Taher Merchant from Bengaluru is set to become the first Indian participant for 2021 to attempt the four Desert Ultramarathon Grand Slam, a race which comprises of running 250km across 4 deserts in one calendar year.
38-year-old Taher, a father of two girls, will be running the 4 Desert Ultramarathon to support education for underprivileged children.
There are less than 75 individuals worldwide who have accomplished the Grand Slam since its inception. This is an annual event of four 250 km races across some of the most beautiful and dangerous desert landscapes in the world -- Namib Race (Namibia), Gobi March (Mongolia), Atacama Crossing (Chile) and The Last Desert (Antarctica). Each race will have to be completed in seven days.
For a 14-year-old Meena from Raebareli, the 4 Desert Ultramarathon might not mean much but it might just change her life. And the lives of many like her. From the 'sapera' community, Meena had to drop out of school and take care of household chores and siblings. The number of children who drop out of school ranges from 62.1 million (HRD Ministry) to 84 million (2011 census). This was made worse by the pandemic in 2020.
"It is sad to even imagine a girl child being denied education or forced to marry because there is no money for fees. The pandemic made me decide to raise money to help educate them," said Bengaluru resident Taher Merchant.
Taher is no stranger to fitness and fundraiser challenges. In 2020 he took part in Oxfam India's Trailwalker Virtual-Challenge to walk in solidarity with the migrant labourers, who were stranded without money or job after the lock-down that was announced on March 25, 2020.
About the Ultramarathon he said, "The idea of exploring how far I can push my body and mind has always excited me. In 2016, when I finished the Ladakh Marathon which is considered to be one of the toughest in India, I felt I had to do something even more challenging. And a couple of years later I found myself running across five Himalayan passes and completing the world's highest Ultra Marathon in 19 hours, 15 minutes and 10 seconds."
But his search for an even more gruelling challenge was still on. "This search for the next exciting race ended when I came across the 4 Deserts Ultramarathon Series. Now, I get to cover over 250 km across some of the most beautiful and forbidding landscapes of the world."