Fitness enthusiasts are gearing up for India’s largest walkathon that aims to fund education, health, and forest rights.
Mumbaikars are all set for walkathon this December, with runners, fitness enthusiasts, students, senior citizens alike slated to stride through the scenic Western and Bhor Ghats in Karjat. Organised by the NGO Oxfam India, the 15th edition of Oxfam Trailwalker India requires participants to either walk 100 kilometres in 48 hours or 50 kilometres in 24 hours, all in groups of four.
To be held on December 13, the money raised at the walkathon will be put to use towards education, health, gender, forest rights, and discrimination issues in states like Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, to name a few.
Amongst this year’s participants is Sagar Patil, a security guard at DSB International School who has always had a secret desire to take part in the cause. A second for the 29-year-old who will be taking part with his team, comprising the schoolteachers who encouraged him to take part in the first place.
“I have been a runner since childhood. I don’t consider walking a grave task and I am very comfortable with it. I have faith that I can do it quite easily. Most importantly, I know that doing this will benefit various other people,” the Dombivali resident says. In the run-up to the big day, Patil has been running eight-10 kilometres on weekdays and 25 kilometres on weekends. “I board the train at 4 am and reach Marine Drive by 5 am. After that, I run for about a few hours until my duty starts. On weekends, the team often makes a group plan and I join them,” he shares.
A first walkathon for Type 1 diabetic person Nupur Lalwani, the 32-year-old will be walking the 100 km to raise awareness for diabetes with her team, Walking on Insulin. Lalwani has dealt with diabetes for the last 24 years and has been a regular marathon runner for the last 12 years, and shares that it brings with it a different set of challenges. “We can’t let the insulin level go too low or high, as either could become a medical emergency. We have to keep checking our sugar levels even on the run. Each one of us in the team has a glucose sensor on the arm when running,” she says. Her team, also comprising Type I diabetics, runs with a supply of insulin and adequate food supplements to snack on while racing.
Over the years, this walkathon has challenged walkers in 17 cities across nine countries, including Australia, Belgium, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
For US citizen Alison Dumbell, who has been living in Mumbai for the last three years, the walkathon is the highlight of her year. “This gives me a goal and I like being active. Importantly, I have never challenged myself like this before, but it is not at all difficult for me to push myself to practice. For me, being active is keeping my mind and body busy. It helps me to be more peaceful. Going walking never feels like a burden to me,” says the 44-year-old, who will be running her eighth marathon with this event.
However, the most determined participant is Mumbai’s Ashwini Pagrut. Having started at the age of 50, the 61-year-old has participated in more than 30 marathons with her zeal only increasing every day. Once a gym-goer, it was her orthopaedic surgeon husband who advised her to walk on the road instead of the treadmill, instilling in her the charm of running and walking.
“I know how to build my muscles and endurance, and prevent myself from hurting my knees. My group of friends meets at 5 in the morning and run for about eight-ten kilometres. On weekends we go till Juhu or run till Dahisar,” shares Pagrut, who runs four times a week.
To keep herself motivated, the senior citizen meditates for an hour just before her run, which keeps her positive and active throughout the day. Age has never been a barrier to the half and full marathons that she has been a part of in the last ten years. “Women give excuses like kids, exams, or guests. I say planning and dedication are required. Once you have chalked out your plan, everything falls in place,” she asserts.
With registrations pouring in large numbers, the last date of registration has been extended to give more fitness enthusiasts a chance to participate.