The Barefoot Brigade at Auroville Marathon 2014
What happens when a “school-ful” of people runs a 21-km half marathon to show their gratitude and solidarity for the gift of good education they have been provided with? It creates magic and leads to incredible performances, far beyond physical capabilities.
9th February 2014 was an unforgettable day for Cuddalore Isha Vidhya. Seventy-three teachers, admin staff, drivers, ayammas and students, including the 60+ year-old principal, participated in the Auroville marathon held in Pondicherry. This was the first time that so many staff members were running for Isha Vidhya.
The school admin, on learning about the marathon, spoke to the staff member about participating in it. She received an immediate and overwhelming response from all. Even ayammas and drivers, whose salary is just a couple of thousand rupees, were willing to pay the Rs.450 marathon participation fees! Students too were absolutely enthusiastic about running for the school to show their gratitude. Seeing their eagerness and desire to participate, special permission was obtained for them.
To ensure an early start on the day of marathon, the teachers, other participating staff members, and students, stayed the night at the school. The night was full of fun and joy, as everyone worked together to create colorful placards and charts.
On the morning of the marathon, two busloads of participants started from the school and another one joined them from Cuddalore with Isha well-wishers. The school staff was confident about finishing the 21km run as opposed to Isha volunteers, who were a little somber about their chances. Given that almost all the participants, including the school staff, were running for the first time in their adult life, had little training and many were even without shoes (almost 20), the volunteers’ uncertainty was valid. At the venue, Pondicherry volunteers joined the gang. When the run started, the air was filled with placards carrying the slogan "Run for Isha Vidhya."
What a proud day it was for Isha Vidhya Cuddalore. With 123 runners, they stole the show. Everyone except three individuals, completed the 21-km race! All nine students, including two girls, completed the race with Suryababu, finishing it within 2 hours. A special mention about school ayyama Malarvizhi and driver Palani has to be made. They finished the race within 2 hours! Malar ran as if her life depended on it. For her, this was an expression of gratitude for the opportunity that her three children are getting at the school, especially as she has a tough life as a widow.
The Cuddalore school principal has been a tremendous guiding force in all activities. Despite her age and lack of any training, she was as enthusiastic about running in the race as the youngest participant. As soon as she joined the bus that had started from Cuddalore, her energy charged everyone's spirit. Even though she could not complete the run, she inspired most to do it. At the end, tears of delight were flowing when the staff members asked her to place their medals on their necks.