Uma Chigurupati, the woman of many marathons and chairperson of Hyderabad Heritage Marathon, feels running helps you see a city in a new light.

On September 23, when runners gather at Chowmohalla Palace at the crack of dawn, Uma Chigurupati and her team will be glad their hard work has paid off. This is the second year of Hyderabad Heritage Marathon, after the Hyderabad 10K Foundation decided to hold separate events for marathons and 10K runs. “People’s Plaza at Necklace Road was getting too congested to accommodate participants of the marathon and shorter runs of five and 10 kilometres,” she says.

Uma and her husband Krishna Prasad are part of the elite Marathon Grand Slam Club and are recognised by Guinness Book of World Records as the only Indian couple to have completed marathons in seven continents in seven months and topping it off with a marathon at North Pole.

The idea of a heritage Marathon came from marathons that Uma and Prasad participated in. “City marathons are different from heritage marathons. The Great Wall Marathon or the marathon route that goes through vineyards in France is an example of how different countries showcase their uniqueness. We have beautiful monuments and felt heritage marathon would be a good idea. The first heritage marathon was held last year, which saw the participation of 800 runners,” says Uma.

Before finalising the route, Uma and her team did several trial runs. The runs begins at Chowmohalla, crosses Charminar, City College, High Court, Mozamjahi Market, Public Gardens and then proceeds to Mehdipatnam and Toli Chowki to Taramati Baradari and Gandipet before taking a detour towards Golconda before ending at Quli Qutb Shahi tombs. Half marathon participants will cut short the run from Artillery Centre and reach Golconda and Qutb Shahi tombs. “Hyderabad Heritage Marathon adheres to standards prescribed by Association of International Marathons and Road Race. We had to take permission since the marathon was taking an additional 200 metres owing to distance between different heritage sites,” she points out.

Unlike 5K and 10K runs that attract close to 15,000 participants, these marathons are for seasoned runners. “There is a lower age limit of 16 years. We are taking steps to ensure adequate medical facilities in case of emergency. We are not interested in putting the spot light on celebrity runners since we want each runner to feel special. Each person who finishes the half and full marathon will get a medal,” she says.

The marathon has a long way to go before it matches up to the popularity of Mumbai Marathon. Uma feels Hyderabad hasn’t produced many serious runners. “We don’t have necessary infrastructure in terms of parks and roads with good pavements. Summer months are also not conducive for running,” she says.

Being a regular marathon participant, she laments the lack of ample lung space in the city. “The KBR Park is beautiful but it gets boring to do a number of rounds within the same park. Also, running regularly on the outer ring of the park can injure your knees because of its ups and downs,” she adds.

Uma is happy that groups such as Hyderabad Runners have encouraged new participants in the city. She is also happy to note the increase in the number of women participants. She recalls, “I began running 10 years ago, at the age of 40. When I started, I thought I wouldn’t manage more than a kilometre. Slowly I built stamina and crossed two, then five and then 10kms.”

She advises new runners to train for a few months before participating in half marathons. The switch from half marathon to full marathon is tough, she says: “Runners should participate in a few half marathons before trying the full marathons. It’s easier to move from 10K to half marathon but once you touch 30km, your body feels exhausted. It takes practice and training to build stamina.”

What she loves most about running is the opportunity it gives to connect with nature. “I’ve been to Washington DC and Los Angeles earlier but viewing those cities as a marathon runner was a different experience,” she says. Uma has also taken part in adventure runs where runners are in the lap of nature. “My first such marathon was in Mongolia where I didn’t come face-to-face with people for long stretches. I felt I was meditating during those five and a half hours of running,” she says. Uma even stopped listening to music on her iPod while running after a fellow marathon runner encouraged her to “listen to the sound of the wind.”

What’s next on her running agenda? “My husband Krishna Prasad and I would like to do different adventure runs. He is an avid photographer and wants to take the un-chartered course with National Geographic teams. I’d also like to follow him. For both of us, taking time out from work and home to complete seven marathons in seven continents was tough. We pushed ourselves,” she says. Krishna Prasad is the managing director of Granules India and Uma is a soil microbiologist working on establishing her new company Krsma, which will manufacture wines.

On the personal front, the couple’s son Harsha and twin daughters Pragnya and Priyanka are their huge support system. “Before we left for the marathon at Antarctica, Harsha gave us a satellite phone and asked us to keep in touch. It was a role reversal. Instead of parents being concerned about children and their adventures, our son was asking us to stay safe,” laughs Uma.

Personal best

Uma and Krishna Prasad’s toughest marathon was the one at North Pole. “Our body was numb despite many layers of clothing. We didn’t have enough time to get acclimatised to the condition. The marathon was on frozen sea water and at many times, we saw huge cracks on the glaciers and didn’t know if it was safe to take the next step. We completed the marathon in nine hours,” she recalls. Completing the North Pole Marathon made her and Krishna Prasad join the elite Grand Slam Marathon club.

Run Hyderabad Run

To participate in half (21.152 km) and full marathons (42.195 km) at the Hyderabad Heritage Marathon, log on to www.hyderabadheritagemarathon.com. For enquiries, email info@hyderabadheritagemarathon.com or call 040 64646003.