite running gear?

Champion running clothes and Mizuno shoes.

What is your running soundtrack?

I listen to nature when I am on trails and mountains, and to Telugu movie songs when I am running on the road.

What is your pre-marathon training routine like?

In the initial days of marathon training, I was following the Hal Higdon programme (Hal Higdon is a marathon coach, runner and author of several books on running, including Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. His programmes are available for free at www.halhigdon.com). I also did some weight training and yoga at home, and did cycling as the cross-training part of the programme.

As I am running a marathon a month this year, I am unable to follow any standard training programme. Recently I incorporated swimming into my training programme.

What kind of diet do you follow on race days (pre-, during and post-race)?

I am not necessarily a calorie counter, but I try to maintain a balanced diet. I get my carbs mainly from wheat, vegetables and fruits, and the protein from chicken, eggs, pulses and curds. Recently, I added chia seeds to my diet. They are highly nutritious and contain lots of Omega-3 fatty acids.

On the day before a marathon, I like to have a heavy lunch with a lot of carbs and I might even eat some rice, and a light dinner.

I do not feel hungry after the race, so the post-race lunch ends up being a light meal. I follow this up with a protein-rich dinner. In fact I tend to take a lot of protein for the next day or two.

What is the most challenging race you have run?

My first ultra—the 2011 New Zealand’s ASICS Kepler Challenge, which is a 60km mountain run. I had followed my original inspiration and run the Everest marathon in 2011, but this one was even tougher. We ran on narrow, high ridges with stormy winds. There was nothing to hold on to or lean to for support. I still had it easy, some of the people coming after me faced such winds that they had to cross on all fours. After the run, I was told that I was the first person of Indian origin to complete the gruelling ultra in the 25 years of the event’s history.

What is the dream marathon that you would like to run?

The Everest Marathon has been my dream marathon and I was fortunate to complete that in 2011. I am yet to identify my new dream marathon.

On the Run is a monthly series that profiles India’s most enthusiastic marathon runners.

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