The TCS World 10K, the annual 10-kilometer marathon at Bengaluru saw a few unusual participants this year. Many in the audience noted the “flying dhotis”, referring to the Isha brahmacharis running in their panchakachams!

The World 10K is India’s most popular 10-kilometer run, and is organized by Procam. Every year, volunteers run to raise funds for Isha Vidhya, Isha Foundation’s rural education initiative. This year, an unprecedented 300 Bengaluru volunteers took part – 100 in the 10K run and the rest in the 6K Majja run. Thanks to their fundraising efforts, over 100 underprivileged children will receive English-medium, computer-based education in the Isha Vidhya schools. That number can still go up, as donations can still be made to individual runners’ efforts or to the general Isha Vidhya contribution page.

The volunteers were joined by fourteen swamis, three maas and seven residents from the Isha Yoga Center, some of whom have been training hard for several months and had already done the Chennai half-marathon in January.

Local volunteer and seasoned runner Shreyas Karnad went all out to coach and mentor the new runners. Still, many runners were busy volunteering and fundraising, and didn’t have much time for practice runs. But that didn’t dent their enthusiasm. Divya Hemachandran describes how both long-distance running and fundraising were a first for her:

“It took me a while to get started on the fundraising, just not knowing how to go about it and to get over what I thought was a hugely embarrassing task.  But as I put my head into it, I realized that the cause itself was so relevant and evocative that it didn’t require much of a push from my side. It was just a question of bringing it to people’s notice and impressing upon them the impact of what their contribution can do. And of course, the fact that one is running the 10K impresses family and friends alike, giving them a personal reason to contribute to the cause.

Got a kick out of each donation, while telling myself that now I definitely had to finish the run As the day came closer, I kicked myself for missing all those training sessions! Two days before the run, I actually checked with the trainer if I should attempt a trial run or just go for the 10K. The answer was quite obvious! I just had to turn up and see what happens…

And well, with a bit of running and quite a bit of walking, finish the race we did! Right from the stretching and the Guru Pooja at the start to the cheers and photos at the end, the feeling of being a part of something larger was such a motivating factor. The legs did hurt for a couple of days, but the warmth in the heart more than made up for it.”

Some runners, like Pooja Mahadevan from Chennai, were seasoned marathoners, but the World 10K was a first in some ways. “I used to run at marathon events but never for a worthy cause like I did this time. Raising funds for Isha Education was one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done so far. The people behind this cause are amazing and inspiring. All in all, it was a fantastic and great learning experience for me.”

Isha Yoga Center Joins the Fray!

The volunteers were joined by fourteen swamis, three maas and seven residents from the Isha Yoga Center, some of whom have been training hard for several months and had already done the Chennai half-marathon in January.

Six brahmacharis came in with sub-55 minute timings, with a best of 45 minutes. This was a very unusual event because all the brahmacharis were starting from the F section, the last set of runners to leave the starting point. Some hit the 55-minute mark quite to their surprise. Here’s one of the brahmacharis sharing his experience:

“I was hoping to finish the 10k in 60 minutes, so I planned it out before the marathon: barefoot running, just wearing socks to avoid the stone-bites; walking the entire 10k the day before the marathon to get a feel of the ups and downs; a small bottle of water mixed with palm-candy; and of course, following the pacer. Peggy from the ashram, introduced us to Henna M and Nagaraj Harsha, two unofficial 55-minute pacers, who were excellent runners and very helpful.

“…When I crossed the finish, I was very surprised to see a time of 54 minutes and 20 seconds! I couldn’t understand how I had managed it with my damaged knees and wheezing breath!”

On the race day, at the start line, I saw the 60-minute pacer and followed him. At the end of the first kilometer, I found he was a little behind me and the 55-minute pacer was about to go ahead of us. So I thought, ‘Even if I can’t keep up with the 55-minute pacer, I will still finish under 60 minutes. But if I follow the 60-minute pacer, I might end up with 65 minutes.’ I decided to follow the 55-minute pacer.

I stayed behind him till the 7th kilometer. There, the pacer was a little slow, picking up all the slow runners. But my palm-candy water had given me enough energy to go ahead, so I proceed on my own to the 9th kilometer. From there, everyone on the sidelines were cheering us on and gave me enough strength to sprint to the finish line. When I crossed the finish, I was very surprised to see a time of 54 minutes and 20 seconds! I couldn’t understand how I had managed it with my damaged knees and wheezing breath!”

Isha volunteers at Bengaluru went all out in their efforts to make the stay and visit of the ashram residents a beautiful warm welcome. Post-run everyone enjoyed a hearty luncheon in the serene and gorgeous Cubbon Park, celebrating and sharing their experiences of running for Isha Vidhya school children and raising funds for them.

Run for Isha Vidhya

Running for Isha Vidhya has made a significant difference for the students studying in these rural schools. Thanks to volunteers who have run and raised funds over many years in the Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Chennai and San Francisco marathons, Isha Vidhya has built 40 classrooms plus furniture, compound walls for 8 schools, and above all, provided scholarships for over 2000 children.