Dr. Poduval Goes the Distance

On March 18, 2018, a group of supporters from across the country ran the New York City Half Marathon to raise money for Pratham. Among them was Phoenix’s Dr. Rajiv Poduval, president of Southwest Kidney Institute. Dr. Poduval has provided a first-person account of his experience, which serves as an inspiring example of the sacrifices we are capable of making to advance Pratham’s mission.

NYC March 18, 2018, 6:30 am: Standing in the bitter cold, with wind chills in the low 20s, gets lonely in a hurry. It was still dark, and the wind was blowing hard. Standard Arizona running attire looked and felt inadequate. Still an hour to go. Having woken up at 4 am, I felt tired. And ill-prepared. And the day’s challenge was yet to come. As the wind blew harder, and my muscles started to quiver, and the air around me started to feel cold and heavy, a single question resonated in my head, seemingly louder with each passing minute: “WHY??”

Pratham: My passion for Pratham was born serendipitously over a cup of tea 10 years ago. My relationship with Pratham Phoenix has evolved from a proud parent to an even prouder foster parent watching from a distance as the organization flourished under strong leadership and inspired hundreds of passionate and compassionate people into action to promote education as a tool to end the childhood illiteracy in India.

Running: I am not an elite runner. But I feel faster than I am, as my world slows down when I run. I find the duality of “exertion and zen” appealing, and that of “discipline and escape” intriguing.

Representing Pratham at the NYC Half Marathon brought my seemingly disparate and distinct worlds together.

NYC 7:00 am: I have never felt so grateful to see the sun. Nor have I been so appreciative of large crowds before. Texts and calls from friends and family lifted my spirits. I did not feel alone anymore. The National Anthem brought cheers and inspiration. Outer warmer layers were donated. The excitement in the air was rising. If only I could feel my frozen toes…

I could not help thinking of countless children in India who won’t see the sunrise of opportunity. Without intervention, there will be no end to their loneliness, discomfort, or misery. I have witnessed Pratham’s transformative initiatives in action in the poorest parts of Jaipur. It was heartwarming. And an education in resource management 101. Never has a dollar been put to better use.

NYC 7:30 am: And we were off! It was crowded. And the corrals were more a formality than a cohort of runners of similar ability. It took me a few minutes to thaw. And several more to run around slower runners to hit my stride. “Run your pace.” I kept reminding myself.

From Prospect Park in Brooklyn to lower Manhattan, via the iconic Manhattan Bridge, to Chinatown, then Times Square and finally Central Park. My zig-zagging route around others added more distance to the already challenging 13.1 miles. As I crossed the finish line, my Garmin showed a distance of 13.4 miles. My official time was 2:00:19, my Garmin registered 1:57:21 at 13.1 miles. It was done.

Child labor in India is a social epidemic. Not a fun run around NYC. Very often, these children are invisible to the millions who see them. And this vicious, abusive cycle repeats with alarming regularity. Imagine having to do a half marathon, unsupported, every day. In isolation. Without preparation or nourishment.

We cannot be blind to suffering. Or abuse. Or illiteracy. These children cannot remain invisible. Not when we can make a difference. Not when we have an opportunity for doing good.

Let’s take the first steps together by supporting Pratham, an organization dedicated to breaking this self-fulfilling prophecy of illiteracy and poverty leading to the exploitation of millions of children.

I am very thankful to my family, my friends, my fellow Pratham runners, and the members of my extended family at Pratham USA for making this possible through their tireless support.

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