Walk, jog or run to celebrate the city

For a fit city Gopichand and Padmaja Reddy gear up for the run and half-marathon

For a fit city Gopichand and Padmaja Reddy gear up for the run and half-marathon   | Photo Credit: Photo: Nagara Gopal

With the Hyderabad 10K Run and half-marathon around the corner, Chairperson of the foundation Padmaja Reddy and Former All-England Badminton winner and brand ambassador of the run, Pulella Gopichand discuss the course the run has taken since its inception and the logistics involved, to making it an endeavour that strives to connect the ‘old’ with the ‘new’ while promoting a fitter Hyderabad. Renuka Vijay Kumar listens in…

Padmaja Reddy: Gopi, what are you doing with the 10K run?

Pullela Gopichand: I’m a sportsperson and it’s the most natural thing for me. What about you?

Padmaja: We’re basically here to promote fitness, right? It’s about the involvement of many prominent people from the city, to get people from all backgrounds, onto one platform. Of course, fitness is the primary objective of this run, but it is also to involve the people of Hyderabad, to celebrate the city of Hyderabad. So it’s fitness, from a sports perspective and for the health benefits as well.

Gopi: Yes, that’s true.

Padmaja: Once I came here I became so involved. Every single meeting felt like I was able to give back something to society. Society needs fitness, which is essential, not just from a health perspective, but to be physically fit, will help you to be fit mentally too.

Gopichand: It’s been five years now, since the run started and the committee has been there to support it all through.

Padmaja: Yes it has…

Gopichand: Coming from a background of competitive sports and trying to make people understand what this is about has been a challenge. This year we’re getting to see a lot of different aspects to it. We’re doing it on an international platform, and getting in international runners from Tanzania and Kenya. Businessmen and corporates are looking at it from an H.R. perspective. While many housewives are taking part, some are joining for the entertainment aspect. So there are various objectives behind this run. In the first year we had Dr. Ramesh who brought everybody and everything together.

Padmaja: Yes, I think that year I wasn’t even part of the committee.

Gopichand: We had different committees. We had a participation committee, logistics committee, but none of us had ever run a marathon, including me! The only thing that was great was that there was a huge passion for this.

Padmaja: Yes. That seems to bind everybody. A passion for the cause.

Gopichand: The first year, I remember, people would come and we would sit and discuss so many things, but at the end of each discussion, we would realise that there was no money. There was no principal sponsor, no associate sponsor, and no affiliate sponsor. So every time there was a requirement for money, someone from the committee would put his hand up and donate five lakhs and that’s how the whole thing started.

Padmaja: Yes, I remember hearing about that…

Gopichand:..and that’s how it all began. And then it slowly evolved. There was Dr Ramesh for two years; there was Pinky for two years. Every time there was a crisis, she would pick up the phone and call her personal contacts and …

Padmaja:…absolutely. She actually got a lot of recognition to this run and gave it an identity.

I think Ramesh did a whole lot of construction work. He put the run together and made it something from nothing. He made it evolve and Pinky took it from that platform and gave it the recognition it required. So today, I’m far more comfortable. It’s so much easier for me to market this. The only thing for me to do is putting things together and putting it right. Today, everything is the result of the hard work put in by those two chairpersons.

Gopichand: But I would say you’ve done fantastic job too.

Padmaja: Thank you, it’s lovely to hear that from you Gopi. It’s very encouraging. At the end of the day, I’m just co-ordinating everything. Every member is putting in a lot of effort. I’ve learnt to actually swallow a lot of my ego doing this! (laughs)

Gopichand: Yes actually. In the initial years, we had to go to every school possible. Where people would have asked me to come for a Sports day function and I had refused 10 times, I was now calling and asking, ‘When can I come to your school?’ The initial days were very tough.

Padmaja: …yes very true. Asking for favours…

Gopichand: There was a time we didn’t have police permission till the last minute.

Padmaja: Yes, yes, yes. We went through all that. We addressed a lot of big issues, primarily because nobody understood the magnitude of the run. Secondly, we were evolving and learning along the way.Ok tell me about the timing chip, I’m lagging behind there.

Gopichand: There have been a lot of firsts here. We have the AIMS recognition(Association of International Marathons and Distance Races), and they have measured the course for the marathon. The timing device is called the ‘Single use Champion Chip time system.’ This gives the run official international recognition.

Padmaja: We expect fantastic results with this. Our message is very simple- just walk, run or jog to celebrate and feel proud of the city.

Gopichand: The first year we had to literally drive people to the run.

Padmaja: Now it’s a huge difference. There has been a lot of support from the government, from HUDA, the tourism department, the police and the Municipal Corporation.

Gopichand: Yes, it has been very successful for us. A lot of smaller cities like Tandur, Karimnagar and Vijayawada are now following our concept and conducting the run there and this has not been the case with the runs in Maharashtra or Delhi or Karnataka.

Padmaja: We have been able to penetrate all through the state and that is a huge step for us. Hyderabad was built to have this 10K and 21K run. The entire Necklace Road is totally 10km and the run from People’s Plaza to Charminar is an exact 21 kilometres. We always wanted to connect the ‘old’ and ‘new’ and Charminar is the identity of Hyderabad.

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