Excerpt from They INSpire

My tribute to a Runner
A runner is a common entity that signifies all of us irrespective of cast, creed, sex, height and weight, social or marital status. The 21 kilometres is not only a distance, it's a length of life; stories have been created on these stretches, histories have been written…

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Every runner-whether they inspire me - everyone has a story, everyone is on the road for a purpose. Some are there for their health, some for enjoying the sport, some to make friends, some to excel, some to reach the next level, some to look handsome or beautiful, some to sweat, some in anticipation to party in the evening, some to beat frustration, some to inspire and some to get inspired.

''As a breed, runners are a pretty gutsy bunch. We constantly push ourselves to discover limitations, then push past them.''Bart Yaso [legendary marathoner and writer -editor].

Most amateurs and hobby runners, when clothed won't be recognizable - we have an alternate, full-time profession and career. Yet, the commitment to excel, the commitment to beat ourselves is what defines a runner.

''It's very hard to understand in the beginning that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit.''-George Sheehan [physician, senior athlete and author best known for his writings about the sport of running -ed].

They say when you are a long distance runner, your competition is with yourself. Everyone has a race with one's own self. Runners love the 5 'S' of running: Stamina, speed, skill, strength and spirit. Although these five are important, spirit is the most crirical. There will always be people who said we couldn't do it, they said the road was too long, the journey too arduous, but they were wrong-we did it!

A runner makes sacrifices when he is at the peak of the training season or when he is preparing for a race. At times, runners sacrifice on the small goodies in life - like late-night movies or a birthday party. For him, the Sunday breaks up as early as 3:30 am; when the world is about to engulf in the soothing comfort of weariness, somewhere a runner wakes up. In the words of Christien Casady-''Through the ups and downs of running, I have found a new perspective in life. The suffering and success has made me a stronger, happier person.'' [Casady is  woman marathoner -ed]

''Training is doing your homework. It's not exciting though. More often than not, it's tedious. There is certainly no glory in it. But you stick with it overtime and incrementally, through no specific session, your body changes. Your mind becomes used to the effort. You stop thinking of 'running' as difficult or interesting or magical. It just becomes a part of what you do. It becomes a habit. It becomes a part of your life,''-Jeff Reynolds[ American college basketball coach -ed].

For a runner, the running fraternity is his or her extended family. He knows he is not going to represent the country in the Olympics yet he gives it his best like a champion; to him the medal that he wears after a race is no less than an Olympic medal.

2015 was a tough time for me in many aspects - my running and training were not happening the way I wanted, I was injured and was recovering from the same. Everyday my Facebook feed would pop up with running posts from friends across India and abroad. Around this time, I noticed how a few of my running friends who were veteran of so many events were nowhere to be seen on social media. I knew they had amazing stories and I wanted to bring them before the world. I penned my first short story about one of my close friends and it was well received. That gave me a lead and I started writing about such known and unknown gems of the running world. Every week I would write about one runner who had an inspiring story. The only criteria was that I should also personally know them. However, I was soon overwhelmed because there came a point when if my stories were not up, I would get calls and messages from friends enquiring about the same.

More and more readers started liking these write-ups and many aspects of the runners whom I featured came to light. Many people came back to me saying how they got motivated after reading these stories. Thus came the thought of compiling these stories, such that these compilations could motivate many runners and non-runners. My writing forte is humour and I mostly write on Facebook. Thus, to pen something serious was a challenge in itself. I would write a story and ask Mala to review it and if she felt things needed to be changed, I would change the same.

Though there are many, many such people who inspire me and I want to continue endlessly, I  had to cap on 42 stories (to go with the 42.195 kms of a full marathon). All of whom I have featured are friends and are also amazing individuals. I personally believe that every runner inspires me and so the 0.195 is my story.

I'd like to add a special tribute to all the women runners - I admire them, the sheer juggling around various key roles they lay in their life, yet squeezing time to run is commendable. Every female runner on the road inspires.

I have known many, many runners who have beaten their age and proved that age is just a number that life begins when you decide. You truly are the master of your destiny.

To me, every runner is special - you inspire, and when you run, you inspire a generation. Keep running and keep inspiring.

(See interview: Incredible people )