From A Small Town Girl To A Marathon Winner

I was born with asthma in Amritsar. During those days, coughing vigorously was a symptom associated only with the elderly people and hence I was given the tag of “dadimaa.” My parents tried their best to give me a normal childhood by making me partake in the same activities as my sister. However, things were not as good at school. While people reminisce over their school days, I have the worst school memories. Other parents would keep their kids away from me as they considered asthma to be a contagious disease. I was so conscious that I would go to the loo to use my inhaler.


I grew up to become a national level tennis player. This too was not easy because when my parents tried to enrol me for lawn tennis lessons, my coach asked me to stop playing since he thought that a person with asthma would not be able to cope with the other players due to the continuous coughing. My dad then took it upon himself to teach me the sport which then led me to play the national level tournament during my college life.


I then entered the corporate world of finance where I fell in love and got married. Although my husband knew I had asthma, he did not know the severity of it till we returned from our honeymoon and my condition became worse, thanks to the pollution and weather conditions of the city. He thought he was going to lose me! To help my husband overcome his fear of my condition, I decided to start running and adapt it as a way of building my stamina. Slowly and steadily, I started covering long distances with ease. Once my husband saw me running, he was stunned and he said that I had the potential to go really far!


That’s when I decided to give the 42km marathon a shot. I went prepared with all my asthma medication and I finished it in just 4 hours and 48 minutes. Ever since then I haven’t stopped running. In 2012, I ran a 1,500 km marathon in the span of 30 days and after that, I did not look back. I ran the ultra-marathons every alternate year.


I had let go of tennis due to low stamina and high expectations. Running just came naturally to me and I was allowed to be me. Thanks to my persistence and endurance, my stamina gradually built over time. But it was not a very rosy ride. The pollution at times made it horrible, making me aggressively cough and people avoided me because of that. This is when my inhaler became my best friend. I always ran with an inhaler in my pocket and used it whenever required. Sure, I used to get stared at a lot as it is still considered a taboo and some people even had doubts about me completing the race. But I crossed every finish line with my companion, my inhaler by my side.


For asthma, it is best to exercise as it makes your lungs stronger and I can really vouch for this. It is also essential to carry your inhaler with you at all times as you think you might not need it but you never know how or when your asthma will get aggravated. You will find an inhaler with me at all times. In fact, sometimes I carry two inhalers, one in my baby’s diaper bag and the other one in my pocket. Inhalers are essential and a person should always carry it when dealing with asthma.


So, from being a ‘small town Amritsar girl’ who was told to keep quiet about her asthma, I became someone who ran a 1,500 km marathon proudly with her inhaler. Along this journey, I developed my own sportswear line and even wrote a book - life has completely turned around for me. I guess my life has been all about running -first, away from my condition and now head on with it!


- Sumedha Mahajan

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