The Run to Read programme was a dream shared by institute convenor RI director Mahesh Kotbagi a few months ago at an institute committee meeting. He said that apart from regular institute programmes “we should do a massive service project and a public image exercise. So we came up with a 5k/10k run — Run to Read project — to raise awareness about total literacy and women’s empowerment,” said PDG G Olivannan. This suggestion was accepted and he was asked to chair the programme.
Institute chairman PDG Kishore Kumar formed a committee with a small group of committed Rotarians from different clubs in Visakhapatnam. RID 3212 DG V R Muthu was the main sponsor.
Their first big challenge was to get the required 5,000 people, the minimum target set by RID Kotbagi, for the event. Strategically bringing in the Indian Navy, Eastern Coast Guard, CISF and academic institutions such as the Andhra University and Gitam University helped the organisers create huge awareness on Run to Read, he said.
Even a month before the event the registration had disappointingly hovered around the two-digit mark, but this did not lessen the confidence and enthusiasm of the team. As college students in Visakhapatnam started registering, the numbers gradually increased and touched the 8,000 mark, a week ahead of schedule, forcing the organisers to close the registration.
As everyone eagerly awaited the D-Day, the weather in Vizag changed and clouds hovered over the city. As it started raining the earlier day, it gave the organisers many anxious moments. Even on Dec 11, Olivannan and his team watched with dismay the skies opening up, and the rain pouring down till 4.45 am. But undeterred, the organisers continued with their arrangements. The rain stopped at 5.30 am, but a light drizzle continued.
But, as though by magic, 20 minutes later, the sun was shining brightly and cheerful participants donning green t-shirts started arriving. Soon, over a 1,000 people gathered and Mizoram governor K Haribabu, along with Sivamani Parmesh, additional director general, Indian Coast Guard; PRIP Shekhar Mehta and RID Kotbagi flagged off the event. Institute chair Kishore Kumar and Gautam Rao, pro V C, Gitam University watched the young and energetic RI director Drew Kessler leading the run.
While the guests were about to leave, on the southern end of the road, a huge crowd of more participants surged towards the starting point, and there was another flag off.
Without any hitch, the runners completed the 3km, 5km and 10km runs. Snacks were distributed.
Thanks to the volunteers and the municipal corporation conservancy workers, the entire stretch was cleared of litter soon after the event ended.
The vibrant team included Rotarians Surekha, Prasad Patnaik, Venkateshwara Kondupudi, Capt Kali Prasad, Jeeja Valsraj, Prameela Jain, Ram Babu, G K Murthy, D V Varma, Usha Reddy, Varma Raju, Jose, G P Raju, A Venugopal, Satish, U S Sarma and Subhodh.