Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 4th Week

Sita School

On Monday we did our usual run to the convent school gate and back. I noticed that one of the kids was finding it tough with the shoes. The canvas shoes is not working for her. We really need to get a different pair that she can handle. After the run, the kids had a computer class with me. I do computers for Nandana, Chetana and Chandana groups. Chetana is a younger group and I go a bit slower with them. We discussed about typing software and played a few games related to improving their typing skills. We also did some spreadsheets and graph plots - which was an overview of their last homework. The school had been recently white washed. Anjali (Jane's daughter) had her day off and she was paiting the school. Soon, the children took over and started doing the painting as well.
On Friday, we started doing activity based interaction with children for the health program. Imogen sahi, Jane's daughter in law is a science teacher from UK and had done extensive work in the field of sustainable scrap science i.e. doing science activities using easily available material at home or school. So, Imo joined our team and we started to roll! We had discussed the plans on Monday and decided that we will do an experiment related to measuring lung capacity on Friday, as per the plan. Preeti gave an overview of lungs, the concept of lung capacity, how it can be improved etc. Then she described the experiment to the children and explained in simple terms about how we will measure the lung capacity. We had a bucket full of water and a 2 litre coke bottle with its bottom cut-off. We did a scale for capacity from the cap down to the end of the bottle. We filled the bottle fully and inverted quickly into the bucket. A tube would go through the bottom of the plactic bottle inside the bucket. When air is blown through the other end of the pipe, the air displaces water and you can measure the volume displaced. Thus, we found the normal capacity (breathing in normally and blowing into the pipe) and the full capacity (breathing in as much as you could and then blowing into the pipe) for every child. They recorded their observations in a chart. After this session, the children sat down and wrote down their understanding of the concepts and experiment.
More photos here- Sita_school_lungs_experiment_painting

I peeped into one of the rooms to see what the younger children were upto. They were doing a 'mystical' bird. They had to imagine and create their own mystical bird with different colors, beak(s), wings etc. After painting it, they would also write about it in Kannada and present it to the rest of the school in one of the morning gatherings.

More photos here- Sita_school_lungs_experiment_painting


I discussed with Shashi and Manjula (an Asha volunteer who teaches karate regularly at Ananya) about how to get the children to be more focussed and get some discipline. Shashi was very helpful and gave me a lot of tips - first and foremost she asked me to lay down some ground rules that everyone in the class would respect. There can be children who get distracted, but they cannot distract others in the class. So, this time I made some rules clear to the children and I think I got a bit stern with them. But, in the end they all did their workout and had fun doing it too. We did the train workout with 3 different trains. One important aspect of this workout is that kids of varying abilities are grouped together and the sense of achievement is collective and not comparative. All the children including the youngest, aged 8 years did about 3-4 kms that day! After the run, we did stretches and some foot drills.

More photos here- Ananya_Prakriya_kids_running_stretching

Preeti and I discussed the idea of doing the health related sessions. But, then we had to get the children's confidence first and also get the science teacher involved. In Ananya the teachers come in at 10:30 and we finish running by 8:15 after starting at 7 A.M. So, there were a lot of logistics to be sorted out. Meanwhile, I was helping out with Mathematics as well on the same day between 9:30 and 10:30. Surely, 40+ children was too huge a group to do conceptual activities related to running.

After the run, we continued with Geometry. This time I tried making it more interactive and did concepts like parallel lines and a traversal. I used various analogies to explain the relationship between angles. We also did supplementary angles etc. The interest levels of children in the math class was higher and it was also easier for me to interact with them. This was mainly because, they were a smaller group and once the class became interesting and challenging for them, I didn't have to try hard to keep them involved. They always had the option of skipping class as well.


It was quite an eventful day at Prakriya! We came into see freshly laid chalk for Kabbadi. Somu had organized this for the day and was hoping that we could do a shorter run so that the kids could play kabbadi. The children were thoroughly disappointed and even wanted to run for both the periods rather than play Kabbadi. The children wanted me to negotiate on their behalf to get their games periods. But, it was gone :) - Slowly, the children started to relate to us. We are also sure that they have a wonderful relationship with the PE teachers. But, its always a constant tussle for the games period that was scarcely available. Quite a few kids did start enjoying the running and fewer children opted to play instead of run in the first period. I chatted up with a few kids on the run and realized that a few girls were conscious about their weight and looks - they kept talking about losing weight. I encouraged them to be fit and healthy, to see running as a fitness and fun activity. But, I also warned them to not starve themselves. Everyone is beautiful in our own way and we cannot let the world make us insecure about ourselves.

More photos here- Ananya_Prakriya_kids_running_stretching

Interestingly enough, after we started playing Kabbadi, the kids slowly got drawn into the game. Folks, realized that size didn't matter. Agility and some common sense did! It was a revelation to see the youngest and smallest girl turn out the star of the day! In a single raid she almost got the entire opposition made of some real big guys out! This got many more girls and kids interested. Soon there was a crowd watching and more kids wanting to join. Of course, at the end of the day there was a general feeling of dejection amongst the die-hard soccer, basketball and other games enthusiasts about lost games periods :)

Prakriya school is different from many mainstream schools though, it has a lot of aspects from the mainstream system it has to adhere to (and that I don't like :) ). The school has a very open culture and teachers are not 'feared', they are respected. The children are inquisitive and creative (even if its excuses for not running :) ). They have their own vegetable garden and take care of it. Some of the children have made a human manure toilet as a project, a tree house and even video documentaries on water as a project! Without any doubt the school does lay a strong emphasis on sustainable living and to percieve the world in a more sensitive manner. Ruthless competition is not a value to be promoted and community living is stressed in many ways.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 3rd Week

Sita School

On monday we distributed the much awaited bata canvas shoes and socks. The kids were really excited about the shoes and almost all of them were wearing it for the first time. So, they spent time in the stitching class to sew their name on the canvas shoes that day. Here is more on the shoes -

More photos here- Sita_school_shoe_distribution

After the run and some time spent on shoe dsitribution, I spent time with the elder kids in the computer science periods. We discussed about graphs and how to plot them in a computer (using MS Excel). We took some real life data like the heights of the children (they had already done that for their Math class) and plotted various kinds of graphs. I also gave them a few activities to do - for e.g. survey the age of everyone in the school and pool it into buckets to create a histogram (though we didn't use technical words, the kids understood the concept). The children do a lot of data collection - weight, height etc. over the years. My intention was to help children understand the practical role of a computer and how it makes regular understood tasks easier. We also approached the concept of average in the class.

The time spent in Sita School was rich in learning for me. While, I might have contributed in some indirect way to the school, I feel that being in the school made me understand the world around me better. There are many instances, but I will try to describe a few. The children are grouped according to their ability levels and not strictly by age. The children in each group discuss and arrive at a name for their group. The names wee beautiful - nandana, chandana, chetana for the elder children. The younger children too get a chance to choose a name. A very interesting observation was also how the children interacted within themsleves even when teachers were absent. I played many games with them and their sense of righteousness and care for other kids was evident. One of the children is afflicted with cerebral palsy and her speech is not completely clear. I have not seen any of the children make fun, intimidate or isolate her. The younger children address her as 'Akka' and respect her. The girl is brilliant and grasps concepts very well. When the children wrote about their experiences  for the day (they do it every day), she wrote that she was very happy to have us in the school and run with everyone as a group.

Prayer in Sita School is also quite a revelation. Every day the prayer song is different - there are sanskrit shlokas, buddhist namas, christian prayers and prayers from a multitude of religions. They also keep adding to their collection of prayer songs. After prayer, they have a short period of meditation and then they discuss/announce any happening/events/visits in school. Sometimes, one of the kids present her/his work to the rest of the school - which could be a song, painting etc. At the end, they have a very cute song describing themselves as a 'ragi' ball and how they roll out to class :)

More photos here- Sita_school_prayers

I also sat through many classes of other teachers. I spent time in Jane's class to understand how english is taught. There were games, use of flash cards and a stress on understanding, pronounciation and meaning of new words in the vocalbulary. There definitely needs to be reiteration. But, it should happen in multiple ways and not just rote learning. In Divya's class, I observed how art and language were combined. Children were drawing story boards or comic strips with Kannada dialogues. They would later also enact it. I spent some time in the classroom of the younger children, where I observed how a form of the 'memory' game was played to comprehend english alphabets with sounds and real life objects/images.

On Friday we did the train workout with the children. This was quite a good workout to do as a group. It also works on the lung capacity with spurts of fast running. The entire group walks as a train and the last person shoots up to the first position. As soon as the person reaches the pole position, the last person in the queue now starts. The children really enjoyed the workout and started issuing tickets to the person passing them :) - After a while they were all cheering the person running upfront. Jane joins us in all running workouts and it was quite nice to see her being part of even the hard workouts.

More photos here- Sita_school_train_workout

After the workout, we played parts of the 'Human Body' DVD from the National Geographic series. We focussed on the lungs and what happens to the body when we exercise or run. Preeti did a great job with the explanation in Kannda and we had a nice discussion as well. We did ask the children to write down what they learned from the session. We felt that not many kids understood the concept of 'double circulation' or the exchange of oxygen/carbon-di-oxide in the lungs. Our next step in the plan was to focus on each area - lungs, heart etc.


On Wednesday I reached the school for the Math class at 9:30 A.M. The children were full of energy and I found it very tough to get their attention. This was quite a disappointing day for me and I fell low in confidence. I didn't want to yell at the children and at the same time was helpless as children took over the class :) - While, some children were interested in learning more, others were clearly distracted and not in a mood to do math. This happened especially because some kids had missed classes and found it hard to understand. Meanwhile, I was trying to take everyone with me in the class.

On Thursday we reached late and the kids had already started the run with a few other Asha volunteers. They had a good run and when everyone came back, we did lot of stretching and foot drills. Many kids joined us with this. After this, we watched a short movie on the 'Human Body' and Preeti explained about what happened in the movie in Kannada. We did much better with the movie as we could get everyone's attention. They also had interesting questions about building muscle etc.

One other thing I observed in Ananya is that the kids do a lot of work in the campus on their own. Of course, they take care of their personal hygiene on their own - wash their clothes, clean toilets, their rooms etc. But, they also take care of the campus - help a lot in the kitchen, help maintain the campus with repairs etc. Do a lot of gardening and growing vegetables etc., do groceries and one of the kids even maintains the accounts for the school.

More photos here- Ananya_run_1

I went and cheered the kids in one more hockey game and in this one, there was absolutely no one other than me to cheer them :) - They lost quite badly again, but the margin was lower. The children were used to a different kind of surface and this was not a surface they were used to. But, it was interesting to observe the team discussion with the Dream-a-dream volunteer. The stress was on what to focus on - not winning, but to play better and enjoy playing.

More photos here- Ananya_dream_a_dream_hockey_game_2


We again started with a trivia question and the kids seem to like the idea of a quiz and try to answer it. There was a bit of a commotion at the start and I told them that every minute they lose in it would be them losing their game time and they assembled quickly. We also played a short game to see if they could think collectively. They were huddled around me as a group and I told them they got to shout out  a number without two people saying the same number. They failed with multiple trials and they finally understood that they could do it in a sequence and pay attention to what the other person has to say. We did the running drills and then did some speed drills. The kids were in bad shape in terms of fitness and capacity. There were a few kids who were more inclined to athletics and games. But, a good number of them were averse to exercise. I pushed them a bit to go faster (they do one fast lap for about 40-50 metres and then a slow lap for 40-50 metres) - The children were impatient and just wanted to get done with it - Thus, they ended up going out too fast and burned themselves out. We dropped the idea of spending any time discussing or relating concepts of health, body etc. to running and physical activity. There are many reasons for this - The time given to us was very minimal. Yes, technically the school administration was ok with us taking both the games period - But, that is not the intention of this whole program. We didn't want to force kids into something at the expense of something they love! So, we balanced it out with only one period of about 40-45 mins of interaction with us. The Physical education teachers were very cooperative and nice to us - but, I don't think they were convinced or knew what to expect from the program. Meanwhile, it was impossible to get the science or any other teacher to be part of this program. So, at least at this point we decided to just focus on getting the children in a routine for running. We did some stretches after the running and also did the foot drills. At the end of the session, I played some soccer with the kids. One positive development was that the school did provide us with lime juice, given the really odd time - it was quite dehydrating on the kids and I had requested for it. They were supposed to have these periods right after lunch and we could somehow move it to two periods before lunch at 11:50 A.M.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 2nd Week

Sita School

In the second week, we did a short run and did some foot drills as well. Foot drills help improve the brain to foot coordination and irrespective of the running help improve motor skills for the children. The kids had a lot of fun doing it - the drills involve funny walking styles - foot inwards, foot outwards, a duck walk (like charlier chaplin), pigeon toed, walking on the heals, walking backwards on the toes. We all 'quacked' like ducks, purred like pigeons and there was a lot of laughter :)  - Later, we did a session with the kids, where we discussed in general about what happens to the body when we run. Why do we get a stabbing pain below the ribs? Though we had prepared for the session, I felt it could have been done better, as I couldn't answer some of Jane's questions and Preeti had to help me out. Later we decided that it didn't make sense for me to speak in english, grapple with the concepts and then have Preeti translate. Preeti was more than willing to help out with presenting the sessions directly to the children in Kannada. While, we did this on Fridays, Kamala would follow up in the rest of the week with the health program - reiterating and re-introducing the concepts with activities and discussions. Kamala also was working on a fellowship proposal in parallel. She was going to do some work on classroom interaction and how to evaluate children's understanding of concepts and use that to plan activities etc. A very interesting aspect in Sita School is that 'evaluation' was not an exam - it was continuous and in classroom and done in a non-judgemental way.

I also took the foot sizes of the children so as to get the bata shoes for them. All the children were running barefoot and we were worried about the long distances they would be running in difficult terrain. We discussed this with Jane and decided something nominal and also paid in part by the families would make sense. So, we decided to get shoes and socks for the kids. I also took a lot of photos of the children to keep track of names.

More photos here - Sita_school

This week was also my first week with computer classes. This was my first real experience with teaching children of this age group. Though, it was a bit unnerving in the beginning and my confidence levels were a bit low, within a few minutes I got comfortable. I realized that I had to break it down and keep it very simple for the children. As many of them are seeing the computer for the first time - i.e. in school was the first time. So, we started with just figuring out what each component was - where does power come for. Which was the most critical component - we did this by figuring out that the computer is not really shutdown until we shutdown the CPU. Later, I let the kids play a few games related to typing skills on the computer. I did this with three different groups of 3-4 children for 45 minutes each.

I also had trouble adhering to the time for periods. School bells in Sita school was quite interesting, with a child ringing the 'cymbals' :) - I also observed that art, science, language, math and other aspects merged effortlessly. The younger children were around the pond to observe the colors of some fish (guppies) to do their painting later. Kannada classes involves doing comic strips for dialogues.Each visit presented a wonderful opportunity to learn!


Shashi had earlier mentioned that Ananya was in need of some help with teaching mathematics. The children were down in confidence about choosing Math as an option, especially after some kids failed to clear the NIOS. The earlier math teacher, Uddhav also had left the school. So, I decided to spend time after the running sessions to do Math with couple of groups - Ruppee and Baht (groups are named after currency and are organized by ability levels rather than age/standards etc.). Our running session was a bit more fun with the kids going in the route they wanted. The Ananya kids are good at running as such because we have been training them for multiple runs. So, distance is not a problem for them. But, to get them to do the running drills and the stretches after the run was a bit of a hassle, because I was still in the process of earning their respect and trust. I could have blown my top with them, but that's not what I wanted to do. After the running, we sat in a circle dicussed in general about what running meant - why do people run, what happens to us when we run etc. We discussed about the lungs and smoking in general and why its not good for the health.

After the run, we started with Math. I decided to start with Geometry, because they had done some before and were fairly confident about it.We started with basic concepts like lines, rays and angles. I gave them some trivia questions - for e.g. why is going around a circle equivalent to 360 deg ? Why cant it be 500 or 1000 or any number that's easier to handle.

After the running workout, some kids mentioned that they had a hockey game, they play for the Dhanraj-Billal foundation's team (children from Ananya and another non-profit for underprivileged - Don bosco form a team), supported by Dream-A-Dream. They were playing in the ICSE level circuit and usually the opposing team has many parents, teachers and a whole jing-bang to support them, while their team had just one coordinator from Dream-A-Dream and some other kids who were friends. I decided to join them and dropped in for their game the next day. Kanna, one of the Ananya kids was captain and couple of other kids also played. Though we lost quite badly, all the kids had fun and I shouted hoarse in support of the children.

More photos here- Ananya - Dream a Dream hockey game


The Prakriya kids were still getting used to the shock of losing their Games period. We again started with a trivia question and asked the kids to figure out the answer. Some kids were not interested in the running at all. I didn't see a point forcing anyone into something they don't like. So, we gave a choice to all the kids - they could just go play and skip the run or they do a run with us for 40 minutes and then do their games. A good number of kids wanted to play and we did let them go. The rest of them came out for the run. I do believe that there are quite a few kids who like running and want to run. But, there probably are a few who came out just because they didn't want to make us feel bad :) - Anyways, we had good fun and I ran with quite a few kids. We chatted about a lot of things - why run etc. Then at the end of the run, we did our stretches and then did a brief chat on what happens to the body, lungs etc. when we run. Some kids liked it and were involved, but the attention spans were short as they were losing minutes in their game time! I then joined them in the game of Soccer and we had a real good game as I could see the kids enjoying themselves.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 1st Week

Sita School

Preeti, physiotherapist with Runner's High and one of our key members visited Sita School with me. We did an introduction to all the children about running and why we were there. We started out with a few running drills (that work on various aspects of running over time) and then did a short run/walk. After the run, Kamala, the science teacher started the first session of the health module. We discussed in general about health and body. She wrote a chart with health in the middle and asked children to come up with any terms, ideas or words associated with health. Lot of interesting inputs came from the children - starting from exercise, mind, stress, hospital, how the body works etc. As the suggestions came along, Kamala sorted them in different categories on the chart. Some terms were discussed - as to which category they should fall under - medicine etc. or if they were already covered. At the end of the session, the children sat in groups and wrote down their understanding of health in general.

More Photos are here - Sita_school_overview_health


We gave an introduction to the children and explained the plan. The Ananya children are not new to running and we have been associated with them through two training programs - Auroville and Sunfeast 10Km runs in the past. But, this was a different experience, given that there is going to be more regular interaction and lot more learning from various perspectives. We found it challenging to get the attention from all the children. They were very excited and were not willing to focus. Preeti and I were not involved as a 'teacher' and in the past I have been more of a volunteer the kids would play and fool around with a lot! So, it was no easy task to get them to listen to me. After the run, I went with a few kids to collect some clay for their puppetry workshop. Over the many months, I have been observing the children to understand the dynamics rather than force any kind of relationship. So, they are relatively at ease around me and discuss many aspects that I believe I wouldn't have been privy to.


Unlike in Sita School or Ananya, games and physical activity was not a part of the daily routine in Prakriya. They had fixed games periods for the high school children. We were involved in discussions right from the beginning. The school caters to ICSE, IGCSE, CBSE, State Board and NIOS syllabus making the time-table process quite complicated. In the end, there was no time early in the morning or late in the evening ( better times for running and sports) for the children. We were asked to take over the games periods on Thursdays. For some of the kids this was the only games period in the entire week while for others it was one of two times in the week they get to play games. Obviously, even with our introduction the first few questions were about the games period - Whether they would get a chance to play games. I started of with an interesting trivia and then we all went out for a run. This was the first time the kids had gone out on a run. We did about 2.5 kms and the kids were quite tired and it took longer than expected. So, they got almost no time for games. The kids were a bit disappointed about this.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Plan.

The plan is to work with children from different backgrounds - class, caste, religion etc. and bring them together in a single event. We discussed with many schools and efforts and finally things were agreed upon with three efforts in bangalore - (Sita School, Ananya and Prakriya) and continuing support with Thulir in Dharmapuri.

You can read about each of these efforts here -

Each school caters to communities from varying backgrounds. Sita School caters to a rural population in the outskirts of Bangalore, Ananya works with Slum children from various locations in Bangalore, Thulir is situated in a remote tribal village in Dharmapuri, Tamilnadu and Prakriya caters to the privileged sections of society, but to children with varied and different learning abilities.

Sita School and Ananya are very happy to take us in the fold! They wanted us to spend as much time as we can give for the children. A lot of freedom with the right amount of guidance and mentorship was discussed. This is very exciting for us! It was agreed that this will be a learning experience for everyone. In Sita School, right from the start the science teacher was involved and we discussed the curriculum. We decided that we would work with about 20 elder children in Sita school and as many kids as interested (total strength - 60) in Ananya.

With Thulir, because of the distance and our inability to make frequent visits, a concrete plan could not be made. But, we are hopeful of continuing our earlier efforts. Some of the children had also come for the Team Asha run organized in the month of June.

Prakriya school is very interested in trying out the new ideas. But, were constrained by the need to stick to a syllabus, parental and teachers' pressure for time etc. To their credit, we were not hopeful of any school with their background and parental pressure to partner with us! After discussions, it was decided to take the weekly games periods and work with the children once a week.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Introduction, Background and Experiences


In the winter of 2008, a few of us got together and shared our thoughts on running and what it means. It was amazing to see how running had changed our perceptions of life and what it does to us. Many thoughts flowed and the free spirit of running is epitomized in many such thoughts.

All these thoughts and more made us ponder and think seriously about how we can share the joy and experience of running with the broader community.
- It was not just about making beginners start running.
- It was also not about competition to see who came first in a bunch of runners.
- It was also not about 'running' in the strict literal sense - there is no shame in walking and no one started to run before they walked. The smart runner walks when she/he has to!

It is about helping everyone reach their potential, push their physical and mental limits and strive to live life to its fullest. It is about getting the Runner's high.

Our website:


There is a dearth of opportunity and space for children to learn about running, and in a sense about themselves. This is true even in urban areas of India. On the contrary running is seen as punishment in schools!

Sport: Running is one sport that is meant for anyone. It can easily be made affordable, accessible and achievable for everyone. Running and the desire to attain one's physical or mental limits is actually normal. Our intent is to take away the 'super human' aspect away from the idea of running! You don't need to be fit and thin to run. If you run and develop a passion for it, you will be what you want to be. Running forms the basis for almost every popular sport - cricket, soccer, basketball, hockey, athletics etc. Even in the other sports, running helps build an aerobic base critical for improved performance and lung capacity.

Health: India is home to around 40 million diabetics and this number is thought to give India the dubious distinction of being home to the largest number of diabetics in any one country. Latest data culled from the World Health Organization (WHO) and reports published in medical journals like Lancet and Indian Heart Journal, suggest that by 2010 there would be close to 100 million cardiac patients in India. What is more astounding and sad is the alarming increase in incidence rates in children and young adults. Exercise is the best form of preventive medicine and care for serious health problems. It has been demonstrated that it can improve longevity of a quality life.

Education: Running teaches a lot, in terms of foundational attitudes in life such as patience, learning from mistakes, responsibility, being determined and spirited in spite of challenges, learning how to organize, team work and to understand how sometimes your mind and passion can overcome physical tiredness. But, the most important aspect is that running increases confidence and self esteem.

Art: It is important to realize that humans and especially children are more adept at expressing themselves in multitude ways. Poetry, sculpture, painting, drama etc. can be seen as evolved means of expression and we as a society need to also appreciate such modes of expression rather than just conventional academics. The idea of physical activity and sports as an art form equally capable of such expression has never been considered. The famous running prodigy of America, Steve Prefontaine had said -

A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they’re capable of understanding."

"Some people create with words or with music or with a brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, 'I've never seen anyone run like that before.' It's more than just a race, it's a style."

In many schools the educational system sends the wrong message to the children – that without academic excellence they are dumb, and cannot achieve.  The formal (or mainstream) education system is breaking down the confidence of many such children. The key is to help the children realize that they have skills and talent in many aspects. There is an overemphasis on competition and academics in the mainstream system. This leads to a situation where aspects related to ruthless competition and rote learning are given more prominence rather than a wholesome learning experience. There is seldom exposure to some alternative career options, leave alone the idea of nurturing the innate talent in children. With lack of sports and other physical education, children are losing out on holistic mental as well as physical development.


Our experiences with children and running has been the inspiration for the whole idea of constituting an organization called Runner's high. Our experiences with creating a training program for 'Team Asha', interacting with/training children at grassroots efforts has evolved into an in-depth understanding of the nuances of coaching and an ever increasing urge to learn more about children and running. These initiatives form the crux of who we are. In the first year of Runner's High, the plan will be to continue with the efforts we are already involved with and a few others that have come about thanks to friends who have approached us. By next year, we hope to bring more structure and organization based on these experiences.

A. Thulir

Background of Thulir: Thulir is an Education Resource Center for children and young adults at Sittilingi which is a tribal village in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu. It's a Tamil word that means, "tender shoot", also "to sprout". The goal of Thulir is to provide a place where children are in the presence of adults who can motivate them and provide support for learning, and can access basic learning resources that are not available to them in their homes or schools.  It is also a place where children can attend supplementary classes or prepare for exams away from crammed and noisy homes, and interact with visiting professionals from various walks of life to get exposure. Young adults are trained to create similar spaces for children in their own villages. As children grow into young adults, they can have access to vocational training courses and network with other such centers. Learn more about their efforts at:

Relation to Runner's High: Experience as part of working with Team Asha. This effort has been the main inspiration that led to Runner's High being formed. See Addendum for an account of the experince that led to our continued interaction with Thulir in terms of running.

Interaction: 2 children particpated in the Kaveri races - One of them in the marathon and one child in the 10km run. Both of them finished the runs successfuly. 7 children from Thulir in the age group of 16-20 participated in the Auroville marathon this year. Four of them participated in the 5K run and finished strongly. Two of them finished the half marathon with times of 1:48 and 2:10. One kid finished the full marathon at 4:10. All of them have been training for the races under the guidance of Team Asha and were monitored on a weekly basis from Bangalore. Detailed training schedules, guidance, injury prevention tips etc. were provided on a regular basis. There was a lot of support from the co-ordinators at Thulir - Anu and Krishna as well.

About Thulir:

Team Asha and Thulir:

Outcomes: Quoted in Thulir's blog -

B. Ananya

Background of Ananya: Ananya is a learning center in Bellandur that works with children who have dropped out of mainstream schooling (primarily due to learning disabilities or behavioral disabilities). It was started in March 1998, by a group of individuals concerned about the dearth of schools that provide relevant and meaningful education for the underprivileged children in and around Bangalore city. Even though the Indian constitution guarantees free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of 14, there are no schools that the poor can choose from. Either the schools are very good, but expensive and therefore beyond the reach of the underprivileged, or they are free but have poor physical facilities and offer a standard curriculum which is dull and boring. Most children, who drop out of school, do so because the schools do not cater to their special needs. Education in such critical context has no meaning or relevance to these children. It does not provide them with the required skills to overcome the social traumas or the emotional and physical hardships they face everyday. Asha had supported the initiative in it's early stages till 2003. Though Asha Bangalore has not supported the school financially, we are still in touch with the co-ordinators. You can learn more here -

Relation to Runner's High: Experience as part of working with Team Asha. 

9 children from Ananya in the age group of 11-13 participated in the Auroville
marathon this year. All of them participated in the 10K run and finished strongly. They have been training for the races under the guidance of Team Asha and were monitored on a weekly basis. Detailed training schedules, guidance, injury prevention tips etc. were provided on a regular basis. Team Asha runners also ran with the kids for couple of weeks in Bangalore. In partnership with B2F, a sports medicine clinic Asha helped provide muscle strengthening and rehabilitation sessions for the children as well. There was a lot of support from the co-ordinators at Ananya - Shashi and Uddhav as well.
About Ananya:

Team Asha and Ananya:

Outcomes: Children developed confidence and interest in the sport of running. It also helps them in other team sports they are involved in. Team Asha regularly visits Ananya to carry on the interaction through running. More information can be obtained from Ananya's coordinators.


Team Asha's experience with Thulir (Note: Names have been changed)

Suresh is a 19-year-old teenager who has been with Thulir since its inception. He ran with Team Asha to complete his first marathon. Suresh is from the village of Sittlingi, and trained on his own for the most part with minimal running support.

Quite by chance, he gave company to one of the Asha Bangalore volunteers, Sridhar, on his training run near Thulir, and actually ended up running the whole distance of 16k with him. Suresh enjoyed himself a lot, and when Sridhar spoke about what Team Asha does in terms of running marathons, Suresh wanted to do a marathon.

We then talked to Anu and Krishna about Suresh's interest and came up with a training schedule for him.  From August 2008 to September 2008, we would call in with Suresh on weekly basis to give one-on-one advice and coaching asas monitor any injury. Team Asha provided him with a pair of shoes, a running shirt,  Team Asha shirt and a bottle with strap.  His training was unique and unlike anything we had come across. Suresh planned his runningrunning - stretching, drills, nutrition, cross training etc.

Suresh is a natural at running, and has amazing potential. We had decided that he will travel with Team Asha to Mysore for the Kaveri Trail Marthon. We were really inspired by his earnest and sincere effort in running the marathon.  The fact that Suresh easily trained for a marathon in 3 months shows the active lifestyle of the tribal community – who walk long distances and travel tough terrain on a daily basis.

Suresh performed well on race day. He finished the midway point in 1 hour 55 minutes and he was on course to obtain a placing. However, due to cramps, he was forced to slow down his pace considerably and walked quite a bit. He still completed his first ever 26.2miles in 5 hours and 16min. Suresh was inspired and has become even more enthusiastic about running.

Suresh called me a few days ago and said that he wants to run more.  He is already found 3 or 4 kids who want to train with him. He is also enthusiastic about going over the basics of running for the younger kids. Encouraged by Suresh's dedication and enthusiasm, we are now working on a plan to help train children and teenagers at Thulir in running.  The idea is to provide that opportunity and space for children to learn about running, and in a sense about themselves.  This opportunity to explore and exposure to running is lacking, even in urban areas of India. routes around the village - along with the terrain and distances he also had to consider accessible water points (pumps or taps). In a few runs he got a couple of kids to cycle along with him for company and support. We talked to him about replenishing salts and he started carrying water which had rock salt  (more wholesome than just sodium in common salt) and sugar mixed which helped him with the cramps. When I ran with Suresh in Thulir we went over pacing i.e. how to keep a steady pace and not go out too fast. We also discussed other aspects of running - stretching, drills, nutrition, cross training etc.

Suresh is a natural at running, and has amazing potential. We had decided that he will travel with Team Asha to Mysore for the Kaveri Trail Marthon. We were really inspired by his earnest and sincere effort in running the marathon.  The fact that Suresh easily trained for a marathon in 3 months shows the active lifestyle of the tribal community – who walk long distances and travel tough terrain on a daily basis.

Suresh performed well on race day. He finished the midway point in 1 hour 55 minutes and he was on course to obtain a placing. However, due to cramps, he was forced to slow down his pace considerably and walked quite a bit. He still completed his first ever 26.2miles in 5 hours and 16min. Suresh was inspired and has become even more enthusiastic about running.

Suresh called me a few days ago and said that he wants to run more.  He is already found 3 or 4 kids who want to train with him. He is also enthusiastic about going over the basics of running for the younger kids. Encouraged by Suresh's dedication and enthusiasm, we are now working on a plan to help train children and teenagers at Thulir in running.  The idea is to provide that opportunity and space for children to learn about running, and in a sense about themselves.  This opportunity to explore
and exposure to running is lacking, even in urban areas of India.