Keeping a steady pace through the busy streets of India was not an easy task but SA adventurer David Grier kept on running – covering 4 008km in 93 days – to keep children smiling.
Grier set out to run from the northernmost temple in the Indian city of Srinagar to the southernmost temple in the city of Kanyakumari to raise money for charity.
It is not the first journey he has undertaken to raise money for the Cipla Miles for Smiles initiative, which works in conjunction with Operation Smile.
The money raised goes towards operations for children born with a cleft lip or palate.
In 2006 Grier ran the Great Wall of China, while in 2008 he jogged along the coastline of SA. In 2010 he paddled from the African mainland to Madagascar.
Since joining Miles for Smiles, he says, he has raised enough money for 1 000 children to have operations.
Grier completed his Indian odyssey in January and was in Cape Town on Tuesday night to auction some of his travel memorabilia and to hand over a cheque for R1 million to the foundation.
This money was raised from the combined efforts of groups belonging to the Miles for Smiles initiative and which culminated in Grier’s latest journey, which started on October 31.
Travelling with two friends as support crew, he spent three-and-a-half months “running in a pair of Indian shoes and living local”, according to a blog he kept.
He said that in the beginning, he had run about 40km each day and in the last month he ran 50km a day.
“We set up tents and camp the whole way – there’s no money for hotel rooms… we lived the hard life in India,” Grier said.
Running through the streets of India was a great challenge. In his blog, he said he felt “harassed by traffic, hooters, people and just the megacities enveloping and swallowing me up, eating every last ounce of energy”.
Grier’s group ran into some trouble in Kashmir.
“With all the military and the craziness in the city, we were arrested a few times… I think we were arrested about eight times,” he said.
Among his most memorable experiences was a 400m swim across the Namarda River.
“Mentally it was the hardest journey I’ve made – not so much physically challenging, but mentally it was tough.
“It has really taken me to the limit.”
Grier’s next challenge is to run across the UK before the Olympic Games.
He sets off on June 20.
Miles for Smiles says one in 1 000 children is born with a cleft lip or palate.
Grier said Operation Smile had a “tangible approach – the procedures are not so complex – it usually takes about 45 minutes and it’s 45 minutes that can change a child’s life forever.” – Daily News Correspondent