Enjoy these glimpses into the incredible journey of Giridhar Kamath who ran and cycled 400 km from Bengaluru to Coimbatore in support of Isha Vidhya schools.

Beginning on Sadhguru’s birthday, September 3rd, and ending on his own birthday, September 9th, Giridhar Kamath made a journey from Bengaluru to Coimbatore. He did not hop in a train, a bus, a cab or even an auto. Instead, he covered the 400 km distance by running barefoot and cycling in support of Isha Vidhya schools!

Along the way, Giridhar was supported by his wife, Radhi, and daughter, Pari, who traveled by jeep and provided water and nourishing foods like ragi porridge and fresh fruits. Other running friends joined him at various points along the route. While keeping a steady pace, he made time to speak to interested passers-by along the way, and was even offered a shady lunch break in the shadow of a lorry whose driver became intrigued by the unusual tour. Isha volunteers wanting to support Giri called in asking what they can offer, even waiting in the heat on the highway to offer coconut water and buttermilk.

After 200 km of impressive pace, Giri experienced unexpected difficulties – swelling of his right Achilles. Although it was no longer possible for him to continue to run barefoot without stopping to rehabilitate, instead of giving up, he decided to complete the remaining 200 km by cycle, turning his ultra-marathon into a duathlon.

At his stops in Erode, Salem, and finally in Coimbatore, Giri and family visited the local Isha Vidhya schools. Giri expressed his joy at seeing how happy Isha Vidhya children are, how supportive and dedicated teachers are, and how the school provides an atmosphere of creativity and openness.

Below, an Isha Vidhya volunteer describes the delight with which the Coimbatore students received their guests

“I boarded the school bus at 8:00 am and was happy to see a 5th standard student getting on with an oversized card which read, “Happy Birthday Giri Anna!” At every stop, one child or another would board with a card or gift in their hands and a smile on their face.

The whole school was getting ready for the celebration and all the children were in a festive mood. The atmosphere was filled with energy and enthusiasm. When we heard that Mr. Giri had arrived in the nearby village of Madampatty, we rushed to the spot as quickly as possible with as many drums, cycles and students as we could carry.

There he was: a man with very strong muscles but with a very light heart, spreading joy with smile on his face, delighted to see the approaching school bus full of children. Drivers of passing buses and two-wheelers looked puzzled to see all the drums and excitement. Mr. Giri then started the journey cycling to the school along with few boys and girls. We took a country road which had less traffic.

As we arrived, the students were waiting on both sides, everyone clapping and cheering – definitely a hero’s welcome! One of the volunteers honored Giri with a shawl and then, before he was about to pedal the cycle, a few of the youngest students went up to him and hugged him tightly.

In each room that Giri entered, the children surprised him in their own way – with thank you cards, flower garlands, clay figures, elaborate decorations and poems drawn on the board, a series of balloon with each letter wishing him “Happy Birthday Giri Anna”, even a portrait sketched in pencil. Someone volunteered to carry the cards and gifts given by students, but soon found that they were too numerous to carry alone and asked another volunteer to help!

Next, Mr. Giri’s friend ‘Junior Prabhu’ made the children jump with joy during his Magic Show. Mr. Giri, whose profession is making children’s toys and props for magicians, joined him for a few tricks and generously gifted masks and magic kits to all the children. All the children were so happy putting on the masks and keenly observing Mr. Giri as he explained how to perform the tricks in the kit. At the end of the visit, Mr. Giri exclaimed that he had never celebrated his birthday in such a way before, and that he had enjoyed being with children and looked forward to supporting Isha Vidhya in the future.

We thanked him and his family not with words, but with joyful tears. Definitely this is a man who knows that we get more in life not by getting, but by giving.”

– Prabhu Loganathan, Isha volunteer

Savithri A., principal of Isha Vidhya, Coimbatore, shared that this grand welcome was plotted and planned almost entirely by the children themselves. “All credit goes to our Isha Vidhya kids. We’ve given full freedom with little guidance for them. Young minds did a wonderful job.”

At 47, Giri has only been running for about 6 years. He does not follow any specific training, but simply runs at least 10 km every day to keep him fit. Three years ago, he ran seven kilometers barefoot for the first time, as a birthday gift to his friend who was already an avid barefoot runner, and got addicted to it from day one. “It keeps me connected to Mother Nature, and allows me to run from my core, rather than my legs!” Giri explains.

He first learned about Isha Vidhya in April 2015 when he was running from Bengaluru to Chennai as a part of a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. During a stop at Chettur, he heard some villagers discussing how their local Isha Vidhya school has provided hope to their otherwise impoverished children. He then made an impromptu decision within himself to dedicate one of his next long runs to Isha Vidhya. The same year he met Peggy Wolff, a fellow runner and volunteer for Isha Vidhya, in the Javadhu Hills and again in Bengaluru with a large group of Isha Vidhya runners at the TCSWorld10K in May earlier this year. From that point, plans to run from Bengaluru to Isha Yoga Center started to take shape.

Below, a volunteer from Isha Yoga Center describes the final leg of the journey, cycling from Isha Vidhya Coimbatore to the ashram

“When I first heard of someone running 400 km to raise funds for Isha Vidhya, I was intrigued, but at the same time it seemed something far-fetched and superhuman.

The ride to the school turned out to be exhilarating as we rode through green fields overlooking the mountains. It was energizing and refreshing to ride with the other ashram volunteers. We raced and rode freely.

When I interacted with Giri on the road, a few things struck a chord with me: Having participated in my first half-marathon some time ago, I know that running marathons is not just about physical prowess, but it also requires mental mettle. I had no plans of running a full marathon because I felt it would take a lot of preparation. So when I told Giri that, seeing him run the equivalent of two full marathons in a single day, I was now inspired to give running a full marathon a try, he immediately replied, ‘Don’t put any limitations on your mind.’ These words carried much more weight coming from someone who is actually living them. He clarified that if you don’t put any limitations on the mind, the human body can be pushed in incredible ways, so why stop at 42 km?

The leisurely bike ride from Isha Vidhya school turned out to be much more than I expected in terms of the impact it had on me.  I’m already planning to run a full marathon in the next three months, to begin with!”

– Pragyan, Isha volunteer

Editor’s Note: Giridhar’s efforts have already helped him raise more than Rs. 2.5 lakh to provide Isha Vidhya scholarships. Make a donation towards Giri’s goal by supporting his fundraising campaign.

Want to get involved in running for Isha Vidhya? Learn how you can be a part of the upcoming Wipro Chennai Marathon, for which Isha Vidhya has been named an official charity partner.