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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Eight Unforgettable Corporate & Life Lessons from Tree-a-thon 2019 Half Marathon Event

Tree-a-thon 2019 Leadership Team
I never thought in the wildest of my dreams that I would be organising a half marathon running event ever in my life. But then, HE has HIS own plans...
One of the biggest and most complicated projects that I handled in the last few years - also turned out to be such a wonderfully executed one. - TREE-A-THON 2019. With the motto of You Run - We Plant, this half marathon running event provided a throw back of learnings for me...the most important ones being listed here. 
Some of these learning's are new for me, while some of my existing experiences got re-emphasized...

Lesson # 1 : YOU NEED A TEAM 
After taking Financial Freedom, I started Kalpavriksha single handed, by planting 5 trees in my nearby park. Very soon, I realised that I can do only that much, if I continue doing it alone. If I was to make this a revolution, I had to bring many like minded and passionate people together - on one common platform and that is where Kalpavriksha website was born - where Donors, Volunteers and Leaders can come together and share what they are doing.
Similarly, I could never have visualized an event like a Tree-a-thon half marathon of my own, forget about executing it. It was the dream of many of my team members (Yogesh and Doctor Surender to be precise) - who were clear that they wanted to do this - and take Kalpavriksha to a different level. And the fact that it did happen, is attributed to the vision of these two leaders in our team. For taking any organisation to a different level, you will need a team of dreamers and lateral thinkers - who think beyond an incremental change. Trust me, you alone are not enough. You need a team.

There were 5 core leaders in our team, including me. Each one of them brought their  own unique skill to the table. 
Doctor Surender (2nd from left) : He was the net-worker for us. Connected to numerous hospitals, and himself an athlete (cyclist, runner) - he not only bought in many sponsors for our event, but also helped us resolve last minute issues and overcome hurdles at key junctures through his super strong social networking.
Yogesh Agrawal (2nd from right) : He was the dreamer, who always had mad ideas. He was also the pushy guy - wanting to get everything done yesterday. He would dream seemingly unrealistic things that we should be doing for the event, and would push all of us to go for them. He broke so many of our long held perceptions.
Ratna & Dinesh Negi (3rd and 4th from left) : We met this beautiful couple from RunSync just a few months back, and they became such a strong ingredient of our leadership team that we would have been doing only trial and error without them. They brought in the experience of organising a half marathon event earlier. Without their experience of prior half marathons, I am sure we would have done many blunders - being first timers in this arena. 
Cheerag (extreme right): He was our go to man. He ensured preparation of all our banner designs, emails, flyers etc - and was always ready to do whatever we would tell him to do. You know, the ultra committed guy of any team - who would fit into any role.
I (extreme left) came with my own skills to keep the team bound together, motivated and lubricated enough to keep moving until the goal is achieved. Being a front face for all sponsors and vendors, it also had to be managed well. 

Of course, all of us knew what each one of us was doing since we met quite often, but we were all ready to plug in wherever we saw was an area of help. Different skills helps achieve extraordinary results in different aspects of a project.

Any missing skill set might have been disastrous for us.

Honestly, there were times, I felt as if I was losing hold of our team because the team players were stronger than me. they were go -getters, they were doers. But remember that this is a blessing if you have such a team. They are the ones who will take your goals, dream and vision to an all new level. Each one of the team members were ultra strong in their own fields - and that is what made an ultra strong outfit.

You may have an excellent team but there is no alternative to good planning and consistent hard work. Whether it is for financial freedom planning or for half marathon event, you got to slog. We spent countless hours discussing, debating, planning, correcting, improving, re-planning, executing and re-executing our plans. Remember that most of the members were doing this project beyond their regular jobs or practise, and that is why we did not have the luxury of meeting at any given time of the day.  Most of the time, our meetings were scheduled from 9pm to 11pm - starting with a frequency of once a week, and in the end turning it to everyday affair - just to ensure that things work as planned.
Core Team midnight meetings
Of course, none of us slept for more than 36 hours prior to the event just to ensure that all vendors give seamless experience to our participants. Just to give you an idea, the stakeholders that participated in our event included the Zoomba team, stage and stall setup folks, DJ folks, the banner printing guy, volunteers on the route at every crossing, traffic police and civil police coordination, refreshments team, medals vendor, T Shirts vendor, portable toilet guy, bib and timing chip vendors - and so many more - apart from managing multiple sponsors and a team of our own volunteers, pacers and marshals.
Without the effort being put in, it just cannot gel along smoothly.

We started promoting the event approx 3 months prior to the event day, and we had less than 50 registrations over the next 1.5 months. Dinesh, our core team member with prior experience in conducting half marathons, told us that we should cancel the event since it may not be viable with such a count of registrations. Rather than getting depressed about it, we asked him the count that makes the event viable. He stated that if we are anywhere less than 250 registrations 15 days prior to the event, we should drop the idea of hosting it, and refund the fees to those who have already registered. It seemed tough, but we were a team of dreamers and go getters. We all went berserk in promoting the event with road shows, flyer distributions, online social media promotions etc. And what we ended up was a figure o 1,000+ registrations. We had to actually close down the registrations prior to the scheduled date, because of excessive demand.
Never give up ! You will be tested for sure, but if you have the right team, you will get through.

When we started with just a dream, we had no idea bout how to organise a marathon event. Starting from picking up a date to listing on various online selling platforms, to dealing with tens of vendors and sponsors whose deliverable must culminate seamlessly on one important day - this was one of the most complicated projects I did in the last few years. And without HIS blessings - you can just forget it. Not many know it, but just 3 days prior to the event day, police refused us permission to conduct the event citing upcoming national elections in Delhi. You can imagine, when everything is setup, advances paid to vendors, thousands of registrations done, sponsors lined up - and we were facing cancellation. HE had to come to help us. Ratna Negi fought hard and finally, as an exception, got us the permission. Most events around these dates stand cancelled except ours.

This is where most people get it wrong. The aim of this project was not to organise a successful half marathon event. This was just a means to spread awareness among people about the importance of trees and environment. The goal was also to plant one tree for every runner - on which we have started working now. 
So, while so many satisfied runners are asking us to organise another marathon on similar lines, we continue to stay focused on the goals and not the means - the trees and not the run.

It all started with a dream in my mind. Today, these dreams are no longer mine alone. They are shared by so many other passionate dreamers. Even if I want, I cannot back track from them now. Good or bad, I do not know. But HE has his own way of getting things done on HIS planet. After some time, HE will drive it. You will realise that you are just one insignificant part of the solution he has in mind.

Hope you enjoyed these lessons. 
We have close to 2,000 pics from the event, If you wish to look at all of those and relish the entire event, you may visit the Tree-a-thon 2019 Facebook Album.

Meanwhile, I leave you with some stellar pics and media reports from the event.....ENJOY


In case you or any of your family or friends are passionate about trees, and would like to contribute to our environment either as a Donor, Volunteer or Leader in a professional way, feel free to write back to us at 'support@mykalpavriksha.org'.

Until we meet again, sayo-na-ra !!


Manoj Arora


  1. Very nice...looks great fun event with an important message...

    1. Thank you friend....life beyond financial freedom is fun, hard work, innovation - all mixed up :)

  2. One of the inspiring reads for me. Manoj and team. Well done .. even though the run is over. The lessons and inspiration will continue to guide me
    Thank you for the "goal" you hav set. May you have immense success with kalpavriksha