SUNILA JAYARAJ - RUNNING AROUND THE WORLD, FOR WATER AWARENESS
We had the privilege to sit down with a very ambitious and passionate young man. Sunila Jayaraj took part in an amazing adventure to raise awareness about global water concerns. His story, in his words, are below.
Blue Planet Run was like a "dream come true" to me.
I grew up in drought prone area in South India, seeing the water crisis everyday. Kolar, in Karnataka is an arid region with no surface water and very deep ground water table. People struggle for water almost 9 months a year. They have to pay almost 5Rs for a pot of muddy water. I always wanted to do something about it.
After I came to US, My desire to “do something” in the drought prone area started getting stronger and stronger. The idea of “adopting schools” appealed to me very well. It was not an easy task to fundraise for “School Adoption”. As I was looking into various fundraising options, some one told me, I can run marathon and fundraise to adopt schools. I was really excited to know that and was ready to do it without even knowing what "marathon" means. When I came to know it is "26.2" miles, I just couldn’t comprehend the notion of running so long in one stretch.
Well, I had a strong mission of “school adoption” in mind. I ran my first miler in the summer of 2003 and after 4 months of running, injuries and excitement, on Oct 23rd 2003, I was ready at the Detroit Marathon starting line and finished the full marathon well within my anticipated time. It was a great moment of satisfaction in my life. I continued running marathons after that and adopted around 80 schools in Kolar.
Still, the water crisis was always lingering in my mind. When I saw the devastating effects of floods in Bihar in 2005, I just couldn’t take it any more. I resigned my job and went back to school to do my PhD in "Water Resource Management". Right now I am working on Himalayan Rivers' effect on the floods in North East India and Bangladesh.
In 2006, at Detroit Marathon I saw an addition for "Running Around the World for Water". It was like a "Customized Dream" for me. Running.. and for Water! I thought I should apply for it. But, when I came to know, world-class athletes from all over the globe will be applying for this run, I knew my chances were bleak.
But, after numerous interviews, grueling screening process and tension filled results, when I was selected among 20 world class runners with Olympic champions and Marathon Champions from 13 different countries representing India, I just could not believe my luck. I was getting married on May 7th of 2007 and the run was supposed to start on June 1st. Just after 2 weeks after my marriage, I left my wife for the 100 days for “Time of my life”. It was an incredible experience being part of “Blue Planet Run”. We finished running 15200 miles in 95 days, 24 hours non-stop. We actually circumnavigated the whole earth on foot. The message we passed on about the “Lack of access to Safe drinking water” reached millions of hearts around the world. We actually took a huge crisis, which is affecting 1 in 5 of all of us on this earth. This crisis is as big as running around the world on foot. We proved to the world that even such a huge problem could be solved as we finished running around the world “just one step at a time”.
Running across the nations, running on the banks of the rivers, in forests, on the peak of mountains, in the freezing Siberia, on the hot summer sands of Gobi and Mohave Desert, day in and day out didn’t make me tired. I always thought as a global citizen, as an Indian, as a victim of this crisis, it is my responsibility to use this great opportunity to bring hope to all those people suffering everyday without clean drinking water. By the time we finished our run after 95 days after circumnavigating this earth, we had passed the boundaries of our physical and mental limitations and had become “Global