The people of India were fascinated by my crazy challenge. Admittedly I did stick out like a sore thumb in their country. Mile after mile I was stopped by locals eager to find out what on earth I was doing running with a baby buggy filled with my worldly belongings. It wasn’t long before national media caught up with me to find out from the horse’s mouth what was actually going on.
I did interview after interview and was featured on the front page of many newspapers. India’s biggest news channel caught up with me, did their own interview, took many pictures and followed me as I ran along the road to shoot their own coverage.
I wasn’t prepared for what was going to happen next. The news channel had featured their broadcast of me three times a day over the subsequent three days which meant 120 million people now knew what I was doing and they wanted to come and meet me. I had swarms of children running out of their schools, to pull me in to talk to them about my challenge, why I was doing it, for what charities I was doing it for and the hurdles I had faced.
I was also officially greeted by the elders of the village and they would place garlands of flowers around my neck, mark my face with powder made from turmeric, symbolising their traditional Hindu beliefs. They adorned me in turbans, their customary headwear and I was taken to visit their temples and was even invited to spend the night in one. As I approached each village the same thing would happen, as the next village didn’t want to be outdone by the previous.
This kind of attention didn’t come without its problems though. I found myself outside in the searing heat for hours longer than I wanted to be and my days were becoming longer and longer as I signed autographs and accepted their pleas to go to locals’ houses for tea.
This aside, it was truly very heart-warming; I was touched by the genuine hospitality that people showed towards me.
I didn’t camp in India as I was running at night and sleeping during the day. It was therefore impossible to put up a tent amongst the millions of inhabitants and expect to actually get some sleep, so it meant me having to run from lodging to lodging. This played havoc with my miles and meant some days I was running more than 45 miles and others not so many in order to find somewhere to put my head down. It also took a few misguided hunts for hotels, only to find that ‘hotels’ were actually restaurants and the name they use for ‘hotel’ is actually ‘lodging’.
Remembering all the challenges India threw at me, the people truly made up for it and I will be forever grateful for how they welcomed and supported me through their country.
I eventually reached the city of Chennai on the east coast of India, having run a painful 1250km, ocean to ocean to get there, ready for my onward flight to Perth on Australia’s west coast. Another continent to conquer with its own crazy challenges.