Sunday, September 20, 2009

Team Asha and 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:

Team Asha and Runner's High have been coaching the children over the last year for various events. They 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. Many children have completed marathons, half marathons and 10k runs in various events in Bangalore, Pondichery and Mysore.

This season three children trained for the Kaveri Trail Races. Balaji, an Asha volunteer spent considerable amount of time with the children to guide them through the training. Vinoo and Ezhumalai successfully completed their first half marathon in a good time of 1hr 54mins and 2hrs 02mins respectively! Sakthivel successfully completed his 10K in 1hr 02mins.

Here is a detailed account of Balaji's stay at Thulir with photos.

Here is Balaji's experience coaching the children:

August 3-9
Balaji reached Thulir on August 4th to help the Thulir Kids with their training plan for the KTM '09. After consulting with Anu and Krishna, we decided that Vinoo and Ezhumalai will run the half-marathon. Perumal could not participate because of his commitments in the newly started Basic Technology Course and Senthil was busy preparing for his final year of formal schooling. They warmed for the weekend long runs by doing a easy 5K run on Friday. On Saturday, they started their first long run of 10K. The boys were naturally fit to run the distance and did very well to finish the 10K in about one hour. On Sunday, they went for an easy run of 5K. Shakthivel, one of the students of the BT Course expressed interest in running with us. On Sunday, he appeared to run with us in an unusual attire - A lungi and a pair of ordinary slippers. Balaji was so impressed by his interest and enthusiasm that he allowed him to run about 3K with the group despite his unorthodox appearance.

August 10-16
Balaji had to leave Thulir in the second week to work on the Team Asha 8K run. He went for a trek with them on Monday and was given the glimpse of the boys' endurance and fitness! The students trained themselves for the rest of the week and Shakthivel also joined them.

August 17-23

Balaji joined them again later that week in time for their weekend long runs. They were scheduled to run 18K on Saturday and 8K on Sunday. Balaji, Vinoo and Senthil set out for the run on Saturday. Shakthivel joined them to run for 3K. They ran for 2 hours through the beautiful Bamboo forests. It was one of the longest runs for Vinoo and he enjoyed it thoroughly. On Sunday, it was a larger crowd for the run. Balaji, Senthil, Vinoo, Ezhumalai and Shakthivel started out to run. They were accompanied by two other students - Parameshwaran and Jayabal on bicycle. They did an easy run for about 4K and turned back. In the return run, they improvised by using the 'chain-running' technique. Runners run in a single file with the runner in the start being replaced by the runner in the last at regular intervals. The time interval was a little longer at the early stage and it was later reduced to zero in the last 1K encouraging runners to go faster. It was enjoyed by the boys and the cyclists assisted in co-ordinating the whole effort.

August 24-30
On Tuesday, Vinoo ran 200m splits for 8 laps. He looked strong after the 8 speed laps. Balaji felt that he could run the half-marathon in about 1 hour 45 minutes. Asked if he would be interested in training harder for a half-marathon at Auroville in Feb. 2010 and winning it, Vinoo humbly replied that he is happy just to run and enjoy the feeling without being bothered about the prizes. They went for another easy run that Thursday. The weekend running plan was 14K on Saturday and 7K on Sunday. On Saturday, Balaji, Vinoo and Ezhumalai set out to run the 14K. Shakthivel joined them for about 3K and returned back. By now, we decided to have Shakhivel on board for the KTM and he was to run a 10.5K, which will be his first taste of a running event. Shakthivel was comfortable with the shoes that we could arrange for him. On Sunday, Balaji, Vinoo, Ezhumalai and Shakthivel set out to run the 7K. As usual, they attracted plenty of on-lookers and funny comments. After sometime, a cycle carrying two persons went besides them. The person sitting behind enquired about them and their purpose for running. Balaji replied them in his sarcastic manner and offered invitation for him to run with them. The person commented that Vinoo does not look like a runner. Vinoo and Ezhumalai asked Balaji if he would allow them to go faster and overtake the cyclist. Well aware of their abilities, he agreed for it and asked the boys to embarrass the cyclists! The boys took off and sprinted past the cyclists making them feel ashamed for their comments. As Balaji neared them, he further commented to them that they are better off running with them than cycling. However, on the return when the boys wanted to try a similar stunt, Balaji refused to allow them to do the same as he felt that they would be stretching their muscles too far.

August 31-September 6
Early this week, Balaji left for Chennai and hence could participate in the training with the students. They trained on their own for the week. Balaji returned to Thulir later that week and because of some health complications could not run with them for their Sunday run. They did not run on Satuurday and hence ran a 10K that Sunday. Shakthivel was asked to take it easy and run less. Senthil, Ezhumalai and Vinoo and ran for over one hour. They were paced and guided by Senthil. All the three students looked fit to run the KTM the next week.

September 7 - 13
On Tuesday, Vinoo and Shakthivel went for an easy run of 5K and wound up their training for KTM. They left Thulir on Saturday morning and reached Bangalore in the afternoon. It was the first long distance trip for Shakthivel and was quite excited on reaching Bangalore. He found the bad odour a bit strange and also the huge drainage canal! They left for Mysore in the team ASHA bus from Bangalore and were all set for the KTM the next day.

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