A North Delta man is gearing up to run 90 kilometres this Sunday (June 13) in an effort to raise money for COVID relief in India.
Ultramarathoner Kaushal Parikh was one of 23 runners from Canada set to travel to South Africa in 2020 to compete in the Comrades Marathon — billed as “The Ultimate Human Race” — when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event’s cancellation.
After the in-person event was again cancelled this year (2021 would have marked the race’s 100th anniversary), Parikh made the decision to compete virtually, logging his time using an app as he completes the race closer to home.
“It is actually kind of hilly terrain out there in Africa, but because it’s a virtual event and … there aren’t really any [similar] hills close by and I don’t even have a support system, somebody to kind of support me with the nutrition and all of that, I thought that I will make a twist to it and compensate [for] the physical challenge with a mental one,” Parikh told the Reporter.
This Sunday, he plans to run the race’s entire 90-kilometre distance on North Delta Secondary’s new 400-metre track — that’s 225 laps — in less than nine hours.
The actual number of laps will likely be less as the track isn’t quite finished, meaning Parikh will have to run outside the facility, but the mental challenge of running that far essentially in one place will still be a hurdle he has to clear for longer than most of us are at work or school on a given day.
“It’s so boring, repetitive and monotonous, just going around in 400-metre circles,” he said. “That’s a challenge that I just want to see, how can I really sustain under nine hours on a track. There’s no change of scenery, there’s no change of terrain.
“When you’re running marathons and long distances, it’s also about where you are running. You see a beautiful landscape, the landscape kind of keeps on changing, and that keeps on motivating you as well. (…) But here, it’s just the same small little circle you are running in.”
|North Delta resident Kaushal Parikh is running 90 kilometres around the new North Delta Secondary track in under nine hours on June 13 to raise money for Save the Children’s India COVID-19 Crisis Fund. (Submitted photo)|
Parikh, who has been running ultramarathons since 2016, says that, like for most long-distance runners, races for him really start halfway through, when it becomes more of a mental game.
“That’s where it is more about the mind playing a huge part in what you are doing. One of the phrases I love is, ‘the body achieves what the mind conceives,’ and that is something that I 100-per-cent believe in, and that’s what happens in an ultra,” he said.
As a little extra motivation, Parikh decided to use the event to raise funds for Save the Children’s India COVID-19 Crisis Fund, combining two things that are both near and dear to his heart.
Parikh, who spent his childhood and “a significant part” of his life in India, said he and his wife came up with the idea while discussing how they could do something to help the hundreds of thousands of people caught in the country’s overwhelming battle against the raging pandemic.
“The last few weeks, with the way the situation is in India, we’ve actually gotten news of having lost a lot of members of our extended families, and [of] people who are also critically ill right now, because of COVID,” Parikh said.
“There are more than 350,000 cases coming up every week, and the majority of the families [affected] are kind of marginalized,” he continued.
“We are here, our families are there, so how do we really make a difference? How do we contribute and help out, because going out there is not really an option.”
With that in mind, he set up his Run4India fundraiser through Save the Children Canada. As well as dedicating Sunday’s 90 km race to the campaign, Parikh pledged to run 600 km between May 1 and June 15 in support of children in India.
The money raised will allow the organization to deliver essential supplies including oxygen, ventilators and medicine, as well as emotional and educational support for children. Save the Children is also helping fast-track vaccinations for India’s most marginalized people, according to a write up on Parikh’s fundraising page (savethechildren.akaraisin.com/teamsave/KaushalParikh).
As of Wednesday afternoon, the campaign had already exceeded its goal, raising more than $1,800 and counting.
“Every little bit that you can do helps, and we just wanted to do whatever we could do.”