Road runners from across the country are all set to participate in The Wipro Chennai Marathon on December 2.

The countdown for The Wipro Chennai Marathon has begun. As a timer on chennairunners.com set for the December 2 event ticks away, the excitement builds up not only for home-grown long-distance runners, but for those beyond the city who gravitate to marathons that meet international standards.

In its scale and vision, TWCM is expected to advance Chennai as a destination for avid and competitive marathoners and give it a place alongside Mumbai and Delhi with their premier annuals, the Mumbai Marathon and the Delhi Half Marathon, which are listed as Gold Label Road Races by the Monaco-based International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Ram Viswanathan, founder-president of Chennai Runners, says, “We are taking it to the next level. We are scaling up to a full marathon.” Organising half marathons like clockwork, engaging runners in small and warm neighbourhood groups and offering programmes for beginners, this group has given the metro an exciting calendar of runs over the last six years. An annual full marathon was the only thing missing.

Adding to the bouquet

With this new offering added to its bouquet of regular programmes, which include a half marathon and a 10k, TWCM will attract runners of different stripes and a turnout of 5,000 people is being forecast. The organisers, however, choose not to highlight this fact. Instead, they talk about investment in technology and other features that make TWCM big time. “All the participants are given timing chips. In keeping with the tradition followed at international marathons, the day before the run is dedicated to an expo centred on running, health and fitness. Besides seminars and workshops on these topics, a variety of fitness and lifestyle products will be showcased,” says V.P. Senthil Kumar, race director, TWCM. “Runners from outside the country have shown interest — we admit these are not top-flight competitive marathoners; but in another two years, TWCM will attract such runners and we will stake a claim to international rating.”

There is also an attempt at linking TWCM to much of what defines Chennai. For one, it is being offered as part of a package of music and marathon in December. “December, when music rules the city, is known as Chennai Month. The first week of December will be called the marathon week,” says Senthil. “It will be the new pride of Chennai.”

International marathons figure prominently on the running calendars of the core members of Chennai Runners, and they know how a marathon can build a city’s image in the sight of the international community. Ram believes TWCM can do for Chennai what the New York City Marathon (NYCM) has done for that city. After all, all big marathons were once acorns of hope. NYCM, for example, is the outcome of a local running group taking the trouble to go the extra mile. In its journey from an online community consisting of a handful of runners to a highly respected 1,000-member group, Chennai Runners has consistently shown a willingness to go that extra mile, take on new challenges, and accommodate everyone in its movement of fun and fitness.

It has embraced a philosophy of running that is attractive even to couch potatoes. It raised LSD running (long slow distance running) — a method promoted by Joe Hendersen — to a mantra. Running has to be fun and taken step by step. Another popular model advanced by the group is 10x10 which emphasises progress through persistence. Runners on the road to becoming marathoners are first encouraged to attempt 10 kilometre runs on 10 consecutive days and build up confidence and stamina to take on the bigger challenge. Chennai Runners has also been a great forum for women runners — to illustrate the point, runners such as Preeti Aghalayam (associate professor, department of chemical engineering, IIT-Madras) enjoy much visibility — and families that run together.

Krishna Kumar Rangachari, a key member, points out how the group has also promoted a sense of community among the residents of neighbourhoods. For daily running, members form location-specific small groups. Of course, there are other groups that promote the concept — ‘Dream Runners’, a group of fitness-conscious people from areas proximate to the Elliott’s Beach, ‘Cool Runners’, which runs in YMCA, and the Black Buck Athletic Club, an IIT-centred group — but they have been inspired by Chennai Runners.

Its charity work, simple but sincere, is what enables Chennai Runners to be placed in a larger social perspective. Says Shahid Kandrikar, we have a programme — called ‘Extra Mile’ — where members donate sparingly used shoes to those who need them. It’s a gift from a group that wants the whole of Chennai out on the roads and running.

READY TO RUN?

*The Wipro Chennai Marathon (TWCM), powered by Chennai Runners, will be flagged off at IIT Madras on December 2 .

*Full and half marathons, a 10km run and a run for special children are the categories.

*United Way of Chennai, which serves as an intermediary between the corporate and social sector, is the charity partner.

*The registration fee is Rs. 500.

*All participants will get T-shirts, medals, certificates and breakfast.

*All runners will get timing chips.

*Registrations can be done at thewiprochennaimarathon.com

RELATED NEWS

Prince FrederickMay 11, 2012