Chartered accountant J. Balasubramanian has drawn up a new balance sheet — 21 x 21 + 46

J. Balasubramanian and Angela Ivory are separated by thousands of miles. The distance between Tennesse and Chennai — where they live — is however bridged by a shared passion for running.

A veteran of over 300 marathons and ultra-marathons, 44-year-old Angela is battling cancer and, in her present condition, running two miles is equal to doing a marathon. Of all the good things that cancer treatment has robbed her of, it's her daily running that she misses the most. On January 8, 2012 — the day she turned 44 — she attempted the incredible. She celebrated her birthday by walking 44 miles.

Given her enervated body, running was out of the question. Near Angela's house was a community centre with a ‘paved, outdoor pathway', doing six loops of which accounts for two miles. She had to do 132 loops. After every two miles, she took a long break. She completed the marathon walk in around 16 hours. When she finished the last mile, runners and media persons from around the United States were thronging the community centre. Touched by a blog account of how Angela celebrated her 44th birthday, Balasubramanian decided to do a series of 21-km runs on 21 consecutive days that will culminate in a 46-km run on April 7, when he completes 46 years.

Bala (as he is known by running buddies at Chennai Runners) started what is called the “21 x 21 + 46” series on March 17 and he dedicates it to the steely-willed Angela. In an email communication, she has thanked him for the effort: “This is wonderful, Bala! I love the idea. Thank you so much. Good luck on your runs, stay strong and determined, and most of all, have fun.”

Angela's inspirational story is no doubt the prime mover behind Bala's initiative, but another exemplary runner has indirectly shaped its details. Bala was impressed by the intensive training 29-year-old Sundar Purush undertook for the 75-km ultra marathon at Bengaluru in November last. Says Bala, “Prior to the event, Sundar ran 21 km daily for three months. The effort paid off: he won the 75-km ultra at Bengaluru.”

Besides honouring Angela, Bala believes the “21 x 21 + 46” running series will help strengthen bonds with others runners — he chooses different routes and invites famous runners to join him. It's also aimed at helping new runners overcome mind barriers that prevent them from attempting runs longer than 10 km.

These runners need not look further than Bala for inspiration. In 1991, when he was only 25 years old, Bala underwent an open heart surgery for atrial septal defect (ASD). A busy chartered accountant now, he takes time out for major marathons.

In the last eight months, he has done runs, including Hyderabad, Kaveri Trail, Hyderabad Heritage, Bangalore Ultra, Singapore, Mumbai and Auroville marathons that complete a full season for a marathoner.

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