The trip we all had been waiting for! Sep 20 and 21 were the longest runs in our training program. We travelled to an Asha supported effort, spent time there and also did the runs. This was a fun trip and an experience to remember!
Sittlingi is a tribal village in Dharmapuri district of Tamilnadu, India. Its around 6 hrs from Bangalore. You can get more information on the exact location here
"Thulir" is an Education Resource Centre at Sittilingi, for children. It is a Tamil word meaning "a tender shoot", also "to sprout". Asha has worked with Anu and Krishna over the last few years through the fellowship program. The asha fellowship program provides an avenue of supporting individuals who we believe can have a larger impact in society. Their website and blog have detailed information on their experiences over the years. Information on their fellowship can be obtained from the asha projects page (please see History section). Sanjeev and Anita have also visited them frequently. Their experiences at the project are available at their blog.
The gang started in the evening and arrived late night on the 19th at Sittlingi. I had reached Sittlingi by afternoon and scoped out the run with Senthil. We also discussed logistics for the run. Krishna and gang were awesome crew for us! So, except for Anita's mom, the rest of us were going to do the runs! There were eleven of us -
Senthil, kid from thulir
We started out early in the morning and the course was a 16km out and back on the Salem road. It was a beautiful morning with mountains in the background (note to self - next time, we should make the runners go up the mountains!). Senthil, Sanjeev, Sridhar, Thushar and I started on a fast clip. We breezed past the first couple of water holes and reached the 8km mark in about 53 mins! Sanjeev had to turn back from there, while the rest of us continued. The next 16 kms were not too bad as well. The second 8km was slightly shorter than the first 8 kms :). We met Siva on the way back and he was doing great - rock steady!. My mom, Vijay and Asha came way beyond the turnaround point of 8 kms! We saw them at 10k and asked them to turn back. Asha's shoe didn't hold up and the sole came off! Anita was her usual chirpy stuff (just wasn't hungry enough though!). Senthil did amazingly well in the run. When the sun came out towards the end, all of us had a real hard time and we all slowed down considerably. While Senthil, Sridhar and I didn't face a lot, Siva and Thushar got the brunt of it! Thushar got some extra points as he got lost and did some extra kms! We came back home for some really good rava upma for a light breakfast! Later when the whole team made it, we all got lunch and took a short nap.
In the evening, we went to Anu and Krishna's home. They gave us an introduction about their work and tour of their home (composting toilet, beautiful garden, thatched roof, creepers, mud bricks - it was just awesome!). After a lively discussion on the state of the education system, the situation in Sittlingi, Anu and krishna's experiences etc. we went out to meet the kids. The kids were making soap. They taught us the process. We then played Dingari (seven stones) with the younger kids. Later, Dr. Lalitha from the THI (Tribal Health Initiative) came by. She gave a background of Reggie and her work in Sittlingi. After which, she described the work of the Lambadi tribals. There was a huge spread of hand tailored/embroidered products from them. We had a nice time shopping! By the end of the day we spent time with the kids who were camping out at Thulir for that night (It was their monthly crafts camp!). We learnt a lot of things - making friendship bands, key chains, paper jewelery etc. The kids were great with their hands. Then the kids took turn serving dinner, cleaning up etc. We then crashed for some well earned rest!
We got up on Sunday early morning and left just as the sun came out. It was a shorter run on Sunday and though our muscles cried out the first few kms, it felt normal and maybe good :) after a short while! All of us came back home in good time and confident that the marathon/half marathon can after all be done with no concerns! Senthil was a revelation! He is an energetic and athletic kid who can run far and well! I am sure he can go faster and longer. The rest of the kids came out on this erun as well! They did about 4 kms with the elder kids guiding them. One of the elder girls was also a strong runner and was enthu about it. After the run, we took a dip in the nearby stream - the water was muddy, but we decided to not let it spoil our fun! Siva showed us some cool dives and Sridhar thought he could swim :). The dip in the cold water was just what we needed after the pounding in the last two days. After the bath and breakfast, we all spent time with the kids. We had a songs session (our stars were Siva, Anita, Anita's mom, Asha and Sanjeev) and then some discussions/introductions on what each one of us were up to. The kids were enthu about running! The plan is to have Senthil go through the basics with them and guide them to run safe. Senthil will be running the Kaveri Marathon as part of Team Asha! We all bid goodbye and thanked everyone for the wonderful hospitality shown to us. The stay at Thulir, meeting the kids and learning about the efforts made the trip worthwhile! The running, mountains, streams and the rest of the trip just made it perfect!
Photos from the trip - Santosh's camera
Photos from the trip - Santhosh's (the bald one) camera