Meet James and Harsha.
They’ve taken the Strive saying ‘the magic truly happens when you do it with others’ and very much run with it. In the years since they first became involved with Strive, James and Harsha have rallied their ‘Wolfpack’ community to take part in a host fitness events to fundraise for Big Change. Harsha’s next challenge is the London Marathon on 3 October, sponsor her incredible effort here.
How did you get involved in Strive?
James – I got involved in Strive through my old employer AKQA, who sponsored Strive Challenges in 2016 and 2018. I first took part in the 2016 Strive Challenge in Italy. I did the final stage in Sicily which was a triathlon – swimming the strait of Messina, before running and hiking to the summit of Mount Etna.
Harsha – I then got involved because we started to create mini challenges. James loves adventures so was very excited about doing a challenge. Hearing about all the work Big Change do really struck a chord with us. James was very inspired by that and got me involved and we started to create our own challenges to support all their work.
James – It started as a way of fundraising. We set up the 1031 pull up challenge. We ordered a load of patches that had the ‘1031 challenge’ on them and asked everyone to donate £10 to do 1031 pull ups in a month. We did that 2/3 times before I went on the Strive Challenge as a way of fundraising, which worked very well.
Harsha – It was funny because I thought ‘who is going to pay us to do a challenge?’ But people were excited because it was something a bit different that was going towards a fundraising effort.
James – We have also got people doing burpees. Think we have had over 10,000 pull ups, over 300,000 burpees. We did 100,000 in a month.
“I guess the adventure initially drew me but I think what kept us both engaged is the dual sense of pushing yourself with a purpose to a charity.”– James
What drew you to Strive and the community of Strivers?
James – I guess the adventure initially drew me, but I think what kept us both engaged is the dual sense of pushing yourself with a purpose. Big Change projects are so inspiring, and I love the fact Big Change focuses on organisations that may not be getting funding elsewhere. They are incubating ideas and bringing best practise from the private sector into the charity sector. That, for me, kept me engaged.
Harsha – So I did the 2019 Strive Weekender and it was that little bit of being out of your comfort zone that drew me in. I was like ‘why would I want to do 53 miles over a weekend, that doesn’t sound like something I can do’. That concept of pushing yourself, it’s amazing that feeling you get from achieving something you didn’t think you could achieve. For me the hardest part was turning up at the start line; everything else was a bonus. Also, there is such a great team of Strivers doing it and sharing in it. I had never met any of them previously, and turning up the night before you felt like part of the family. Everyone was so welcoming, it was like seeing your friends again. Going through something together over a weekend really creates that sense of community.
“Hearing about the work Big Change does really struck a chord with us.”– Harsha
What did you expect from your involvement and how did the reality compare? Were there any surprises?
James – Good question. It was hard to know what I expected, it was just an incredible experience. What I expected was the physical and mental challenge. I have done two Strives so far and what I really liked about both was the after-hours conversations and some of the things that Big Change organised like guest speakers. It was more of the philosophical side of the event that got me thinking about how we can make a difference. I found that very valuable. Usually, when you sign up for a charity event you are doing it for a good cause but you don’t get that philosophical connection to it as well. That was unexpected.
Harsha – Agreed. We had it at the Weekender, after covering 23 miles on the first day we sat together and hearing about all the work and projects and hearing from a teacher about all the problems in education really made us understand why we were doing it. It made us realise all our efforts were worth it and that really helped us keep pushing on. It was amazing to have that connection to Big Change.
“It was more of the philosophical side of the event that got me thinking about how we can make a difference.”– James
Have you forged any friendships from it or any notable connections?
James – I definitely feel connected to the community and to the Big Change team. On our side we have developed this thing called the Wolfpack community which wouldn’t have existed without Big Change and the Strive Challenges. We have made loads of connections through the Wolfpack which has come out of Strive.
Harsha – Definitely.
“We have developed this thing called the Wolfpack Community, which wouldn’t have existed without Big Change and the Strive Challenges.”– James
How have you continued striving for Big Change outside the events?
James – The Wolfpack Challenges. This year, we did a 14km Valentine’s Day run, with two people doing the run together. We even did virtual challenges before they were popular.
Harsha – What has been nice is creating a fitness challenge and then having that element of charity. So we create a challenge and go out to the community and donations go to Big Change. It’s nice because people repeat the challenges and hear the Big Change story. They are really tough challenges and it’s amazing how much energy is created behind them. Four times a year we do a burpees challenge for a month, so you have to do 1000, 3000 or 5000 burpees in a month. We got kids to do 500 burpees a month, it’s so great to get families together. We did another event called ‘Dance Happy’, which was dancing around London for 24 hours, and we had people to sponsor that. The whole concept was to spread joy and happiness through dance. We split the 24 hours into sections, so people could come and join when they could make it. We did flash mobs, a salsa class in a club, we danced at Sky Garden, all to make up the 24 hours. After that long dancing, fundraising doesn’t seem like an effort!
“We got kids to do 500 burpees a month, it’s so great to get families together.”– Harsha
Who is part of the community you have built around your Wolfpack Challenges?
James – Well it is friends and family. I also compete in obstacle races so people come into it through that too.
Harsha – If anyone knows us, we tap into them up! At work and at school. Any time people speak to us they ask about our challenges. My mum even did the burpees challenge!
James – We have the Big 5 Running PB’s which is where people donate and you have to beat your best time in the year.
Harsha – It’s nice because we create patches and for the Big 5 we have medals, so it feels like an event and an achievement.
“Any time people speak to us, they ask about challenges.”– Harsha
Are there any other achievements in life you attribute to Strive?
Harsha – It has definitely helped me in stepping outside my comfort zone, and knowing you can do that pushes you to try other things. The Strive Weekender it was the furthest I had run in my life, and so when other challenges have come along I have thought ‘If I can do the Strive Weekender, I can do this!’. It has given me confidence and self-belief to try other challenges.
James – I think pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is really powerful, and the Strive philosophy is that ‘the magic happens when you do it with others’. For the Virtual Strive Challenge last year, I did every stage of the challenge with my friends in one day, it was such an incredible bonding experience. This year we organised an 100km race which we did with 900 people. All of these things can be attributed to Strive and the sense of adventure that it has instilled in us.
Harsha – For the Virtual Strive we did last year, one of the stages was to run 10km. I was like ‘no one is going to sponsor me to run 10km’, but I was talking to my 8 year old daughter about it and she said she would do it for Big Change, because she knows the cause and where the money goes to. It was amazing and she ran the furthest she has ever run. Seeing her motivation was incredible. Another one was swimming 1km -I am not a strong swimmer and we decided to do it outside in a lake. I asked my friend who is a strong swimmer to join me. Having my friend do it with me has inspired her to start outdoor swimming more. It’s so nice to do challenges with your friends and inspire others.
“I think pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is really powerful and the Strive philosophy is that ‘the magic happens when you do it with others.”– James
What strive activities do you have on the horizon? Are you taking part in any of our challenges this year, or any of your own?
Harsha – We are doing the Virtual Strive Weekender.
James – On my list is a 100 mile race.
Harsha – I am doing the London Marathon, as it was cancelled last year. Even so, I did it virtually, which I think was even harder. I ran around my village and got my friends to get people to join me for 5km, which was very motivating. It broke down the challenge. Wealso had the burpees challenge in April with a great group of people.
“It has just really motivated us to do challenges because we really believe in Big Change and the work you do. We love to share the message.”– Harsha
During lockdown did the involvement in challenges increase?
Harsha – Increase! It was great to get people together around a common cause, if not in person. And because we have been doing it for a while we have a group of people who are always getting involved.
James – The first few we had to cancel due to home schooling but when we started again people were so keen to be back and part of the action.
Harsha – We have enjoyed the challenges so much and being part of the Strive community is so important. It has just really motivated us to do challenges because we really believe in Big Change and the work you do. We love to share the message. We love to get others involved to spread the word.
James – It has been so successful we are considering starting a virtual change business all due to last year’s Virtual Strive Challenge.