International marathons Life & Style

Meet Gauri Jayaram, chief cheer leader

Gauri Jayram

Gauri Jayram   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Gauri Jayaram started Active Holiday Company, a company that helps people enrol in the top marathons across the world

When Gauri Jayaram was on holiday with her daughters in London, in 2011, they watched in awe, as “a million people came out on the streets to cheer the runners. That experience was something else,” she says, of watching not just the London Marathon in progress, but also the fervour of the onlookers.

Gauri had ‘caught the running bug’ about four years earlier and her vacation plans invariably centred around participating in races around the world. So she attempted registering for the London Marathon a few days later.

“I found out how difficult it is to get an entry into races like these. The race is so popular that it is hugely over-subscribed and chances of getting an entry into the race are quite remote,” she says. You can, as in the case of elite runners, gain a direct entry, but for someone who isn’t part of that group, there were only two other ways: going through a registered charity, which meant raising huge funds; or going through a tour operator empanelled for the race, who would guarantee direct entry.

“There was only one catch: there was no tour operator for India,” she says. So in 2013, she decided to quit her job at Cosmos, the coach-touring company, to start the Active Holiday Company “with the objective of offering marathon tours, cycling and walking holidays around the world”. Here she talks about how the company, in its sixth year, is now the official tour operator for some of the world’s most prestigious marathons, adding New York just this month.

Medal arrangement, according to marathon runner Christine Pemberton
  • Surely there has to be life after Instagram for all these medals we worked so hard for? So I asked around, for real and in cyber space, and have come up with a few ideas for you. Use them as decorations! Now how awesome would that be? And how understanding would your family have to be, to allow all traditional baubles to be banished in favour of race medals dangling on a Christmas tree or strung out at Deepavali!
  • Make them into a wind chime. You might need family approval to do this, too, so I guess if you were to time it correctly, asking right after they had all unceremoniously shot down the previous idea, you might just succeed. A lovely tinkly — okay, a noisy, clangy — wind chime. Turn them into fridge magnets An idea online did so, and that is definitely going to be one of my projects.
  • Turn them into coasters You can’t use the medals as they are, because most of them are not smooth and would scratch your table, which is pretty counter-intuitive. So, by the simple expedient of a few basic DIY skills, like sticking a felt backing on them, you can have a permanent and, quite honestly, more useful race memento.

Can you trace your journey for us?

In 2014, we ran our first marathon tour to London with just 10 runners. The Virgin Money London Marathon is part of the Abbott World Marathon Majors (AWMM), which is an amateur runner’s grand slam of six of the world’s best-known races. Those who complete running all six of the World Marathon Majors are awarded a six-star medal.

We slowly added Berlin, Chicago and Tokyo marathons to our race offerings. Last year, we became the Official Tour Operator for the prestigious Boston Marathon, and finally this year, we have added TCS New York City Marathon, the world’s largest marathon.

It is so exciting to be the first company in South Asia to become the Official Tour Operator for all six AWMM races. For marathons, we offer tours with guaranteed race entries and runner-friendly local arrangements.

What has the experience given you personally?

I am the first one to head out to the streets on race day, cheering our runners with our flag, and after the race, my phone doesn’t stop pinging from messages from runners — that’s the best compliment to our work and my most powerful inspiration.

With a group

With a group   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

Which are the running centres in India?

Most of our travellers come from metro cities, but almost all our races see participation from smaller towns as well. The key regions of course are Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune, followed by Delhi (NCR and NOIDA included), but running has really captured India’s imagination.

Almost every city and town has its own marathon, and often multiple marathons, throughout the year. It is the only sport that attracts such a large amateur participation and there is no other sport that is as inclusive as running.

AT Boston Marathon

AT Boston Marathon   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

What next?

There are many races beyond the big six waiting to be experienced. We are now looking at more runners finishing the Seven Continent Challenge (where a runner runs a full or a half marathon on all seven continents).

Races such as the Great Wall Marathon or the Malnad Ultra offer unique landscapes, whereas a race like the Medoc Marathon in France is known for being the most fun race on the planet.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 3:29:31 PM |

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