As we approached the 99.5 km mark, every ounce of energy we had, vaporized. It felt as if, the sun put a straw into our bodies .. right through our head and sucked all the Gatarode/ ORS/ Glucon D that we have been consuming over the last 32 hours. Those 32 hours, where our food was 1 energy bar an hour and an occasional banana or a bite of peanut-cake. Those 32 hours – the love of the volunteers, the smile of the villagers, the inquisitive nature of the kids and the determination of my fellow walkers.
Those 32 hours and a Pink Wig. A story of how 4 members walked a 100 kms for a cause.
Mom said we weren’t humans. People said we were crazy. Friends said…we hate ourselves. This, when I proudly told them that I had registered for the Oxfam India – 100 km trailwalk. From Anekal to Bidadi, passing through 26 villages across TN and Karnataka.
Dell management was kind enough to accommodate our request for sponsorship. Now it was time to build a team of 4. Will I be able to identify similar retards who would do this insane act.. Wasn’t too difficult a task. I did manage to find them and that too in toastmasters and around. Asan Kumar Sankarlingam dived in as soon as I asked him. So did Mohammed Faraaz and Rajit Kavindran. We called ourselves – Dell Unstoppable 4
The walk was on the 25th of Jan, 2013. A week before the D day, I was fervent and at the same time jittery. The question in my mind was – Will I be able to do it? Stay focused is what I said to my mind. The team discussed every bit in detail. What to carry? What should be our strategy?
Before Bangalore woke up, we were at Pearl Valley, Anekal. And that’s when an entity which was an integral part of our walk popped out of my bag. THE PINK WIG.
The Pink Wig – that got all the attention. The Pink wig – that added colour to the celebrations. The Pink Wig – that helped us gel with fellow walker, villagers and kids. The Pink Wig – without which it would have been extremely dull.
As we crossed the Starting Point, there were loads of people all along. Clearly the effect of starting 15 minutes late. SP to CHECKPOINT1 went in a breeze. CHECKPOINT1 to CHECKPOINT2 was cakewalk. We were covering distance at the rate of 6.5Kmph.
The initial checkpoints had AMMA’s posters and milestones in Tamil, an indication that the trail is passing through TN. The villagers were curious why we were walking. Some assumed the walk was to reduce weight. I explained in my broken Tamil that we were walking for a cause. Their offers for tea/ coffee/ lunch and also a break for a shower flowed in generously.
Our initial plan to halt at CHECKPOINT3 – 25 kms, to take a nap was moved to CHECKPOINT4 at 35 kms. After an ultra-scope massage to my knees, which was going weak, by the physiotherapy students/ volunteers from a college, we took a 3 hour nap before our journey began. Rajit got the shock of the walk when a fellow walker was brought into the resting room with the support of the volunteers. He was low on salts and that took a toll on him. He fainted even before he reached CHECKPOINT4. A few walkers had given up. Most already had blisters in their feet. Having blisters in your feet and walking 100 kms is like sitting on a pin.
Our next point for a major break was CHECKPOINT6. The walks were getting long and tiresome. Our speed came down to 3 kmph at certain stretches. The amount of planning & strategizing by the other teams was impressive. They had a solid Support Crew, who were driving along all the way. They were there to handle all contingencies and needs of the walkers. Be it for water or a soup. We on the other hand, had planned to meet our support crew at CHECKPOINT6. Our arrival at the point would have been at 1 AM but we requested the SC not to make the journey. They had our thermals, extra food and more importantly dinner – the first solid food that we planned to eat.
Was it the right decision? Should we have called our Support Crew? Will this affect our walk? Time would tell.
Our plan to sleep for a few hours was flushed away when the cold winds woke us up. How we wish we had called our SC and how we wish we had our thermals. Walking was better than resting. We packed and we marched further towards CHECKPOINT7 at 3:30 AM. From now, it was nothing to do with the body. It was only to do with the mind. At every CHECKPOINT we popped in pain killers like candies. Any thoughts of retiring were shot down by the optimism of my team members. CHECKPOINT 7, CHECKPOINT 8 and CHECKPOINT 9. It was 12 noon, and the sun was hitting us hard. The smiles started to rise after CHECKPOINT9. 89 kms done. We couldn’t give up. We were hoping to see the finish point soon.
The 99.5 km mark. The walk from the gates of Eagleton Resorts to the podium was slow, but immensely gratifying. We had done it. We walked an insane 100 kms in 32 hours.
When I think about it, it wasn’t a big feat. 120 other teams had done it. The men from army had done it in 13 hours. Walk the walk– an all-women’s team had done it in 26 hrs. The team of elderly gentlemen, all above 52 years had done it. The Pink ladies, who walked for the cause of breast cancer had blisters on their feet from the very first CHECKPOINT. Our feats wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the volunteers, who stayed awake for 2 days taking care of every minor thing that we needed. Water, First aid, food and more importantly the energy with which they welcomed us at the CHECKPOINT.
It was inspiring. All around us there were success stories. Stories of endurance and team spirit. Stories that I wish everyone could experience.
So what do I have in mind after I am done with Oxfam 2013. Its simple. Its Oxfam 2014.