Nothing, not even diarrhoea, internal bleeding or a sprained hip muscle could stop David Grier. The 52-year-old hotelier from South Africa, an asthmatic, who just completed a 93-day, 4,000-km run from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to create awareness on asthma and raise money for cleft-lip surgeries, was fired by the desire to reach his goal. “There was a lot of pain, but I kept telling myself that with every kilometre I was covering, I was bringing a smile to a child’s face,” he says.
Grier, who began the run along with Andrew Stuart and Nick Heygate on October 31 last year, ended it on February 12, was in the city on his way home. “We completed the first 300km quickly to leave Kashmir as soon as possible. We then touched Pinjar in Punjab, ran through Ludhiana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, the farming lands of Maharashtra before touching Tamil Nadu,” he says.
The lean and strong Grier is a far cry, by his own account, from the overweight (110kg) asthmatic chef who became a successful hotel manager in Cape Town. ” I was feeling lethargic, sloppy and useless mentally. I then went to a doctor and realized I had asthma. Two of my four children too have asthma. I then decided to do something for people around me,” he says. A chance meeting with a woman from ‘Operation Smile,’ an organization doing free cleft lip surgeries in Africa, changed his life. “Though I was doing small things for asthma awareness, I realized how a surgery could give a person his or her life. That’s when I decided to run along the 4200km Great Wall of China in 2006 to raise funds, and two years later along the entire South African coast.”
His runs, says Grier, have helped bring his family together. “One of my daughters was into substance abuse. Today she manages ‘Operation Smile’ across Madagascar and Swaziland,” he says. Grier, who has already raised around Rs 2.5 crore for cleft lip surgeries, says the money raised in India would be used exclusively for children here. His next destination? ‘Cuba,’ he says smiling.