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Running A Marathon For A Cause

Rita Mohanty

“If you can dream it, you can do it,” said my beloved mentor Dr. Ken Gilleo. Of course he was referring to technology at that time. I took his advice literally and applied it to my everyday living. After all, what kind of life would we have, without hopes and dreams?

I had a dream of running a marathon but the time never seemed to be right. I had the usual excuse; too busy doing _____(you can fill in the blank). Being an unconventional (most of my friends lovingly refer to me as “crazy”) individual, I decide to pursue my dream last year. Needless to say, I needed some help to make it happen. There it was, “TeamAIDAsha (TAA)” from Boston, waiting to come to my rescue. TAA is a joint program runs by the Boston/MIT chapters of “Association for India’s Development (AID)” and “Asha for Education”, two non-profit groups working on projects related to educational and social development issues among the underprivileged children and families in India. It is run by an amazing group of volunteers, dedicated to helping others. They were going to make a marathon runner out of me with a catch. They asked me to bring the same hopes and dreams to some deserving children and families in the poorest parts of India. What a bargain to have my dream come true by helping underprivileged people.

On a Saturday morning in April 2009, I met the TAA group on the campus of MIT. After struggling for fifteen minutes to find the group, I finally spotted them. I saw a group of young, energetic, fun-loving (more about the fun later) people bubbling with enthusiasm. It was quite contagious. Some of them had no clue (like me) as to what to expect while the others were experienced runners. The coach, who was an accomplished marathoner himself and the TAA organizers were ready to answer any question that the group threw at them. “What an amazing group of people,” I thought. If I had any doubts in the past, they were gone. I was going to run Chicago marathon! How awesome is that? We met every Saturday for the next five months to train for the big event. The training was a mix of pleasure and pain. During the hot days of August, it was tough to persist with the runs. But the coach kept us focused with his pep talks and wisdom. By September, we were amazed at the progress we had made. We were ready to run a marathon!

On October 11, 2009, a group of us lined up at the Chicago Marathon starting line, along with the other 40,000 runners (yes, by now we were bonafide runners) on one of the coldest days in Chicago marathon history. The energy among the runners was out of this world. A few hours later I could see the big banner that said “Finish Line.” “I am there. I can’t believe I just ran 26.2 miles,” I thought to myself. The last few yards to the finish line was truly a thrill of a life time. As I ran across the finish line, the emotion was over whelming. The sense of accomplishment and pride is beyond description. As I embraced my teammates who had already passed through the finish line, I saw the same sense of accomplishment and pride in their faces as well. Nothing in your life can prepare you to anticipate that experience. I not only ran a marathon, but I raised more than $7000 in the process to contribute to the hopes and dreams of an unknown child in India who can dream to govern the country one day. How cool is that?

If you thought that would be the end of the story, you would be wrong. Like many of my teammates, one marathon wouldn’t be enough for me. In 2010 I not only wanted to run a marathon, but I also wanted to do something special right after crossing the finish line. I found just the right place to do it. It was Philadelphia Marathon, with the added bonus of climbing the steps of the famous Art Museum like in the movie Rocky. The training started again in April leading up to the final day in November 21, 2010. I can honestly say, training wasn’t always easy with work, family, travel etc. but thinking about those poor children and families in India always kept me going. I had not only a commitment to those children but to my sponsors as well. The generosity of my sponsors was no less the second time around. The support from the team and TAA organizers was unbelievable. I was ready for my big day again. I ran the marathon among 22,000 runners on a picture perfect day in Philadelphia. This time, I was having more fun. Crossing the finish line was no less an experience the second time around. Along with all the other old feelings, fun was a new one this time. Actually, I have a theory about that. So, here it goes.

Before I give you my theory and proof, I must tell you that I am a Six Sigma Master Black Belt (yes, my friends also call me a “geek”). I deal with data and statistics for a living, so you can trust me on this. My theory is your fun increases dramatically with the number of years you stay with TAA. The graph says so. OK, I may have massaged the data a little, but it’s true for most part. I will be back to have more fun next year while supporting a cause I deeply believe in. If my story can motivate one more person to join the cause, it will be as if I received a “Pulitzer Prize”. I encourage every reader to consider visiting www.teamaidasha.com to learn more about TAA or contact me at. You will not only change your own life for better, but you can have a profound effect on someone else’s life.

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