The Human Race was a fundraiser organised by Rang De on 1 July 2018, about the journey of Dr Amit Samarth. Dr Samarth is a medical doctor and endurance athlete who became the first Indian to complete the Race Across America (RAAM), one of the toughest cycling races in the world, on his maiden attempt. Organised on Sunday evening at beautiful campus of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Bengaluru, The Human Race saw healthy attendance by our community of changemakers as well as those curious to know more about Dr Samarth’s incredible feat.
At the event, Dr Samarth began by recounting his own story and the events that led him to take up endurance sports. Outlining the events that led him to take up the RAAM, he told a captive audience the many challenges associated with being an endurance athlete in India, and the various stages of preparation that he underwent before enlisting for the grueling race.
“Ultra cycling is a mindsport. There is a limitation to training, you cannot bike 5000 kilometers during a training session” Dr Samarth said. “When you are in the race, your body will rise to the occasion”
Sharing some moments from the race, Dr Samarth said that completing the RAAM wasn’t just an individual achievement, but a genuine team effort. What made his participation in the RAAM last year unqiue wasn’t just that he was a rookie contender, but that the entire support team were ‘innocent novices’ as well.
Where the other cyclists had professional support staff, Dr Samarth brought along his family: his mother, wife, son and aunt, along with long-time friends and well-wishers.
All of these people set aside 25 days in June 2017 so they could support Dr Samarth during his attempt at the RAAM.
Of the experience, Dr Samarth says “You have to enjoy RAAM. My race felt like a long wedding procession, and I’m riding a horse, going [across America] to get married in Annapolis”. Even though theirs was a rookie team, Dr Samarth had one advantage the others did not: home cooked Indian food and the caring support of family.
As word spread about hot meals prepared in the caravan of the rookie team from India, participants from other teams started stopping by for food. His family was a constant source of inspiration, he says, with his mother telling him, “You need to do this, you need to get this done for yourself”
It wasn’t all easy riding though. During the second day of the race, in the state of Arizona, he went though acute dehydration.
“I felt like I was going to die there, at Salome. My blood pressure had gone really low. I drank cold water and had sore throat and fever.”
Despite, this he stuck to the schedule. “Cycling karte karte theek ho gaya main, cycle mein hee. (By keeping at it, I recovered from the fever, on the cycle itself) I was feeling good when I reached Kansas” At another point, faint from the heat, he described cycling while wearing a sports bra stacked with packs of ice to cool his body down.
When asked by an audience member the reason for doing the RAAM, Dr Samarth said it was something he wanted to experience at least once during his lifetime. After completing the race, he felt like he had broken through a barrier “It is a race you remember for the rest of your life, you keep talking of some or the other aspect of the race.”
What did he gain from the experience?
“It is an amazing race, the person who comes first, he doesn’t get anything. You just come, you race, you get a medal and you go home. Nobody is doing it for money over there. Only 270 people have this [the medal for completing the race], so it’s a pretty amazing thing”
When a member of the audience asked Dr Samarth what kept him motivated to keep going during a race, he simply said “You just keep at it. If you are climbing a hill, you keep at it. At some point, you start to go downhill and things get better. That’s how it is with life too.”
All things said and done, We are amazed by Dr Samarth’s achievement, for showing us the potential that each one of us holds. The entire team at Rang De wishes him the best in his future endeavours.
The proceeds from the tickets at The Human Race were used to fund low-cost finance for communities across India. T
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