Creating a champion? Gorkha runners

On 6th January 2013 by Rachael Woolston
Prabal Chettei (left), the speediest Gurkha in town

Prabal Chettei (left), the speediest Gurkha in town

Some have shoes with holes in them, others a size too big.  Almost all of them are secondhand yet it has  not stopped this group of Indian Gorkhas from running.  And running well.

Ranging in age from 20 to 34, this band of runners hail from Kalimpong, a town high in the Himalayas near the border of Bhutan and Sikkhim.

They started running, inspired by their mentor and former resident of Kalimpong , Roshni Rai.

Roshni has been one of the few residents of this town whose education has afforded her a good job in Mumbai. But some are not so lucky in Kalimpong, where money is scarce for education meaning the opportunity of leaving and getting a job elsewhere is a pipe dream.

Through running though, she hopes to empower these young runners, and give them a sense of pride in what they can achieve through her programme, Run with Roshni.

She has sponsored their training to run the Mumbai Half Marathon on January 20th, including raising money to pay for their race entry and their train fare. Most people would fly at a cost of 30 pounds but these people can not afford this. Instead, they will face a three hour jeep ride, followed by a 10hour train to Calcutta, and a further 20hour journey from the furthest tip in the East right across to Mumbai on the West coast.

Last year, their fastest runner, 20-year old Prabal Chettei,  was placed in the slowest pen in a race numbering over 15,000. He managed to get round walkers and joggers, finishing with a time of 1hour 16mins.

This with  no formal coaching, nutrition advice, let alone the correct footwear.

For these kids, running is  not just a way of feeling good about themselves and getting fit. Running races in their home state of West Bengal means prize  money.

Not much, but enough to pay their school fees so they can continue their education.

It seems sportswear companies like nike and adidas could be missing a trick in not investing in grassroots social running projects in India. They could inspire a generation. And may just create a champion.


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