This is an edited and rephrased version of a post by Bijay Nair on his Facebook Page.

She’s someone who took on her first half marathon to test whether she can complete 21 km. And she has come long way since then in terms of how much she has accomplished, with sheer passion and love for this sport. After the first time, running bug had bit Sunita Tummalapalli.

One can only imagine the dedication and practice needed to stand tall and accomplish everything that Sunita has. The 46-year-old veteran of 30 marathons including three ultra runs, is from Andhra Pradesh, but she’s run on seven continents – a rare feat even by the high standards set in competitive running.

They say the journey begins with small steps and Sunita is the living proof of that. I met Sunita in 2012 during the Hyderabad Marathon, when I was one of the Running Ambassadors. I would like to thank her for inspiring me and many others, and I’m sure many more will be inspired after reading her story.


How did you get into running?
It was 2008 and we were on our way to the Everest Base Camp. Coincidentally I was at the finish line of the Everest Base Camp Marathon at Namche Bazar. I was amazed by the runners’ fitness levels and couldn’t stop thinking about them for the rest of my trip. We were huffing and puffing just by walking on the trails, while the runners had just finished the marathon. I started running on the way back from the base camp and realized it was fun. I was really inspired by those runners and wanted to run at least one half marathon in my life. I prepared for the half marathon in Hyderabad and started enjoying the runs. Once I successfully completed the half marathon, the running bug had bit me and now I can honestly say that I am addicted to running.

I did a Bachelors in Home Sciences in Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. After marriage in 1988, I moved to the US and completed a Master’s Program in Nutrition at the West Virginia University. Then I moved back to India and became a Reebok Certified Fitness Trainer, and co-founded a fitness center. Currently, I am a homemaker with a big bucket list.

Tell us about your various runs
I have completed 30 full marathons, including three ultra-marathons and one multi-day race. Here goes the list:

• Auroville, India – 2010, 2011 and 2013
• Athens, Greece – 2010
• Cincinnati (OH), USA – 2011
• Hyderabad, India – 2011
• Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal – 2011
• Paris, France – 2012
• Sangla Valley, India – 2012
• Kaveri Trails, India – 2012
• Bangalore, India – 2012 (50 kms)
• Kepler, New Zealand – 2012 (60 kms)
• Mumbai, India – 2013
• Corbett National Park, India – 2013
• Chandigarh, India – 2013
• Minneapolis (MN), USA – 2013
• San Francisco (CA), USA – 2013
• Sangla Valley, India – 2013
• Ladakh, India – 2013
• Minocqua (WI), USA – 2013
• St. Charles (IL), USA – 2013
• Chicago (IL), USA – 2013
• Istanbul, Turkey – 2013
• Chennai, India – 2013
• London, UK – 2014
• Sandakphu, India – 2014 (112 kms in 4 days)
• Bangalore, India – 2014 (75 kms)
• Antarctica – 2015
• Lima, Peru – 2015
• Laikipia, Kenya – 2015


What is your weekly training routine?
I usually run 3-4 times a week. I go to the gym or go for a swim for cross-training. I do some strength training, but not as much as I am supposed to or at least as much as I would like to. I train in places such as KBR Park, Gachibowli Stadium, Necklace Road, Botanical Gardens, Movie Towers, ISB Road and Sanjeevani Park.

The Hyderabad Runners Club is also very active, club over 3,000 members across the city. So there are various training sessions and runs happening throughout the week. I try to join the group in the long runs.

Tell us about your running goals:
The races I have registered for in the next few months are:
• Chennai Trail Run 50k, 2015
• Bangalore Ultra 75k, 2015
• Nilgiris Ultra 100k, 2015
• Big Sur Marathon, 2016

My bucket list just keeps growing every time I meet runners at various runs. Since I ran on the South Pole and covered all seven continents I would like to go to North Pole next, to chalk off all the major spots of the Earth.

Running quotes and people who inspires me:
I am not sure who said these but, these are some of favorite quotes.

“Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.”

“Run with your heart when your legs are tired”

“Nothing can scare me. I run marathons”

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

All the runners, young and old, newbies and elites are an inspiration to me. I take something from each and every runner. There is always something new to learn.


Do you have any tips or advice for someone who wants to take up running?
Get a general medical examination done before you start running. Get a good pair of shoes. Start with run/walk strategy because you need to take short walk breaks for recovery. In fact, slowing down can actually build strength and endurance to benefit your running.

Editor’s note: As a practiced marathoner, Sunita’s words carry a lot of weight. And it’s this very philosophy that drives FirstRun.

It’s generally a good practice to focus on belly breathing from the beginning, and get your running posture right before you increase the distance or speed.

If you find motivation hard to come, join a running group. There are many benefits to running with a group. Make running a habit. Enjoy “your time”.

Keep pushing and come out of the comfort zone gradually. Please ensure you add a cross-training workout to your running.

Finally, set small and achievable goals. Break your aspirations down into daily, weekly, and monthly goals.

About the author
Bijay Nair is a 38-year-old former LtCdr in the Indian Navy, and now works for the National Classification Society of Shipping. He’s been running Marathons since 1999, and in the timed events since 2008 after leaving the Navy. He’s veteran of 40 half marathons, 5 marathons and a 12 hr Ultra run, having run all over the world. In 2012, for the project 121212 (to commemorate the unique 12/12/12 date, which incidentally was also his birthday) he ran 2012 km to support cancer patients at the TATA Memorial Hospital and collected Rs 1,21,212. He’s currently posting inspiration profiles on his Facebook wall with the hashtag #TheyInspire

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