Chennai: It would not be a hyperbole to say that the latest fad among the urban populace is running or rather participating in a marathon. Fad, one can say without a doubt as more than 1,100 runners gathered at a private college in Red Hills on the outskirts of the city, before dawn broke on a Sunday morning to participate in the 4th Chennai Trail Marathon.
Organised by the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC), the trail run had 3 categories testing human endurance limit the Ultra -50K, Full Marathon- 42.2 km and the Half Marathon- 21.1 km. The participants were guided by CTC's founder, Peter Van Geit.
Around 5.45 am, the first batch of runners began to explore the trail. A trail, according to Mr. Peteris, is as challenging as it is scenic. "An uneven dirt track that takes you across elevated dams, beautiful lakes, lush green cashew farms, ancient temples, small hills, majestic canyons, eucalyptus forests, scenic paddy fields, forgotten villages and vast grasslands," to quote the Belgian who is a popular face among the runners. Reading the above description in his facebook page might have made the runners overlook the battered and non-existent roads through which they had to drive to reach the start point.
As much as marathons have become an urban fad, it has also thrown open a new window of opportunity to youngsters from nondescript villages. Take for instance, 22-year-old Muniappan from a village in Salem district who finished the half marathon in 1.27 hrs, running barefoot.
Losing to Muniappan by a minute was J. Vigneshwaran, also from Salem and a professional runner for 3 years. "Trail is not my thing. I prefer flat surfaces. I stumbled in the middle losing 2 minutes," said Vigneshwaran brooding over the fact that he missed finishing first. However, he was happy that he recommended Muniappan to participate in the run exposing him to a new world. The top 3 ultra runners completed their 50 kms in less than 4.5 hrs. But, like the adage goes, 'the journey is more important than the destination' and all those who completed the run were winners in their own right.