Sundeep Singh
Lead – Sustainability practice, Accenture Capability Network in India
August 20, 2019

I’m Running, Breathing and Innovating Sustainable Solutions

To say that I’m passionate about sustainability and clean air would be an understatement. I’ve dedicated my free time, my career—and even my feet to the cause.

When I realized just how bad the air pollution problem in India was, I knew something had to be done. Something truly unthinkable, yet extraordinary.

So, I run.

Mad is what my friends call me. Insane is what my family calls me. Committed is what I call myself.

I run to spread awareness about our right to breathe clear air. I run for the world to sit up and take notice. I run to make this world a better place for you and me. And through my work at Accenture, I create innovative, sustainable solutions to the biggest issues facing society.

I help companies achieve business and societal value by leading initiatives focused on reducing waste, water conservation, market sizing, business case development and sustainability strategy. The work I do each day powers my ambitions to make a difference even more.

100 days, 100 half marathons
It’s 1 a.m. on March 5, 2019. While the rest of the world around me is sleeping and some of my neighbors are returning home after their night shift, I am getting ready to do something for a cause I live, eat and breathe every day.

Wearing my favorite orange T-shirt, I set the timer in my smartwatch, adjust my headphones, take a deep breath and start. Over the next three hours and 21.1 kilometers, I traverse roads, sidewalks and highways. Passersby look at me in amazement and echo what my friends and family thought of me.

It started two years ago, when I was on my way to work and learned that schools in India’s National Capital Region were closed due to bad air quality—breathing was compared to smoking 20 cigarettes a day! As I picked up my nine-year-old son from school, I realized how grim the situation had become. Even worse, I suffered from acute bronchitis and had trouble breathing for the next five months.

Enough was enough. It was time to take action.

As an avid runner, (I’ve completed more than 75 half marathons over the past six years), I decided to take matters in my own hands. I started a campaign—#RightToBreathe, or #100HMsForACause. The initiative involved running 100 half marathons (HMs) in 100 days, which is about running 21.1 kilometers (or just over 13 miles) every day!

This was a powerful way for me to raise awareness about air pollution and its ills on our cities, our villages and our planet.

One team, one dream
The first 10 runs, one each day, started with a lot of excitement and euphoria. But the exhilaration began to wear off as days passed. By the 12th run, I had swollen feet, a sore body and a fatigued mind. Whether at work or home, I could doze off even while standing.

At this point, I started to doubt myself and my decision to take up this challenge. But there was no way I was going to quit. So, I ditched the shoes for a pair of flip-flops, ran the next HM and pushed myself to chase the 100 mark.

There was no turning back now.

On Day 40, I was off to Dublin for five days on a personal trip. New city. Same old goals. Running on the Dublin streets, I felt on top of my game, unperturbed about the obstacle ahead of me. After a long flight back to India, I had to make up for lost time. Without much rest, I decided to complete two half marathons the same day.

Mission accomplished, but it’s no surprise that I was in a lot pain and discomfort. I feared the possibility of irreversible injuries, something my parents warned me about. After proper rest, I was back on my feet, inching closer and closer to my target.

By the 70th day, I had garnered a lot of attention, so much so that people recognized me on the road, and my social media campaign also picked up momentum.

My colleagues were extremely supportive throughout this campaign. They even planted trees in my name for each HM I completed. I was grateful to my leaders for giving me the flexibility to take time off when I felt that I needed more rest.

Undeniably, we are one team, one dream at Accenture.

The final stretch
As I was nearing the finish line, I was off to Mumbai for five days to represent Accenture at the United Nations Global Compact Network India 14th National Convention. Despite spending all day at the event, where I launched our Accenture Strategy whitepaper on the role of technology in driving India’s transformation agenda and participated in a panel discussion, I stayed on track with my goal.

On June 12, 2019, I left the house just as excited as the first day of the run. I couldn’t believe it: 100 days, 100 HMs, done and dusted.

It was a tough road. For every 21 kilometers I ran, every drop of sweat that dripped from my body and every bone in my body that still aches, even if 21 people pledge to make a difference, then I will happily say that I went mad for the right reasons.

Do work that’s truly transforming the way the world works and lives. Find your next career opportunity with Accenture, today.

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