Among the many objects associated with Mahatma Gandhi, his walking stick is perhaps the most iconic. Gandhiji walked everywhere, and often with a purpose. On 12 March 1930, Gandhi began the 386 km (240 mi) journey to protest the salt tax. This 26-day march ended on 6 April at Dandi when Gandhi took a lump of earth and boiled it to make salt, which was an illegal act for any Indian. The action marks a critical turning point in the Indian struggle for independence. To cover 240 mi in 26 days, Gandhi and his followers walked an average of 10 mi (about 15 km) a day. Having walked a half marathon (13.1 mi or 21 km), I can tell you that 10 miles a day is no easy stroll, especially in India where those 10 miles are likely to be filled with many obstacles. But, like any walk, Gandhiji’s started with a single step.
Walking was my first step in trying to improve my health. I started walking simply because I could. I did not need any special equipment except a decent pair of shoes. We had a treadmill and a quiet neighborhood, if that is where I wanted to walk. My walks started out short: around the cul-de-sac, maybe 20 minutes. After a few weeks, I decided that I needed a fitness goal, so I laid down the 25 bucks to register for my first 5K walk. Nothing like a little financial incentive to motivate me, right?
My first walk was The GE Run Thru the Woods, which is held every Thanksgiving in The Woodlands, TX. It is a family-oriented event with a run, walk, and kids run. Many people bring their kids in strollers and walk the 5K. When I first walked in 2008, I walked it in a little over one hour. I then came home and slept for two. My body was worn out, but I did it. The next year, I talked Brian into it. We walked the 5K and then went to the HEB to shop for Thanksgiving dinner. The walk was over by 9 am, so the store was quiet. That became a Thanksgiving tradition for us—one we missed last year. These walks quickly became a habit for me. Many walks raise funds for charities, so I started targeting those walks. The walks helped me stay healthy while helping someone else in need. I liked these walks with a purpose.
I was very excited that my first walk in Mumbai would be on Gandhiji’s birthday, which is a holiday here. Footsteps4Good is Mumbai’s first (and I think only) 10K walk/run for charity. More than a dozen Mumbai charities benefit from the money raised during the event. Brian and I walked to support Mary’s Clan, a free drug and alcohol rehab center for men located on the steps of Mount St. Mary’s Church in Bandra. I trained to walk the 10K; I wanted to finish the 10K. I had walked way more during the Avon Walk in 2011; I knew I could do it. But, at the 5K point, I was overheated and another 5K did not look possible without extra meds, which I wanted to avoid. Brian suggested we finish the 5K and call it good. The walk was a great event. Mary’s Clan raised just over 1 lakh (about USD 2,000), much of it courtesy of the first place finish by one of its supporters. That money will go into a corpus fund that will provide ongoing support to the center.
Last Sunday, I walked with a purpose yet again. Hiranandani Hospital sponsored Walk for Life, a breast cancer awareness walk. It was free and started right outside my front door. How could I not participate? Sure, getting up at 7 am on a Sunday was tough, but so am I. Fortunately, the walk was not. It was just over 2 km (1.25 mi). Most walks, especially the breast cancer events, have people in costumes and teams with gimmicks. This walk was the only one that I have participated in that included a rickshaw as a guide. Not even the event in BKC had that. The rickshaws are so ubiquitous on the Indian roads that when they go on strike, you notice. The drivers have a bad reputation as cheats who rig their meters and who charge expats 50 rupees to go 2 km. They also recently received a fare increase from the government that has caused an uproar. So, it was great to see a rickshaw driver participating in the walk and showing his support for an important cause.
The walk also featured a cheerleader with a megaphone. His purpose was to keep the crowd engaged (and to wake up the neighborhood). He shouted his question, “What are we walking for?” The fairly confused crowd responded with “women” and “life” simultaneously until we read the back of the shirts. He walked through the crowd asking people what they are walking for. When he came to me, and saw my “Refuse to Lose” shirt, he said he loved the slogan and asked me what I was walking for. “Tiffeny, my friend.” He and the crowd cheered my friend. “What are we walking for? Friends.”
Next Sunday, I will miss another walk, Light the Night in The Woodlands. Team Blood Buddies is walking again this year to raise money for lymphoma and leukemia treatment. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) sponsors the awareness walk every year. Like the Walk for Life, Light the Night is not a long walk; the atmosphere is fun, with many kids participating in the walk with their parents. I first walked Light the Night because my friend Amy McIntire asked me to. She had recently been diagnosed with CML, and the walk was a good way for her to do something positive to the fight the disease. LLS sponsored the research that created the drug that helps keep her alive. The next year when we walked, she was in remission, and we celebrated that. Hopefully, next year, she will be in remission again, and we will walk together for a purpose once more.
This year, the team has a goal of USD 5,000. If you want to help them achieve that, you can donate by following this link: