Sunil Sharma, 35, of Renuka area in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh has taken a track less travelled. He has clubbed his athletic abilities with social messages and has ultimately emerged a winner in both the fields.

Sharma, who turned to running to create awareness on social issues five years back, represents India in ‘ultra marathon’ events across the world, with ‘meaningful’ practice back home.

His upcoming competition is of tough Bad Water Marathon in United States in July month. Sharma’s past has been struggleful.

“There was a time, when we did not have money to deposit our fees for studies. I had to do with food sometimes, when I moved to Chandigarh. But look, now I am a brand ambassador for some companies, who take care of my finances for travel abroad,” Sharma shared with The Statesman.

He belongs to a remote Maina village in Renuka and his parents reared him and five other children, working as daily wagers.

The turning point came for Sharma at Panjab University (PU), where he was doing post-graduation. “As I was associated with blood donation, once I got a call during my exams in 2013 for A negative blood group for a 19-year-old girl. I left the exam and ran pillar to post on the campus, asking majority students about it. I was surprised, half of the students didn’t know their blood group and 30 per cent were fearful of donation. This made me switch to awareness work,” he said.

Sharma joined his athletic talent with a social cause and never looked back. His first marathon was in Chandigarh on 22 March, 2013, wherein he ran for 4-50 kilometres to motivate people for blood donation. He is himself a regular blood donor.

This followed a marathon of 127 km by him from Chandigarh to Renuka on ‘Save Water and Save Forests’, 250 km run from Chandigarh to Delhi to hammer ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ message and then 150 km charity run for kidney patients in Sirmaur.

“Every time I ran for a cause, the response was very good. Many people joined me on a way and we spread the message vast on social media too. Continuous running improved my capacity and I qualified for ultra marathon and started participating in national and international events-This satisfies my love for sports,” Sharma said.

“So much that I was one of the five contestants who completed the Great India Run of 1,480 kms from Delhi to Mumbai in 2016,” he added.

Sharma is happy with the recognition, but is still without a job. “My file for job by state government in sports category was turned down previously,” he said.