I recently finished my first Mumbai Marathon. A few days ago, Rang De also turned 10. Both were important milestones for me. Fresh from the marathon experience, I couldn’t but help draw parallels between running a marathon and running Rang De. I love long distance running because it gives me the time and the space to reflect. I often get into a philosophical frame of mind and surprisingly I uncover answers to a lot of unsolved questions and problems during the run. I do not run for speed or for timing but only for the sense of completion. More than the urge to cross the finish line, marathons give me a sense of purpose, which all of us, especially after a certain age begin to look for in almost everything that we do, don’t we?
Between the time it took me to take off my running shoes and check my business calendar for the week, I discovered a few similarities that struck a chord with me.
Competing with Yourself
Just as I would while running a marathon, I never compete with anyone except myself. While on the track, you see many people get ahead of you, but you seldom look back to see who is behind you or stop to count how many people have gone ahead. Even when I train, it is really about how much I can push myself to achieve. Similarly, in all these years with Rang De — our competition has just been us and no other organization. In comparison, I feel the only real thing we’re up against is time. We are on this planet for a really short span of time, so how do we try and do everything possible to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives is always on my mind.
No Short Cuts
Neither the race track nor the organizational goals have any shortcuts to success. And if you do not have the perseverance, then you will give up without a doubt. The last few meters of the marathon are the toughest. And similarly, it is in the later part of starting a social enterprise that you tend to feel exhausted. It is then that you need to muster all the drive, inspiration and the courage to carry on. Unless you persevere, there is no way you could reach the finish line.
Starting a marathon with the arrogance of coming first can bring you crashing down. So has been true of running Rang De — there’s so much to learn, so much to look forward to and there are so many people around you who you draw inspiration from, you cannot afford to let arrogance creep in. In running, no matter how hard you try, you realise there is a long way to go. You always know what you do is not enough and there’s so much more to do.
Just Do It
You can’t run a marathon by thinking about it nor by dreaming about it. Both, of course, need you to be a foolishly adventurous dreamer but unless you become a doer, you won’t know where to begin. There are so many people who think about running but either procrastinate or never end up doing it because they never try. There are also many people who think about starting something in the social space or joining an organization full time but never do. In both, you will only know what it takes once you take the plunge.
There are ample reasons to make me draw parallels between marathons, life, relationships, and social entrepreneurship — most of which we barely have any time left for. But once you start running, time happens and life seems to take a different dimension with a lot more meaning in it.
By Smita Ram
Smita Ram is the co-founder and Managing Trustee of Rang De