Give the rise and fall of the idea in a short span of time, it is difficult to predict a future for running barefoot or in minimalist footwear. Then,barefoot running was never a discovery and certainly not an innovation. It was happening always and it would continue to happen. However, the question is more about its relevance. While barefoot running may not be a fad anymore, there are still some reasons on why runners will and should consider running barefoot.
Increasing cost of shoes
Top among them is the increasing cost of shoes. Today, an average running shoe costs in the region of Rs. 10,000 (~US$120) and lasts no more than 500-800 Kilometres. Vishwanathan Jayaraman, a barefoot runner since 2012, said in an interview,
“The biggest cost for a runner is his shoes. I actually calculated, it works up to around ₹10/ km — more expensive than taking a cab.”
When a friend of mine questioned a shoe salesman about the expensive prices, he replied, “You are paying for the technology.” Then, running is a simple sport and the beauty of it is in the simplicity of it. Does it need such technology that creates inequality?. While minimalist footwear don’t come cheap either, they are certainly bound to last longer than the conventional shoes. You can wear it till the soles get worn out completely and possibly, even after that. Also, there is very little talk of “technology” giving rise to new versions and additional costs.
The other dimension to the cost factor is the rising inequality among shoes. Recent innovation by Nike has resulted in break-through performances in long distance running with most of the world records shattered. While most of the shoe makers will catch up with Nike, it still leaves a large section of runners behind. These shoes cost a lot more than other shoes (with possibly less life) and makes running an expensive sport. Prof. Ross Tucker has written extensively on this topic and the ethical implications for allowing such footwear.
While the issue affects the professional athletes more than amateurs, it is bound to have some trickling down effect like the costs spread across all the varieties of shoes and increase in their prices.
Impact on Environment
The impact of shoes on environment will certainly make a compelling argument to avoid it. In her book, Foot Work: What Your Shoes Are Doing to the World, Tancy E Hoskins provided some alarming details about the environmental impact of shoes.
Most branded footwear recommends change of shoes as over-using the shoes leads to injuries. Hence, discarded running shoes have very little purpose outside running.
The final and the most compelling, yet not quantifiable, reason to go barefoot is the sheer simplicity of it. People love running because it is a simple activity to pursue and everyone runs to their ability. Running barefoot appeals when looked from that point of view. For frequent travellers, it is a pair of shoes less in their luggage. Innovations in shoes may not appeal beyond certain level. It will start make people question about the complexity of running shoes and the need to pay for them.
While barefoot running may not become a fad again, it is certainly going to be in vogue regardless of the innovations in shoes.
A question that led Christopher McDougall to a life changing exploration that was later documented in the all-time classic book ‘Born to Run’. A foreign correspondent by training, Chris covered wars in Rwanda and Angola, and was also an amateur or recreational runner. When his foot hurt, he was either advised to stop running or take painkillers. Not satisfied with the rudimentary responses, Chris tried to get to the depth of the problem. When he viewed his personal problem as a crisis for the society, it led him to discover the complex world of human physiology behind the simple act of running.
Reading the book resembles a typical long run – No body knows what they are getting into, taking one step at a time, experiencing moments of pleasure and confusion, and finally, a finish that is relished later than when it happens. The book starts like a travelogue, where Chris takes the reader to the Copper Canyons of Mexico, the drug cartels, and his discovery of the Tarahumaras. His meeting with Caballo Blanco in Mexico prompts him to chronicle the history of Ultra Running in USA – the weird and crazy ultra marathons, participation of Tarahumaras in these marathons, the troubles with sponsorship and some excellent biographical sketches of runners. In the process, he analyses the impact of shoe industry in long distance running and the innovations to these shoes over the last few decades. It is here, he delves into the art of barefoot running and tries to understand it through scientific research on human physiology. The final part of the book is an absorbing report on ‘the greatest race the world has never seen’. It is difficult to classify the book as a serious read or a casual read – and still lovely read either way. The reason, the book is still relevant, a decade after first edition, is because Chris attempts to shift the way we think about the importance of running shoes. The enduring legacy of the book has been the debate it triggered between running with shoes and running barefoot.
Barefoot running does not require anyone to discover it, as by default, everyone started running before learning to put on shoes. Human beings have been running for time immemorial and footwear, especially running shoes, came much later. Even as recent as 1960 Olympics, the winner of the marathon event, Abebe Bikila, ran barefoot (He later won the 1964 Olympics wearing shoes).
The growth of shoe industry coincided with the growth in recreational running as well as growth in consumerism in the 1960s and 1970s. Due to various reasons, including aggressive marketing campaigns, shoes soon became an integral part of long distance running.
Chris found this development troublesome and he presents the alternative – Barefoot running. He presents passionate arguments for barefoot running through a mix of personal anecdotes of many runners and scientific research. While he brings in a certain degree of dogmatism to his conclusion, the views, insights, and research work by various people adds credibility to the book.
He looks up to Dr. Joe Vigil, holder of two masters degree and a PhD, a renowned coach at various levels including the US Olympic team and a critic of the impact of shoe industry on running. Dr. Vigil is a purist in his thoughts and he believes that running has to be aligned with nature. He feels that the American approach to running in the recent years have become too artificial.
While not a direct proponent of barefoot running, Dr. Vigil was keen on finding one Natural Born Runner – ‘someone who ran for sheer joy, like an artist in the grip of inspiration- and steady how he or she trained, lived, and thought.’
Also featured in the book is Dr. Daniel Liberman, Professor of Evolutionary biology at Harvard University and an author of many popular science books like Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest and Health. His extensive research on the biomechanics of endurance running can be found on his website, an encyclopedia for anyone who wish to understand the subject scientifically.
Dr. Liberman is a passionate advocate of running as a life style. Regarding injuries, he believes
“A lot of foot and knee injuries that are currently plaguing us are actually caused by people running with shoes that actually make our feet weak, cause us to over-pronate, give us knee problems. Until 1972, when the modern athletic shoe was invented by Nike, people ran in very thin-folded shoes, had strong feet and had much lower incidence of knee injuries.”
His research convinces him that humans were designed for running without shoes and it is natural instinct for everyone to be able to run without shoes.
Apart from the views of experts, it is the stories of runners who run barefoot that makes the book an absorbing read. He starts with the Tarahumara runners, whom he romanticises – from their running to their quality lifestyle. Then, there is the fascinating story of Caballo Blanco, an American who settled in the Coupon Canyons to live and run with the Tarahumaras. Other runners include ‘Barefoot’ Ted, who went on to make one of the successful minimalistic footwear.
In the two years following the release of the book, the frenzies over barefoot running reached its zenith. In 2011, Chris claimed that the ‘bare-foot’ styled shoes (I use one of them) was a $1.7 billion industry in his article for the New York Times titled ‘The Once and Future Way to Run” attracted attention from even those who have never run.
In summary, Chris presents three key hypothesis:
We are born to run, and our legs are designed to run. Hence, we don’t need external support in form of shoes.
Shoes, especially the badly fitted ones, are the major cause of injuries.
Runners can run faster and longer without shoes than with shoes.
Reviewing it ten years after it was first published can mask many of the euphoria or the excitement that the book brought during the initial days. It was certainly the start of what I would call as the ‘Barefoot Running’ movement. While the subsequent events took some sheen out of the arguments presented by Chris, his basic premise is still relevant and valid. One can agree or disagree with the contents of the book, but cannot avoid the book in entirety.
Running, as a fitness activity, can get boring after some time. The expected benefits plateaus and runners are often on the look for new areas to motivate themselves. Those who take up running to lose weight would not be able to lose beyond a point; the quest for speed stops when one cannot run any faster. Some of them gravitate towards other fitness routines like cycling, gym, Yoga, or Zumba to do something new. Such changes also brings with itself other challenges like a new equipments, clothing, shoes, and in worst cases, new injuries and pains too. Then, there are other ways to make running more interesting.
1. Run with friends/family
Take time out to run with your friends or family members who are taking up running for the first time. In the process of motivating them to run, you would be invariably motivating yourself to run more and better. While appreciating their efforts to take up running, it would be a reminder to you on how far you have come from the time you started running. Such initiatives build better relationships and brings good health to everyone.
2. Be a pacer at running event
A Pacer is an experienced runner who runs a race within a defined time to guide other runners to finish before the time. For instance, in a 10 Km race, a 1-hour pacer would finish before the 1 hour mark (usually a few seconds before). Those running with him/her are assured of running the race within the specified time. To become a pacer, a runner choses a pace slower than their comfortable running pace. By pacing in an event, the runner foregoes their personal aspirations and helps others to achieve theirs. It is an altruistic activity and widely appreciated by fellow runners. My recent experience of pacing at Mumbai Marathon got me unprecedented amounts of appreciation that was worth more than all my medals. Training to run at a pace slower than usual is an experience in itself and at times, it feels like learning to run yet again.
3. Run for a cause
Apart from running events that are organised for raising funds for specific causes, like the Coimbatore Marathon for cancer awareness, runners can raise money by running marathons for a cause that they are passionate about. Major running events have exclusive registrations for runners opting to raise funds for registered charities that promote their cause. Runners participating in New York Marathon through Charity route raised over $40 million in 2018 for various charities. When running for a cause, training for a marathon takes a different dimension for the runner. It is no more about his/her personal achievement. In every conversation about the marathon with friends and families, the Cause takes the centre-stage. Every donation brings additional motivation to see the distance through. Finishing the event is no more a personal achievement but a step towards a social cause. Although at a nascent stage in India, runners participating in the recent Chennai Marathon raised over Rs. 27 lakhs for the restoration of lakes in Chennai.
4. Volunteer for an event
Volunteers are the back-bone for organising any marathons. It is practically impossible to organise an event of such huge magnitude without the support of volunteers. While the tasks handled by volunteers may look mundane at individual level, they are colossal as collective. Be it cheering for the runners, helping them with water, controlling traffic, or just guiding them through the finish areas, they provide extraordinary support to the event. The heartfelt thanks extended by runners creates a great sense of self-satisfaction for every volunteer. Volunteering does take significant amount of energy and sometimes, more tiring than running in the event. There is nothing more motivating than watching people run and it will make us fall in love with running again. As Katherine Switzer once wrote,
“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
5. Talk/write about running
By writing and talking about running, one becomes an evangelist for running and it brings commitment and respect in equal measure. The medium of broadcast is much wider and accessible, thanks to the Internet, and there is a place for everyone to express their thoughts in a manner that suits their audience. By sharing your views and ideas, you have an opportunity to hear from others and improve upon it. It helps you to explore many unknown facets about running and the positive changes that it brings to the lives of many. Every runner has a story that is wanting to be told. Over the years, the stories of my fellow runners have inspired me to do more in running.
For many runners, running starts as a fitness activity and has ended up as a way of life. It has enriched their lives by improving not only in their physical well being but also their mental well being. There is a lot that one can do by just simply putting one foot after another and moving forward.
An edited version of the article appeared in The Hindu – Metro Plus Coimbatore Edition. https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/things-you-can-do-if-you-are-a-runner/article30769698.ece
Back in 2011, Rajesh Vetcha offered me the first opportunity to be a pacer in that year’s Hyderabad Marathon, when such concept was hardly heard about. A pacer is someone who runs to finish in a pre-designated finish time at a steady pace to help other runners finish within the same time. They also share how they intend to accomplish the task, be it their split timings for different laps, or aid-station breaks. It was a new experience for both me and Karthik Padmanabhan, and somehow, we managed to finish the run 2 minutes under our designated time of 5 hours. We were largely guided by our experience of running a marathon under 5 hours a few months back in the Shahid’s Ultra. The next experience of pacing was at Hyderabad in 2015, and this time, it was the 5:30 bus. The plan was more like not to plan and I went by few simple pointers as laid out in my blog. The third experience of pacing was at yet again in Hyderabad in 2018. I had to pace the 5:00 bus and the plan was simply to cover 9.5K, 9K, 8.5K, 8K, and the rest over the 5 hours.
In early November, Shiv presented me with an opportunity to pace for the 5:45 bus at the Mumbai Marathon. I had long decided not to run Mumbai Marathon again as explained in my blog post (it garnered the highest viewership among my blogs). However, it was difficult to say ‘No’ to Shiv, as he has been a pacer for events at my request in the past. The course being a flat one with minimal complications, it did not require me to know the route well (run it 5 times in the past). One of my aversion to Mumbai was that the event is an out-and-out commercial one and altruistic concepts like pacing is certainly alien to them. With plenty of commercial interests at stake, the joining formalities was certainly complicated.
To start with, a profile picture with conditions more stringent than the one required for visa purposes. Thanks to Dr. Gautham, I could get it done at zero budget. Some additional complications like not sporting brands other than the ‘official ones’, restrictions on communication, and so on – didn’t matter much given that I don’t have any commercial interests in running. The real shocker was when I was told to register for the event paying a hefty fee of Rs. 2,300! Most events in South India offer free entry to pacers as a token of appreciation, as they sacrifice their personal quests for a greater cause. By then, I had booked by flight tickets and hotel room, and financial stakes of cancelling were high. I had no choice but to pay and register for what I would call as the “Most Expensive” city marathon in India. Over the next two months, I worked on my plan to ensure that I do a decent job for the sake of runners trusting me on the run. If not for the organisers, this one was for the runners.
Most events prefer runners from that city for pacing as they would be familiar about the weather, route, elevation, key intersections etc., Such varations would normally be factored in their timing splits for the event. Finishing at 5:45 had only two challenges – the elevation was at the Peddar road flyover, which lasts for less than 2 Km, and the run at Marine Drive towards the end between 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM, for which splits have to be adjusted. I prepared a fairly straight forward plan, starting my runs at 7 minutes 40 seconds per Km in the beginning and gradually tapering down to 8 minutes 30 seconds towards the end. As suggested, I added a minute in the first half and another in the second half for bio-breaks. I wasn’t sure of the aid stations and felt I could adjust in the time provided. I only wish I factored some time for taking pictures at the Sea Link Bridge and with spectators at Peddar road.
One of the the best ways to run long distances is to mix walking with running, popularised by Jeff Galloway, as the ‘Run-Walk-Run’ method. We resort to walk breaks at some point over the 42.195 kms to ease the tiredness. In this method, the walk breaks are taken up at fixed intervals from the beginning, like running for few minutes and following it with a minute of walk. The average pace required for a 5:45 finish was about 8 minutes and 11 seconds – I split it into 2 cycles of 4 minutes each with 3 minutes of running and 1 minute of walk. The walk breaks were helpful in pacing the run to its perfection. It also helps runners to take a sip of water or grab something to eat at the aid stations (well, there wasn’t much to eat in Mumbai marathon!).
Training in the pace
Typically, a pacer chooses a time much slower than his/her comfortable running pace. On the face of it, it does look easier to start the run in such slow pace. The challenge, however, is to sustain the pace over the long hours and the distance. The physical and mental fatigue can kick at any time and it requires some composure to finish the run in designated pace. If not trained, pacers end up running faster initially and slow down towards the end; Or worse, they start so slow and have to catch up towards the end by running faster. Both strategies may help them finish on time, but it does not help others to follow them. The training runs are oriented to develop the rythm at slower speed and sustain them. While I was fairly confident of my ability to withstand 6 hours on the sun, I wanted to make sure that I am well trained to run in the desired pace. During the 2 months leading to the event, I made sure that all my runs follow the 3:1 run-walk method and gradually reduced the speed in the process. My last training run of 24K, a week before the event, boosted my confidence to do so (splits above).
Start and Finish Time
Every event provides a runner with two finish times – Gun time and Chip time. Gun time refers to the time from start of the event (shot of a gun) to the runner crossing the finish line. Chip time refers to the time from the runner crossing the start line and the finish line. While Chip time matters the most for runners, as it is the time taken by them to cover the distance, Gun time is considered as the ‘Official Time’ as per Rule 165.7 of The IAAF Competition Rules 2018-19. Pacing Bus must be always be based on the Gun Time. If corrals are used for staggered start, pacing must be based on the start time of the respective corrals, the pacers are assigned to. Take the example of Berlin Marathon 2019,
The 3:00 pace bus in wave 1 will finish at 12:15 PM and in wave 2 will finish at 12:25 PM. By following the wave start time, they ensure that the runners joining those buses in respective corrals finish under 3 hours. However, if someone starts in wave 1 and joins the 3:00 pace bus in wave 2, they will not be able to finish under 3 hours. In Mumbai marathon, while pacers were assigned different corrals based on the finishing time, they did not have seperate start time for different corrals. Corrals were started as the crowds were cleared. We were asked to follow our chip time and runners starting ahead of us could not make best use of the pace buses, when joined at later stage, as they were not sure of our start time.
Event distance or GPS Distance
One of the critical gadget for pacers is the GPS watches that measures time and distance. It helps them to monitor the pace during the run and the time elapsed. Most running events do not rely upon GPS devices for route measurement. They go by Calibrated Bicycle Method – in simple terms, distance measured by bicycle odometer with correct tyre pressure. For more, you can refer to this document. The differences between GPS devices and the race distance starts getting bigger as the distance increases. To avoid this, it would be best to use ‘manual laps’ in the watches. At the end of every 2 Km (by Km marker boards), the next lap should be started and the distance and pace is monitored for that lap, instead of cumulative time and distance. In Mumbai, the maximum difference between the laps was only about 60m, whereas the aggregate difference over the marathon was 360m.
Organisers of Mumbai Marathon provided runners with pacing bands that contain the timing splits for every 2K. Pacers were provided with a pacing flag and a bag to hold it. Kudos to the organisers for the excellent work on those. This helped the runners to identify us easily on the run and the pace bands were handy to follow us on the run.
Race Day Experience
The race day did not have many surprises in store. It was easy to execute the plan and I cleared each lap close to the designated time. The bus was packed with runners from the start to the finish, albeit not the same ones. Many runners appreciated the run-walk method as it helped them to clear the distance with ease. Here’s the analysis of my run through numbers.
There were some mistakes that the above data masks:
1. Lack of planning for water stations – I somehow managed to fill the bottle on the move. While it is not possible to drink as per schedule, it will be good to fill the bottles as per schedule.
2. Photographs en route – Apart from the exhorbitantly priced official pictures, there is a chance to take some wonderful pictures at the Sea Link Bridge or with the crowd at Peddar road. I could find some time at Sea Link Bridge, thanks to the time gained in previous 3 laps.
3. Peddar Road – The only elevation in the entire route was that of Peddar road, appearing twice on the route. While it was fairly easy to ascend on the onward route, it gets a bit difficult on the return as it appears between 34-36Km. The minute saved by not using the time allotted for bio break helped us to be on track.
It was certainly an overwhelming feeling when many runners approached me at the finish line to express their gratitude. More than the medal and the joy of finishing a marathon, the kind words from runners made my run very special and emotional. I must also thank my co-pacer Subramanian a.k.a. Rajesh for the wonderful support throughout. He managed the WhatsApp group, motivated the runners regularly, took care of interaction with runners at expo (which I had to miss), and supported excellently on the run.
Personal bests in running events is not all about finishng faster. It is also about planning for a run and executing it as per the plan. What more, when your run can help others to finish well, it is certainly the best that one can have.
On January 29, 2017, I take up my next big challenge in long distance running – Running 70K in the Queen of the Hills, Ooty as a part of The Nilgiris Ultra, and this time, it is with a difference. I would like to use this opportunity to raise funds for Thulir – A Centre for Learning, with whom I have been associated for over 7 years now in different capacities.
You give but little when you give of your possessions.It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. – Kahlil Gibran, Prophet
There are many reasons for one to take up running and running for a cause surely transcends all. Once you choose to run for a cause, it is no more about your personal glory or timing or competition, it is the cause that motivates you to see the finish. My good friend and Team Asha Runner, Ashwin Prabhu writes in The Hindu during the run up to 2014 Chennai Marathon,
Research has shown that when a person is willing to challenge his own boundaries and push himself over and beyond a perceived physical capability threshold, all for a cause he believes in, society at large opens both its wallet and heart. Every one of us can find a way to run and support a worthy cause. Crossing the finish line knowing that you have done something to benefit someone in need, while at the same time achieving a personal milestone, makes distance running a uniquely gratifying experience.
My own initiation into running for a cause started with my acquaintance with ASHA for Education in 2008. It brought me closer to friends who were deeply involved in running as well as education for underprivileged. One such lasting relationship was with Thulir at Sittlingi Village.
Thulir – A Centre for Learning at Sittlingi Village
Thulir was started in 2004 as an Education Resource Center for children and young adults at Sittilingi, a tribal village in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. Over the years, it has offered multiple programs for ever changing educational needs of the people living in the village. It was initially established as a centre for alternative education for school drop-outs and after-school program for regular school going children. In the last 12 years Thulir has catered to the educational needs of around 500 adivasi children and around 75 adolescents.
Over the years, the need of the community has moved towards a formal school set-up, in line with the prevailing education systems elsewhere. Given Thulir’s good track record and the lack of other good quality education systems in the valley, the community had requested Thulir to help start a school. Presently, there are about 35 children in the age group of 3-6 studying in Thulir. To be established as a formal school, it needs a full fledged building which is presently being constructed.
ASHA is a completely volunteer driven group where individuals put in time (without compensation) to support initiatives that help the underprivileged, with primary focus on education, though are not limited to it. Asha ensures that 100% of donations go to support projects. It is a completely decentralised organisation and major decisions are taken at the chapter lever, with guidelines framed at central level. I have been associated with the Bangalore Chapter for over 7 years now. Currently, we support 6 Projects in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Running marathons and fund-raising through marathon have been a routine feature among our volunteers, in USA as well as India.
Apart from raising and disbursing funds, we also monitor the activities funded by us. Each of the projects have a ‘Steward,’ who voluntarily spends time with the projects and reports regularly on the activities of the Project. I am currently holding the Stewardship for Thulir and take the responsibility for the disbursal and utilisation of funds. My interaction (as well as the previous stewards) with the project, the annual disbursement of grants and the utilisation reports can be found here – http://new.ashanet.org/project/?pid=967
Thulir is currently in the process of transforming itself into a full fledged regular school. A new campus is being developed in accordance with the regulations laid down by the Tamil Nadu Government. The first phase of the project needs to be completed before June 2017 to help the school obtain recognition from the Government. For more details, please check the report here.
These donations are tax-deductable in the US under 501(c). You will receive an e-receipt of your donation immediately after the transaction. A printout of the e-receipt is sufficient for tax purposes.
While donating through the portal, please ensure that you select ‘Thulir School’ for “Use my donation for:’ and ‘Bangalore’ under ‘My donation is for.’ Also mention under comment “Runner – Balaji”
If you are living and earning in India, you can donate either through NEFT or send in your cheques. These donations are tax-deductible in India under Sec. 80(g) of the Income Tax Act.
And when old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.
– Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
Starting a New Year is more a symbolic gesture than of any substance other than the new calendars, diaries and the routine mistakes while entering the dates manually. The only “new” thing that I remember doing for a New Year has been starting a diary of activities back in 2005 (technically in end-2004 but I choose to ignore it to ensure a better narrative). I decided to maintain a simple spreadsheet where I would enter a one word description of the physical activity that I engaged during the day. My activities were then classified into four categories – running (any distance), cycling, walking (only early morning walks considered) or sports (I used to play football on some mornings; later replaced by others).
As the number of data points increased, so was my ability to make statistical analysis, prepare colourful charts, make spectacular pointless inferences (fallout of my job as quantitative analyst) and at times, use it to motivate myself. A small sample is provided below:
I had repeatedly resisted myself from any other quantitative obsessions for a long, be it distance (except cycling), running speed, Personal Best timings, heart rate, cadence and what not! As it is said, nothing is permanent except change. I have finally chosen to get myself a Garmin 902XT and a Heart Rate Monitor and step into the world of quantitative analysis of my running and cycling.
What more, I have chosen to get into the world of Strava – https://www.strava.com/athletes/balaji and track my activities in-depth.
As far as the new year goes, I hope to be more regular with my running with or without these gadgets and statistics. My personal target for the year is fairly simple – achieve either or all of the three objectives below (in the same order):
200 days of running
300 days of active morning life – cycling, walk, yoga or run!
2,000 Kilometers of running
As far as participation in running/cycling events goes, I always feel it is best to take it as it comes in my way. The first event for the year is the The Windchasers Ooty Ultra on January 29.
It’s been a while since I blogged and the same must apply to my running too. A quiet year of running was finally broken by my participation (for the 5th time) in the Hyderabad Marathon in August. Participating in the fifth time was as memorable as the first time and offered some interesting experiences and learnings.
Meanwhile the onerous task of writing about my running was undertaken by Pankaja Srinivasan of The Hindu – Coimbatore edition.
Generous in her words, she at times made me feel that I miss a part of myself if I do not run regularly. As an avid reader of The Hindu from my childhood, it certainly means a lot to open The Hindu and find an article about me on the front page of Metroplus, Coimbatore edition.
Thank you Pankaja for the article and many others who are directly and indirectly responsible for the contents.
Running a marathon is not just about running the 42.195 Km on the race day. It is more about the training for the event. The discipline required for the training brings out the best in oneself and is the real learning from the endeavour. It is not just about one’s physical ability but more about the mental determination to see oneself through the distance. Training and running marathons have been one of the memorable experiences of my life. I have decided to run the Bengaluru Marathon on October 18, 2015, and this time, it is with a difference. I will be running for Team ASHA – Bangalore.
Asha-Bangalore is a completely volunteer driven group where individuals put in time (without compensation) to support initiatives that help the underprivileged. Asha-Bangalore efforts focus on education, though are not limited to it. Asha ensures that 100% of donations go to support projects. Volunteers of Asha-Bangalore meet all administrative expenses with running the chapter. Currently, we support 6 Projects in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Running marathons and fund-raising through marathon have been a routine feature amongst our volunteers, in USA as well as India.
I have been associated with ASHA for over 6 years and have found it to be more than just a fund-raising organisation. Apart from raising and disbursing funds, we also monitor the activities funded by us. Each of the projects have a ‘Steward,’ who voluntarily spends time with the projects and reports regularly on the activities of the Project. I am currently holding the Stewardship for Thulir – An Education Resource Center for children and young adults at Sittilingi, a tribal village in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. The goal of Thulir is to provide a place where children are in the presence of adults who can motivate them and provide support for learning, and can access basic learning resources that are not available to them in their homes or schools. My interaction (as well as the previous stewards) with the project, the annual disbursement of grants and the utilisation reports can be found here – http://www.ashanet.org/projects/project-view.php?p=967
Zero-Overheads – Although, we do have to charge for the payment gateway, where applicable and other incidental charges, Overheads incurred by volunteers are never funded out of the donations we receive. The travel and stay expenses incurred on our site visits are usually those of volunteers and there are no meeting expenses – Yes, we meet in Lalbagh, Bengaluru on 1st and 3rd Sundays and meetings are open for everyone to attend (although Lalbagh will still charge you Rs. 10 as entry fee!).
ASHA for Education has been chosen as one of the Charity partners for the upcoming Bengaluru Marathon to be held on October 18, 2015. By registering for the half/full marathon through us, you not only have the joy of finishing the Half/Full Marathon, but also the satisfaction of contributing towards the education of underprivileged children. Contributions to ASHA (after deducting payment gateway charges) are exempt from Income Tax under section 80(G). Register now for Bengaluru Marathon here – http://youtoocanrun.com/races/?ee=288