A Running Story May 19, 2016 Many of you know that I am a runner and have often asked about my story of fighting asthma to run marathons. This is the story. I inherited Asthma from my father who passed away when I was seven. Growing up, I always dreaded catching a cold because it would almost always lead to wheezing which would mean gulping down tablets of Deryphillin , Bactrim and Paracetamol. In extreme cases, mom would administer Deryphillin injections till the wheezing stopped. Going to the hospital or doctor was out of the question because of lack of money. A wheezing attack would keep me grounded for a few days and it would often take a week to fully recover. I would not be able to walk even a few meters to the washroom. Any type of normal physical activity was out. And the chest pain only made things worse. This also meant I had to skip school which dented my self-confidence. The inferiority complex associated with asthma struggles made me question: "What am I worth? Will I ever be able to lead a normal life like everyone?” So, I stayed safe by sticking to textbooks, aiming for the top 5 ranks and never venturing into sports. Meanwhile, my fragile health remained a constant source of worry. On graduating from college, I surprised myself by taking up an adventurous job on the oil rigs and platforms as an Oilfield engineer even though outdoor work wasn't a good thing for me. But, this decision was more because of the fire in my belly to break out of poverty and lead a normal life than anything else. “Why didn’t you use an inhaler?” you might ask. Growing up in poverty, it was quite difficult to buy inhalers (cost Rs 100 per inhaler). Tablets and injections being free, we stuck to them as safe options. Besides, we were pretty ignorant about alternate forms of medicine. Not a good idea. Inhalers are better because they send the medicine directly to the lungs unlike tablets or injections that mix the medicine in the bloodstream. I went to BITS for Engineering and my asthma only got worse in the pollen ridden, cold weather of Rajasthan. This meant I had to take care of myself since mom was thousands of kilometers away in Chennai. I got even more careful and avoided risks. It took many years for me to discover the magic of an asthma inhaler m. I never ventured into exercise or running because of the fear of asthma until 2009. In 2009, when I got back to India and had free time before joining the TFI fellowship, I took to running and cycling. But, I struggled so much that I almost gave up due to fear. After a few months of slow jogging, I was gaining confidence when disaster stuck in the form of Chigungunya fever. It crippled my joints and kept me bed-ridden for a month. By this time, I had been running/speed walking a few km's and was determined to run the Mumbai Half marathon. So, despite the health problems, I went to Mumbai and finished the half marathon in great pain (I finished 4 bottles of Zandu Balm during this run!). I felt a great sense of self-confidence the first time in my life when I saw that finish line. Later when I moved to Mumbai, I tried but struggled to run. The real motivation to run eventually came through my students. I saw running as a way to raise funds for my Dharavi classroom and I signed up for a full marathon (January 2011). I would run late nights after coming back from school. I noticed that my lung capacity was consistently improving. I also wasn't reaching for my inhaler as often as earlier. Thinking about the finish line and the funds I could raise for my classroom made me forget the pain and agony of training for a marathon. For many months, I would come back home from school, plan for the next day’s teaching and set out to run post 10 pm. Gradually, running helped me overcome depression, low self-esteem, and poor lung capacity. It helped me in countless ways — most importantly, to see life, the world, and the people in my life positively. Since 2011, I have completed 25+ full marathons, including a 200 km Ultramarathon in Kerala in 2012. I still carry an inhaler but rarely need to use it because these runs have helped me manage breathing. My lungs are much stronger now and the asthma beast is under control for the last five years. I still struggle with running training and have to put in regular runs to make it to the finish line of a half-marathon or a full marathon. I owe a lot to running — good health, better lungs, controlling asthma but most importantly — optimism and love for life. A Chennai-based long-distance runner and cyclist, Srini has completed 25+ full marathons and 27+ half marathons including one 200K Ultra-marathon in Kerala. Srini often runs marathons and does long distance cycle rides to raise funds for the causes he supports. You can follow him on Instagram.