A natural at sports, Indian Forest Service Officer (IFS), Dharminder Sharma tells Foreverfit about how he became a long distance runner, and the cause that’s inspired him to undertake the upcoming Chandigarh Freedom Ultrarun.

I was a born a sportsman, and the good sport facilities in my high school in Iran made me take sports seriously. As a schoolboy, I participated actively in sports, and won the gold medal in a 400 metre race, at the inter-school championships in Iran.

Many sports attract me

My sporting activities continued in college, at the forest academy and today, in my department too. All sports attract me: I have played cricket, basketball, badminton, table tennis, volleyball, kabaddi, athletics and golf for the teams of my institutions.

Foreverfit- Dharmendra Sharma Ultra-run

My first long distance run was a surprise

Though I’d played a lot of sports, I’d never attempted long distance running. But after I passed my written test for the Indian Forest Service, I had to complete a 25 km walk in 4 hours as the physical test. I finished it under 3 hours.

Then, I joined the IFS and went to Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration for a foundation course. Over there, I took part in an 11-km cross-country optional race and stood 5th out of 300 participating officers.

These two experiences gave me enough experience and confidence to run longer distances. In 2008, I was persuaded by friends to run the half marathon in Delhi, sealing my place in the world of long distance running.

Foreverfit- Dharmendra Sharma

A noble cause pushed me to run the first ultra

Last year on 3rd December, Stephan Van der Merwe, a friend and fellow runner from South Africa requested me to help him raise some funds. He wanted to help a kidney patient from South India. As we spread the word around, many friends from Chandigarh and Patiala Runners groups came forward to help in cash, kind or logistic support on the route.

Though I’d never undertaken a run longer than 42 km, the cause was noble enough to prompt me to run 75 km. Eventually, we had 11 runners and 20 cyclists supporting the cause. In fact, Stephan was able to generate over 1 lakh rupees through this run, a third of the total amount required.

Having tasted success, we decided to organise a similar event annually, on the first Saturday of December, for a new cause. Daudta Punjab (an initiative to organise quality runs in north India) is our major supporter, for the upcoming run.

Running to combat human trafficking this year 

This year 2nd December happens to be the International day for the abolition of slavery. So, the Chandigarh Freedom Ultrarun this year is dedicated to this cause. The fact is, that human trafficking is at an all-time high. We have more slaves now, than in any other time in history.

Believe it or not, 4.5 million people are victims of sexual exploitation. Most of them have been abducted or lured into this trade, as minors. Little girls and boys are abused in an inhumane way, and the problem has been ignored for too long.

Spreading awareness is the first step to combat human trafficking 

To increase awareness and support the cause, we seasoned and enthusiastic runners will embark on a 65 km ultra-run, from Patiala to Chandigarh. All proceeds raised through this campaign will go to Purnata, an organization committed to stopping trafficking and sex slavery. So, the funds raised will enable them to keep up their rescue and rehabilitation of victims.

You can support the cause in any way that suits you. Either you can ride your bicycle and support those who are running. Or, you may simply choose to donate here:  https://purnata.ketto.org/fundraiser/freedomultra