At first, when Aravind Kumar, then in college, started running, it was to take his mind off something that had upset him. Later, though, he fell in love with it.
This year, Aravind, along with two others from Chennai, will take part in the Comrades Marathon, one of the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathons, in South Africa next month.
According to Amit Sheth, the ambassador for the marathon from India, Aravind, at 27, will be the youngest participant from the country in the nearly 90-km run.
Over 60 persons from across India have registered to participate in the ultramarathon.
The past eight months, Aravind has been training intensely, running between 80 km and100 km a week.
“I run everywhere in the city. I live in T. Nagar, so I run there. I also run in Besant Nagar and other places. For a more challenging run, I go to St. Thomas Mount, and sometimes to the hills in Perungalathur,” says the human resources professional.
Running in the hills, for training or as a hobby, seems to be a growing trend in the city. “Runners are looking for a variety of options to run — city runs, trail runs, running by the ocean, etc.
Running in the hills is a good getaway for people in the city — there’s fresh air, and it adds a challenge,” says Ram Viswanathan, founder, Chennai Runners, a group of people who share a passion for running.
Over the past few months, a group from Chennai Runners has gotten together to run in the hills, in order to help with training for those participating in the Comrades Marathon.
Mr. Viswanathan, for instance, who is also participating, has done two hill ultra runs this year.
“One was in Yercaud, the Servarayan Hills Ultra, and the other in Koli Hills, the Val Vil Ori Ultra,” he says.
The terrain offers a challenge, and as the Comrades Marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban starts at 700 metres and ends at 150 metres, hill running forms an essential part of the training.
Favourite destinations for runners from the city are St. Thomas Mount, the Perungalathur hills, Yercaud, Koli Hills and the Nilgiris.
“When we run on a hill together, it’s great fun. There’s a sense of camaraderie and the members motivate each other,” says Aravind.
For Praveen Giriya, running in the hills offers a sense of achievement and the chance to experience a new place. “I ran — 61 km in Yercaud and 50 km in Nilgiris — along with those participating in the marathon to help in their training. For me, it’s the best way to get an absolute high,” he says.