Running to Give Back

Route 55,an annual fundraising 10km run/walk that aims to inspire everyone to give back while having fun was announced in the official Press Conference held today at The Press Club, Kolkata. Scheduled on 29th December, 2019, hundreds of people from around the world and Kolkata are expected to participate. Route 55 memorializes the road taken by bus #55, a key transport meridian for those traveling between Howrah and Kolkata. First started in 2013 by ten former IIEST students, the initiative is now in its seventh edition and is a unique way to motivate folks to achieve personal fitness goals; and give back to society. Route 55 is open to everyone; the only pre-requisite to participate is a donation directly to Sramajibi Hospital, Howrah.

The 2019 edition of Route 55 celebrates women’s empowerment as a theme, and supporting women athletes from P V Sindhu to Nadia Murad who have broken many barriers and made history this year. This is thematically represented in the special T-shirts where colour purple epitomizes our tribute – with shifting lines showing the promise of convergence in the horizon. In keeping with the theme, the panel of speakers constituted entirely of women from three generations and different countries.

Dr. Sabita Mishra from Belur, 85, the first woman to receive a D.Lit from Calcutta University
spoke about the progress she has seen in her lifetime and what inspired her to make a large financial contribution to Sramajibi. Mrs. Shikha Ray from San Diego USA, 65, spoke about her experience as someone who overcame major physical challenges to complete her first half marathon (21km) in 2019 – an inspiring story for anyone wishing to take up running. Saheli Pal, who graduated from Bengal Engineering College (now IIEST) spoke about how bus #55 was a key part of her getting to know Kolkata in the late 90s. The youngest speaker Ihita Bhattacharya, 9, has flown in from Switzerland to participate in this year’s event. Ihita is looking forward to the walk in one of her favourite cities and one of the major highlights as per Ihita will be walking on the Howrah bridge.

The Route 55 team has collaborated with Sramajabi since 2014 and has been instrumental in developing Hooghly district’s first blood bank at Sramajibi Hospital. A portion of the donations have been used to provide discounted healthcare access cards to the drivers and conductors of the bus route. Hundreds of participants including students, professionals from all walks of life and from across the globe, join hands with the Sramajibi family with “Giving Back” on their minds. The organizers take pride in their anonymity and passion to give back and keeping the focus on Sramajibi. The organizers want the focus to remain on the cause of “Giving Back” and benefiting Sramajibi rather than speeches, felicitations, celebrities and stage time. There is a running revolution happening in India, with many organized larger runs regularly held in Kolkata now. Yet, Route 55 is possibly the only event in the city that is entirely volunteer-driven and without any big name sponsors or commercial support. The organizers rely on social media and word of mouth to spread this message of giving back.


Photo Courtsey: Gopal Debnath

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