Bangla-Dash2013

Bangla-Dash 2013


I posted this summary after I came back:

Short version:

I went to India to run 290km from Kolkata India to Dhaka Bangladesh to raise funds to complete building a school just outside Dhaka. I carried $5000 cash in my rucksack which was donated from about 80 different people. I was very relieved to safely it all handover! I completed almost half the run (115km) through the Kolkata metropolis and rural West Bengal villages but we pulled the plug soon after the Bangladesh border due to an unprecedented general strike over 4 days that prevented any traffic movement between towns, stopped ferries etc (it was quite dangerous more for our minibus than ourselves). However when the strike was lifted for just one day we were able to grasp the opportunity to run to the town where the school is being built and I was able to meet the builder, architect and project manager. Whilst disappointed that I was unable to finish the run due to political issues, I know I would have been able to physically finish and ultimately a life lesson is that sometimes things are outside of your control and you just need to just let nature take it’s course. I specifically chose this project because it would be difficult and there was a chance it might not go according to plan, but I had a great adventure doing it and met some great people and saw some great sights. I enjoyed meeting many people in India and Bangladesh and never once felt threatened or unsafe, in fact I clearly saw that people everywhere are just people trying to make the best of their lives and for their families, it was a real refresher on how similar we all are, as people of this world. I am impressed by my friends Marc and Chris’ desire to continue with a difficult project in a difficult country and the three of us are still continuing to seek donations to fund a second school.

Long Version:

Sometimes you just have to go with your heart.

Last year I read about 2 teachers, an Australian and an American who had been working in Bangladesh and had this idea to do a sponsored run from Kolkata India to Dhaka Bangladesh, a total of 290km in about 4 days. I was mightily impressed by this – I have been a runner for many years and was keen to attempt some kind of “journey run” for a charity and was half looking for inspirational ideas. I am very interested in India and even went to India for 6 weeks in 2012. The timing of their run wasn’t good for me, but I followed them up afterwards and found they had raised more than $20,000. They donated half to a school that was being built and which opened in January 2013 and they lined up an architect to design a school that they would fund and build to replace an existing shed that was being used as a school by a disadvantaged community.

I contacted them to see if they were planning on doing the run again, they weren’t, but they said if I was keen to run myself then they would help with the logistics in Bangladesh. They seemed like genuine friendly blokes doing something very worthwhile but the idea was pretty scary. I decided to commit to doing the run anyway and try to raise some money myself and trust that it would turn out ok. Sometimes you just have to go with your heart.

Timing was difficult, it was February and Chris was the only one still in Bangladesh, but was leaving in June. The weather would be best in March or April, but I couldn’t go in March (too hot and/or too wet afterwards). As he is a teacher and we would borrow the school’s minibus, I would be limited to the school holidays in April, although he was going away overseas for much of the holidays with his family, so we locked in the only week that we had to do the run.

Luckily I had been training hard over the summer and I just had to sort out my flights and logistics for the 82km that is on India side of the border. All my injections from my India trip in 2012 were still current. I emailed my friends, family and work colleagues to see if anyone would donate to the cause and to date have received over $4500 from about 80 different people. Chris in Bangladesh was very impressed as this was pretty much just the right amount remaining to complete the school building – the funds will be used for the solar-powered lights, shelving and furniture and some teacher-training.

I left Australia on 26th March with $5000 in a large pile of crisp $50 notes from Westpac Bank safely in my backpack. I had a few days sightseeing in Mumbai and then a few days in Kolkata where I planned the start of the run, the route and surveyed the first section. I visitied Gandhi’s house/musuem and also Mother Teresa’s which I enjoyed greatly as well as having soem great indian food. I would leave as early as possible on Weds 3rd April, starting from Howrah station and running across the Howrah bridge then find my way out through the suburbs and head for the Bangladesh border. I purposefully brought as little as possible, just to fill a very small backpack – later weighed by the side of the road at 9.2kg – however try carrying it on your back and it still feels heavy!

I started running at 5am totally scared out of my wits – would I find the way ? Would I be safe by myself ? Would I get squashed by the crazy traffic ? Would the Police just decide I wouldn’t be allowed to do this ? Luckily I found my way out of the city ok, and as it got daylight and I got further out the conditions improved. But boy was it hot ! Luckily there were lots of places to get water, cold drinks and the ever-present sweet indian chai. Most people saw me as like an alien that had dropped from the sky, in disbelief. Who are you ? where are you going ? where have you come from ? why are you running ? As it was hard work running, often all I could manage was a wave and a smile!

I had allowed myself 2 days to make the 82km to the border with Bangladesh and my appointment with my support crew. Doing it in one day would be tough and there were a thousand things that could delay me, so I went on the side of caution and planned for two days. I figured 47km on day one would leave an easier 35km for day two. I reached the town of Habra, 47km into the run at 3pm on day one and was shattered, with badly blistered feet and literally almost ready to pass out. If truth be told, the previous few hours had been hard. The road was narrow and I was close to a lot of traffic and my rest breaks were becoming more frequent.I stopped and sat and drank anything I could lay my hands on but there was no hotel so I took a rickshaw to the next village to stay the night. They’d never had a foreigner stay there before and I slept beside the mosque.

On day two I took a rickshaw back to Habra and continued my run, gently, as my feet were still sore. I ensured I took time to rest properly and tried to eat some food but I just didn’t fancy anything. It was just as hot today, approx 40C. I made it to the border at Benapole at just gone lunchtime. I received a txt message to say that my crew would meet me at a hotel in the town of Jessore and I should catch the bus there. I made the border formalities still in my running kit and dripping with sweat, so everyone waved me through as I probably looked too poor & deranged to worry about. I got changed, and caught a bus to Jessore, ate and slept. In the morning I met my crew who said that for the first time ever there was a general strike over the weekend (starts Thursday night in Muslim countries) and that we would have to drive back to Dhaka as the only alternative would be to stay in Jessore for 4 days as its too dangerous to travel between towns during a Hartal. Even then, we saw some demonstrations and found some ferries were already stopped leading to traffic jams several miles long already.

The run was pretty much over as we would lose all our available days to the Hartal. The newspapers had lots of stories of demonstrations, torchings and people being killed, so it was not idle threats. Luckily however on Sunday night we heard that the Hartal planned for Monday would not be happening so we rapidly made a plan to run the 35km from Dhaka to Sonargoan to visit the current school and building site. It was great running without my pack and running with Chris who had put in so much planning for the Bangladesh side of the trip. It was truly the highlight of my trip to make it to the village where the school is in the process of being built (completion approx June). I took some photos and its pretty clear that this is a very poor village indeed and the people can do with as much help as possible.

I stayed on in Dhaka for a few extra days but all the other trips we had planned were cancelled as there were more Hartals called and made planning anything very difficult.I decided to catch the bus back to India and made my way home eventually.

Please email this onto any of your friends or family who may also wish to donate as we are still trying to raise more money. Any help will be gratefully received!

 Links

 -My website & blog diary : http://kevintiller.com

-My photos from the trip : https://picasaweb.google.com/101800124194210937689/Bangla2013Kevin

-Chris’ photos of the run to Sonargoan village https://picasaweb.google.com/101800124194210937689/Bangla2013Chris

-You can make a donation at https://kevintiller.com/bangla-dash2013/donations-for-bangla-dash-2013/


I posted this before I went:

Short version:

In March 2012, Australians Marc & Chris, teaching in Bangladesh for the past few years, did a sponsored run from Kolkata India to Dhaka Bangladesh, approx 290km, and taking 4 days. They called it the Bangla-Dash (I like that name) and raised $20,000 which is enough to build 2 schools in a village outside Dhaka. In April 2013, I will run the same route with the idea of raising some additional funds for the schools.

Click here to donate

Background info on the 2012 run:

Longer version:

In Australia they have a concept called “Long Service Leave” where if you work for the same company for 15 years, you get 3 months paid leave ! Not many places in the world have this, I think that’s why Australia is called “The Lucky Country“. So as I have been working for Westpac, one of the leading banks in the country for more than 20 years, it was time for me to take my leave.

In 2012, after much discussions with my wife, I decided to travel to India for 6 weeks, a country I travelled to over 20 years ago, and have read so much about.  I did quite a lot of travelling soon after leaving Uni (see map here) so am used to it – my most audacious travel experience was going from Hong Kong to Delhi by bus and train, by myself aged 21. Anyway, I planned to spend 3 weeks helping at a school in northern India. I then saw a video of an English schoolgirl who was taken to the same school by her father. As she was very enthusiastic, it gave me an idea and I decided to take one of my 3 girls, and luckily one of them volunteered to come with me, Kody aged 10. We had a great time in India but the school was incredibly well-organised & funded and we weren’t really much help (Kody got more out of it by helping out in the orphanage, and primary school).

This year, for various reasons none of the kids could come and my wife suggested I do something that I really wanted to do, without being held back by one of the kids. So for part 2 of my leave, which I wanted to use in 2013, I started looking around for something adventurous but that might also enable me to of some help to someone. She probably regrets that now.

I remembered reading about the Bangla-Dash last year, but the timing wasn’t good for me, so when I checked back this year and saw they raised a heap of money, I immediately thought that it would be a great adventure:

  1. The opportunity to help Marc & Chris is great – and to be honest they could do with some help!
  2. I am a totally passionate runner and think that 290km would be a stretch given the heat/conditions but possible
  3. I just love India and used to teach students from Bangladesh at Uni, so going to Bangladesh would be a great adventure

After a few discussions it was pretty clear that they were very keen to have someone else helping them, and maybe they were proud to see that at least one other person liked the idea of “the Bangla-Dash”. It would be great to encourage other runners to continue the tradition in 2014!

So, I will be out of Australia for a bit longer than 4 weeks. I fly to Mumbai and have a few days there and catch a train to Kolkata and have a few days preparation there. I plan to start running on Weds 3rd April and take maybe 6 days approx 50km per day. I would like to reach Dhaka before 14th April which is Bengali New Year. I aim to have a support crew for the leg from Kolkata to the Bangladeshi border (80km) but its not organised yet – I will do that in Kolkata. Chris is still in Dhaka and the aim is to use his school’s minibus and driver (same as in 2012) as my “fixer”. That is still to be confirmed, if all else fails I plan to hire a crew at the border. Or else just run with my pack, although the state of the roads is not great.

Obviously the run maybe quicker or longer depending on my physical & mental health – this might not work – as there are a myriad reasons that could prevent me from completing the run as planned eg as I will be eating local food and could get sick. Or I could get injured. If I can’t run anymore I will buy a bike and continue that way.

The route I will be running is here:

bangla-dash-route
http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/173488724

I wanted to link to a video from the Bangla-Dash last year, but there isn’t one, however THIS video is of schoolkids in Bangladesh and is really good (even though it is by charities not related to the Bangla-Dash) :

Bangladesh is a country that has plenty of bad news and it often suffers from the most amazing accidents & calamities, so there is some trepidation with this run. I am a family man with a wife, 3 kids and a big mortgage, so my aim is definitely to come back in one piece – as my blog tagline says “I’m just an ordinary bloke doing my best”.

However my next goal is to take some funds to donate to the Bangla-Dash project. That is why I am seeking some help from my friends, colleagues and other people reading this. I can guarantee that I am covering my own costs and every cent I raise will be donated. 

See here for the best update on the current status of the project in Bangladash.

I will definitely be blogging to this website along the way, so please keep checking back on my progress.

If you prefer to see how I go before donating then that is ok too – in fact I could even come to your school, or group post-run to give talks and show photos, so I will still be collecting donations all through 2013.

Click here to donate

Many thanks!

Kevin

There are defining moments in every person’s life when he or she must decide either to be sensible and do the reasonable thing or to embark on a perilous journey through a fog of uncertainties and attractive unknowns that cannot possibly be estimated for their risk potential. faced with such a choice, we make our best guess and then either turn back or press forward. those who go forward and make it through the fog-shrouded unknown to the far shore often partake of great adventures .. Gordy Ainsleigh [link]

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  1. Thursday 28 February 2013 at 10:42

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