The humanitarian side of sporting


As running and cycling get increasingly popular, the charitable aspect is taking the sporting outlook to a new, heartening level

There is a motivational meme that you can see on social media that goes something like, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” It’s true that tough events bring out the best in people, as they train and push themselves beyond their comfort zone.

It is equally heartening to see that there are so many sportspeople who use all that training, drive and determination for good causes. There is a new breed of Indian amateur athletes who work, not just for their own personal best, but to raise funds, inspire others, empower, and highlight causes and charities.

There’s the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

As one of the country’s marquee events, it uses its prestige and high visibility to fund not-for-profits. The 2018 race raised a cool ₹16.6 crore, a 105% increase from last year. And before you say “Oh well, that’s the corporates at work,” you should know that a staggering 82% of this came from individuals.

So why exactly do cyclists, runners, walkers and joggers get so involved in doing good? Perhaps it is because the very act of exercising in your city makes you more aware of your surroundings, giving you a sense of ownership and pride. This can spur people into undertaking causes that work towards a cleaner, safer environment.

Then there’s plogging

A word that combines the Swedish ‘plogga’ (to pick up) with jogging, to give plogging: runners cleaning up the trash as they run. It’s a concept that we’ve embraced with gusto; plogging groups have sprung up all over the country.

One of the founders of Ploggers of India (@ploggersofindia on Instagram and Facebook), Ripu Daman, recently “plogged” the Tata Steel Kolkata 25k, accompanied by a group of fellow runners. They suspect that they might well have set a world record for the longest plog!

The humanitarian side of sporting

In the early days of the summer of 2018, as Delhi reeled under the pre-monsoon heat of May and June, protesters turned out in droves to prevent trees from being cut. Worried about the impact of the planned mass felling of thousands of trees in an already highly polluted city, the protesters included many cyclists and runners.

When we offer a helping hand

Often, the humanitarian causes espoused by sportspeople reach out to help uplift weaker sections of the community, usually through sport itself. Case in point is Delhi-based Gurpreet Wasi, the powerhouse behind the new-kid-on-the-block Super Sikh Foundation and its flagship Super Sikh Run (@super_sikh_run on Instagram and Facebook).

The way Super Sikh athletes see things, sport (primarily running) has the power to improve education, raise health awareness, increase confidence and build life-skills. Gurpreet reels off a list of the many ways in which sport can teach young people essential life skills: “building leadership, coping with pressure, making decisions, dealing with feedback, self-criticism, responsibility, conformity, persistence, risk-taking, courage, self-motivation and self-control.”

Anyone who exercises will understand the pleasure that running a race or taking part in a cycle rally can gives. Now, imagine how it must feel if you cannot even afford the basic gear, let alone the entrance fees to events?

Sangeeta Saikia, of the Delhi Runners Group (@drg on Facebook), is constantly amazed at the generosity and kindness of her fellow athletes. “The universe is full of good people,” she smiles, as she explains how the DRG organises a year-round drive to collect used but still-wearable running shoes and running clothes, which are then given to needy runners.

Apparel is one thing, mentoring and training youngsters is another thing: sport can be such an important tool of social upliftment, and Sangeeta is full of praise and gratitude to runners who, for example, donate their GPS watches when they upgrade their own, enabling the monitoring and training of a new breed of less affluent but equally passionate runners. Many runners routinely pay an extra registration fee for a runner less able to afford it. A small gesture for one person, a potential game-changer for another.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 10:29:34 PM |

Next Story