To encourage participation for Oxfam Trailwalker, our employer - Accenture, promised to pay the registration fee of INR 20,000 on behalf of the teams.
Among other teams, we accepted this tough challenge to walk 100 km in 48 hours.
We are a group of four from Accenture Pune named “#Maajhi”.
THE BEGINNING OF A JOURNEY
For some reason it looked fascinating to us - Ankur was the first one to come up with this weird idea of doing it. He was forwarding emails to everyone and talking to as many colleagues as possible and finally convinced us for this challenge. It looked like something way out of our league and considering how unfit we were it was a major decision. Ankur was suffering from a slip disc, Amod had a third-degree ligament tear in his knee, Tatha weighed more than 100 kgs and even though Kinjal seemed fit, he had to walk with knee support to avoid pain. The first task at hand was to make ourselves believe that we can do it. And somehow, we promised ourselves to do the impossible and within a week the team was formed.
“For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories”- Plato.
When we got over our fears, conquered our thoughts and made ourselves believe that winning was not just to come first in the race but to fight against our conflicting minds and to push all boundaries, things got easier for us. We started with our first practice walk on 8th of September for 7-8 km. From then on, we started walking every weekend at either our society premises for 3-4 hours or for long walks on the road. To help with the preparation, Oxfam also organised 20 km practice walks, completing which gave us a great boost. We also met a lot of people during these trial walks - people with their own stories of previous Trailwalker experiences - some who had to give up at about 70 km and a few who had completed 100 km in just 21 hours. Listening to their stories, our minds were in jeopardy again, whether to really go for it or withdraw. Amidst all the confusion though we knew within our hearts that the battle was against ourselves and 100 km is just a mere mark that one should not be afraid of. After the initial training walks, we started going on long walks every weekend for 30-35 km - which benefitted us a lot.
Apart from the group training that we were undergoing, we also started training ourselves personally. Ankur hired a trainer and practiced different yoga postures to help him with his back, Kinjal would go jogging every weekend, Amod was undergoing physiotherapy for his knee and Tatha was getting control over his food habits. As days were passing, we were more focused on the event. Our diet changed accordingly, we completely stopped taking any beverages which otherwise, was a big part of our daily routine since ages. Things were happening very naturally for us. We did not have to force ourselves to give up on our food habits or to go for long walks. Our determination to complete the walk made our conscience do things that seemed very unlikely of us. Our weekend walks slowly became our daily practice which we wouldn't miss at any cost.
When it came to having the right equipment, we made sure our shoes were proper to prevent injuries, got proper sippers, clothing, sunglasses and other necessary things. We made sure to have all basics in place so that out of all things to pull us back during the event, our equipments shouldn’t be one. Accenture also provided us some goodies like head torch, water bottle, hat, etc. to help us with the event.
THE REAL TEST
After prolonged trainings came the day of commencement of the event.
The event was starting at 6 am. We travelled to the destination a day prior, along with our families. We spent that night in the accommodation Oxfam India had suggested. We had to report at the starting point by 5 am. After the little warm up and zumba session, Mandira Bedi being the chief guest for the event, flagged off the walk at 6 and #Maajhi, along with all the other teams, started off for the journey.
It was a beautiful trail that Oxfam had picked, from hills to farming fields, they had it all covered. They had check points every 10-11 km that had physiotherapists and volunteers to cater to participants’ need. All the arrangements for relaxation like washrooms and beds were also provided.
The first 20 kms were the toughest as it had to be done under the scorching sun and because the trail was quite uneven with high inclined hills, paddy fields and some proper roads in between. We crossed the first 10 kms in 3 hours, took rest for half an hour, had breakfast that was provided by Oxfam and then started off again.
For the next 10 kms we had a very hard time - at 15 kms, we were divided. Two of us wanted to give up and head back home as we were totally drained out. However, with a little push from Kinjal and Amod, we continued walking. There were also times when Kinjal and Amod would push us from behind, supporting and helping us climb during uphill sections. Team work was on full parade. With a slow pace we kept moving. Our motive was to not give up and that was all we were engrossed in.
The sun went down finally and up came the moon, which meant that we were to walk at night now. There was a certain beauty to walking at night, we realised. The twinkling of the stars, the serenity around, we were spell-bound. It was dark at night, but Oxfam placed flags, banners and florescent marks along the trail so that the teams do not deviate. Also, the head torches provided by Accenture were really helpful during night walk.
We kept pushing ourselves as far as we could, taking long pauses in between and walking for shorter length at times. At one point, Tatha laid down on a barren field while walking during the night without even caring about the rodents or reptiles that could be around. He only could think of giving up and going back to his comfortable bed at home.
Our team was having second thoughts, we were considering giving up then, because it seemed impossible at that point to drag ourselves to the finish line. Looking at our condition, we thought to call it a day after walking for 40 kms on Day 1 and went back to our camps to get some rest.
DAY 2 BROUGHT NEW ENTHUSIASM
The next morning with great enthusiasm we started off to CP5. Our families had joined us to give us some more motivation. The kids were highly energetic and made sure that we kept on going and did not give up in between. After walking for a few kilometers our folks decided to part ways and wait for us at the next checkpoint. We reached CP5 and after taking short rest, we were off for the next one. To our surprise, when we had reached checkpoint 6 we found it to be closed - it had closed before our arrival which gave us a real sense of our pace but without bothering we kept on walking. We had to walk another 10 kms for the next CP to take proper rest and meet the physiotherapists. We could really feel how far we were from our target point. However, we were determined enough to not let it bother us and we just kept on going like our life depended on it.
On reaching checkpoint 7, we were amazed to see our colleagues there. They had travelled all the way from Pune just so that they could cheer for us. We were so happy to see them that half of our pain went away with just a glimpse of them. After taking rest for some time, we took to the trails again. But this time our colleagues and the kids were walking with us as well.
The walk to the next checkpoint seemed effortless. Ten of us were walking together, chatting, enjoying the sunset and were not rushed by time. The road seemed a little less painful.
Every time we came across the Oxfam distance markings, it would make us more and more excited about finishing it. We would click pictures every time we finished a kilometer. During the last 4 kms our families joined in again and we walked together towards the finish line with our proud hearts. At 4:15 am we finally reached the finish line.
THE BATTLE WAS WON, IT WASN’T EASY, BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!
We were once again greeted with the dhol and regardless of all the body aches, we danced our hearts out. We had won a battle. A battle against ourselves. Not only did we complete but we did it in 46 hours. All the sayings about will power held true for us that day. Despite wherever our career takes us, we would always cherish that day and that is an achievement which would be very close to the hearts. After our little celebration, Oxfam started giving out certificates and medals to all the finishers. The first team to finish took an incredible 16 hours! We also were among the lucky ones to have received the medals and certificates. We had the refreshments provided by Oxfam India and got to our cars, heading back to our respective homes.
We were so tired that we slept in the car throughout the journey and more, after we reached home. Surprisingly our body aches were all gone with the nap we took and didn’t feel an ounce of fatigue. We even attended a party thrown by Ankur’s family for completion of the walk and attended office the very next day!
MEMORIES TO CHERISH, MORE TO COME
We had a great experience and we cannot be more thankful to Oxfam India for organising such a grand event. They had set it up well. One concern faced by us was that there were no loos in between checkpoint; for people like us who took more than 4 hours at times to reach the next checkpoints it was difficult to hold in for such a long time. Neither were there any points to refill our water bottles in between. Other than these we found the event to be a successful one. We would like for them to organise more such events and give us more opportunities to compete with ourselves.
What this walk has given us is the “Belief” that if we can do it, anyone can do it with practice and perseverance. It is not easy, it is a true testament of your physical and mental strength, endurance, determination and will power. Now if you ask us whether we can be ‘Ironman’, our answer would be “why not?!”.