Part Two of the five-part fortnightly series on preparing for The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013 takes us through some of the running routes in the city
Bajanai, Chikku Bukku, AlwarpettaiRap, Kutcheri, Gandhi Vanakkam… These are the names Chennai Runners have given to various weekday short runs across the city!
Where is the running trail winding through a forest, trees on either side, a hint of the tropical sun peeking through the leaves? Where is the path with a brook gurgling alongside, rabbits scampering away into the wilderness at the sound of our feet? And mountains, their peaks encased in mist? Where are the places to run in Chennai, people ask us, sceptical.
For starters, there are the beaches. From the iconic lighthouse at Marina Beach, you can cut a straight path all the way down past the Napiers Bridge for an enjoyable five-km run. The sea breeze and the potential for people-watching make this a great option. The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2013
The Elliots Beach is a runner’s paradise, with low vehicular traffic in the mornings and easy accessibility to several areas in this side of town. The straight stretch towards the Velankanni church is where runners often meet and exchange pleasantries.
Meanwhile, across town, over 100 runners meet at the Ashok Pillar for their shot of euphoria, with an occasional gathering in Sivan Park in K.K. Nagar for a yoga session.
For real hill workouts, people congregate on St. Thomas Mount (on Fridays, typically) and run up and down for a tough yet satisfying session. The beautiful straight route near the ICF Stadium, is almost perfect for longer runs. The ‘Bajanai’ route in Nungambakkam offers a short, five-km run. The options are endless — think flyovers and the ‘Chikku Bukku’ route next to train tracks!
On Sundays, while the rest of the world sleeps in, many of us runners meet at the Anna University parking lot at 5 a.m. By 5.15 a.m., the parking lot is empty. We pass through Boat Club, head to Elliots Beach via the quiet lanes of the Theosophical Society. This 10- to 16-km (depending on where you turn back) running route brings us back to Anna University, direct to the canteen for breakfast, and is a must-do item on our weekend list.
“Which is your favourite place to run in Chennai?” we are often asked. There is Anna University, a shaded 2.5-km loop that is quiet and beautiful, with proximity to the 400-mt track for speed workouts. IIT, if you can acquire the pass, is a pleasant break from city traffic. Bemused security personnel at Poes Garden have learnt to tolerate us on our ‘Kutcheri’ run past Narada Gana Sabha and Music Academy and onto the Cathedral Road flyover, another popular weekly staple.
The newspaper- and milk-delivery boys’ cries and the faint sound of Suprabhaatam wafting through the air now mingle with the sound of people running. If it’s early morning, someone in Chennai is running. In Ambattur, Porur, Velachery and Alwarpet, Chennaites have identified running routes, chalked out maps, convinced neighbours to run alongside, found experienced runners to offer advice, and formed local groups.
So, when people ask us, “Where do you run in Chennai?” we tell them, “Everywhere.” And we mean it!
(The writer is Preeti, associate professor, IIT Madras; is an avid runner and blogger; and part of the organising committee of The Wipro Chennai Marathon)