This Sunday, a group of runners will take to the streets at 5.30 a.m, running on the serene Gandipet-Shankerpalli stretch besides the Osmansagar. The Hyderabad Runners (HR) Club Run presents a bouquet of challenges to choose from — 10 km, 21.09 km (half marathon), 30 km and a complete marathon of 42 kms.

The three-year-old HR group boasts of 400 members, comprising men and women of all age groups and all walks of life. Once they sport their running shoes, differences of gender, age and profession blur.

Rajesh Vetcha, founder of the group, was an active runner in Bangalore and Chennai and discovered that Hyderabad lacked a dedicated group for runners. He started HR in mid-2007 and the group had its first big run on the Shamshabad airport runway in August 2008 before the airport was opened to public. “Many of us have participated in national and international marathons,” says Rajesh. Their biggest moment? Eighteen of them will be running the 2010 Athens Marathon on October 31. “This is the 2500th anniversary and we are excited to participate in the run from the Marathon village to Athens,” says retired professional Anand Kumar, who discovered the joy of running in his late 50s.

The heartening thing about HR is its ability to motivate ordinary mortals like us, even if we've never been athletic. Anand Kumar says, “I never thought I could run. Running means different things to each one of us. For some it's fitness and for others it's about rediscovering themselves,” he says.

Twenty six-year-old adventure lover Ajay Reddy feels running made him approach life afresh. “Running 21 kms at a stretch is no joke. I joined the group for fitness reasons and began enjoying running on the outskirts,” says Ajay, founder of tripnaksha.com. He confesses that he was never athletic before joining the runners. “I did the half marathon at Auroville and hope to be do a a full marathon by the year end.”

The real test of nerves comes from the women members. Anuradha Raju Kalidindi, 41, is all smiles when she recalls doing the full marathon at Auroville 2010 and at Pittsburgh this year. Three years ago, all she did was brisk walk. “I discovered that the ability to run long distances had nothing to do with age and gender. As women, we doubt our endurance levels. The group boosted my morale. Once you cross the first hurdle, you get over the fear,” she says.

Her friend and fellow runner Sunita Tummalapalli, 41, a former fitness trainer, is among the three women from the HR group that will participate in the Athens Marathon. “I started off by running five kms and built up the tempo. Anu and I went to the Kilimanjaro base camp in Tanzania and scaled the peak, thanks to all the training we received here,” says Sunita.

The original Marathon

Eighteen HR members will have a brush with history, participating in the Athens Marathon on October 31. The 2500th anniversary will mark the battle of Marathon in 490 BC and the historical run by Pheidippides from the Marathon battlefield to Athens.

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