At 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, most of the city is just throwing off its covers and waking up to filter coffee.

But for the 509 people who have registered for the maiden marathon of the Chennai Trekking Club, the day has begun long ago. They have been up since dawn, ready to pound the long red road that stretches past the scenic Buckingham canal, off Old Mahabalipuram Road.

For the fit and motivated, there is the rather intimidating full marathon (42.6 km) and a half-marathon (21.5km). The others can opt for the shorter runs –10 km and 5km. There is even a series of mini-runs for children ranging from 500m to 3 km.

“We wanted to promote the need for a healthy lifestyle among children as we believe that healthy children will grow into healthy adults.” says Punitha, a volunteer with the club. “Perhaps this way, parents too, will be encouraged to exercise and be healthy,” she smiles.

The fitness bug seems to have bitten quite a few families. Roshan, all of six, has run 10 km accompanied by both his parents and says he feels great about it, “We always run as a family,” adds his father, Mani.

The more seasoned runners, who have participated in longer runs, cross the finish line, heralded by whoops and cat-calls from the audience. “Running is a passion,” says Anbu, who has completed a half-marathon. “I’ve been running for four years now, and this is my 29th such event,” he adds.

In many cases though, sheer enthusiasm makes up for lack of training. “I have not exercised for a long time,” says Vinoo, who did a 5 km run. “I just wanted to see where I stood fitness-wise, so I gave this a shot.”

Sangeetha who has completed a 10 km run, admits that in spite of being a regular gym-goer she found the run fairly challenging. “But that’s where you need to push yourself.” she adds.

The tenacity with which some of the runners in their fifties and sixties made their way to finish line, proved that age can be just a number. “Thanks to running, I’m still young at 59,” says Kannan.

Sweaty, tired yet exhilarated after their run, the various participants gathered under a shamina bedecked with fluttering flags, to partake of some nourishment and guzzle down glasses of glucose-laced water. They were also presented with medals.

“What we are trying to do is promote outdoor sports and encourage people to exercise and be healthy.” says Peter Van Geit, founder of the Chennai Trekking Club. “This is our first major event this year and we hope to have many more.”

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