The day before the race began as any other, with a trip to the school in the morning and watching the assembly that includes, exercise, speeches and the national anthem. However, this morning one of the teachers had a special message wishing the runners at the school the best of luck at the Godavari running festival, that we were attending the following day. You could feel the buzz of excitement radiate through the other children as they set off on their hike down to Kathmandu.
I myself was in for a fairly different trip down. Later that day, after hearing that the runners had made it safely to their hotel near the race start, Som told me to get everything I needed for the next few days together in a small bag that would fit inside his, as we were taking the bike down. Before this weekend I had never touched a motorcycle and it is safe to say I was fairly terrified. The roads leading to Batase are rough and cut up by 4x4s so the journey began slowly and with a lot of bouncing around. I clung to Som and we were soon heading off faster and faster into the darkness as the roads improved. We reached Kathmandu, with my nerves severely jangled, as torrential rain hit. To avoid riding any further in the weather we headed to one of FHC’s hostels, set up for the kids attending college in the city after completing school in Batase.
Soaking wet and a little shaken up I received a warm welcome from those at the hostel, with tea and tasty Dal Bhat. I sat with the boys and girls and conversation soon turned to why they were staying here. Not for the first time on my journey here I was in a position where I just could not find anything appropriate to say, so I just drank tea and, along with that, I swallowed feelings of sorrow for the stories that two girls had to tell me.
One attending the hostel was the daughter of a soldier in the Nepali army who was now in prison for his involvement in child trafficking. Another told me that her own sister had been tricked into leaving and had now been sold into a brothel in India. I cannot begin to imagine the pain that these girls must go through each day, knowing that their families have been torn apart by trafficking. Although I have come to realise that these young women, here and in Batase, have something in them that will not allow them to give up. They told me that they all had an exam coming up and were studying hard, day and night, at the hostel. Despite all these horrifying stories, I was so uplifted by their desire to learn and, with the help of the charity, rise above all this. There are a lot of people who could learn so much from these young men and women, who, at the age of 16, have been through more in their lifetime than many at the age of 40. Yet they never let it beat them and should be a huge inspiration to all of us.
So with newly installed feelings of hope and surrounded by those I had come to respect so much in my night at the hostel, we settled down to sleep on the floor and rest up ready for tomorrow’s race.
After another hair raising ride on the back of that bike, we arrived just in time to register and meet all the guys from the village, who were all ready and waiting to set off. With thunder for applause and the rain cheering me on I head off into the hills for my 30km race. Coming in at around 3hrs 45mins I thoroughly enjoyed my first trail race; rivers, climbing, rain and wet biscuits included. But, what really made my day was seeing all the young running talent from Batase do so well. Running is a release for these kids, a chance to leave the village and a chance to apply themselves to something truly positive. And this is all reflected in just how well they did. Batase took; 3rd in the men’s 30km, 2nd and 3rd in the women’s 30km and 3rd in the men’s 15km. I felt immensely proud to have run with them that day, having witnessed first-hand the daily struggles that they are subject to, their ability to not let it stand in the way of this, their passion, is a truly great achievement and such an awesome example to all the other children living in the village.
~ Toby Faulkner, 25 September, 2016
© Take on Nepal 2020