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Day 5: Chasing Pat

Kochi to Engandiyoor, 80.3km

There’s more to this journey than just running. If that was all there was, our crew would simply hang in the air-conditioned vehicles – kindly provided by Mahindra - eating samosas while watching Pat’s shoes slowly wear out against the pavement. But our goal, which was conceived long before the first step was taken, was to showcase India in all its beauty.

As Pat put it: “This isn’t the Pat Farmer Run, this is the Spirit of India Run”. (Although, it was also clear to us that if Pat stops, the whole thing stops too.)

It’s a large part of why we partnered with the Ministry of Tourism, Incredible India and Air India. We hope that through Pat’s eyes Australians and people all over the world, can see, hear and smell all the wonderful sites this country has to offer. So enter the film crew.

In five days, the crew has shot over 20 hours of footage in 4K resolution. The film crew has not only been on Pat like a shadow but during long stretches they will do location shooting at religious, cultural and natural sites - from elephant parades to millennia-old temples. While we certainly visit popular tourist destinations, India has its fair share of hidden gems which we hope to discover too.

But shooting the run is not an easy task. One of Pat’s many rules – or commandants, if you will – is to “never take a step backward” and because of his single-minded goal to reach the end, he will not slow down. The man could move tidal waves through sheer determination alone. This usually wouldn’t be a problem for the photographer or the film crew; he’s a moving target but least he’s a consistent moving target. But if Pat is a moving red balloon, then India is a room filled with a million yellow ones.

Almost every alley way, every house, every roadside shop selling bananas or jewellery is a visual treat. Every inch of India is filled to the brim with personality and character; we could frame only half the things we see and put them up in a gallery.

On the humid days, the lens of the camera immediately fogs up, leaving a greasy stain smeared across our photos. When using our telescopic lens from across the road we have to account for traffic, of which there is ample supply, and too many times a beautiful composition of Pat running past a church with the sunset on his back has been ruined by a bus or a truck.

Even with immense forethought and planning, it is impossible to tame India. All those yellow balloons are people, vehicles, foliage or even just smoke which makes it near-impossible to focus on the red one. However, an essential component of being in Pat’s crew is having the ability to adapt; as he would say, you can either make it happen or you can make excuses. The film crew and the photographer have learnt to utilise everything available to them. They have Go Pro mounts for every possible surface and scenario, they’ve done extensive location scouting, they refitted one of the support vehicles by emptying the trunk and using it as stable dolly for tracking shots, they’ve climbed abandoned buildings and construction sites and worked with police to slow traffic.

A truly underrated resource for any budding camera person is kindness and communication. People have more than once given us access to the rooftops of their homes and businesses simply because we asked. They’ve moved their bikes or have even posed without a need for explanation or reward; they see Pat running and recognise we’re doing something important, so are excited to simply be a part of it.

For anyone interested in visual storytelling, India is the perfect stimulus. Where ever you point your camera, you’ll invariably capture some ineffable mystic energy. Just be sure to accept that you’ll be bucked off the saddle a few times.

Photo: One of the Spirit of India film crew hitching a ride on a motorcycle on launch day. Picture: Kevin Nguyen

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