Monday, February 10, 2014

The Allure of Auroville

Marathon Diaries - Auroville Marathon 2014

As we were driving down to Auroville, through the usual traffic snarls at Thiruvanmiyur and other places in ECR, I couldn't stop wondering why I keep running Auroville Marathon.  I hardly seem to spend time in Pondicherry or take time to chill out.  So, why seventh time at Auroville Marathon?

I think it is because of the distinct character of Auroville Marathon, which comes through in everything they do. From Bibs to aid stations to medals to the international flavor.

  • You do have BIB and you get just that and nothing more..   No goody bag, no corporate flyers.. no expired sample sachets... 
  • You do get a medal and perhaps most unique you will ever get..
  • You do have ample aid stations along the route but the litter is kept to a minimum and refill is encouraged.
  • You do have some 'big' shots running the event, but there are no VIP trappings.  I saw the ex-mayor of Chennai quietly collect his BIB and leave.  I didn't see him in the FM line up, he must have run the half.
  • The run itself is within the Auroville commune dirt roads and narrow trail..  far away from the hustle bustle of the roads.
I have always enjoyed running the Auroville Marathon and this time it was no different.  Here is my story.

The BIB collection itself was a breeze.  Just say your number, show ID and collect your BIB, that's it.  But the organizers did insist on the ID and the runner be present to collect the BIB, which didn't go well with a few.  From my perspective, instructions were given and the guidelines were enforced across the board, so issues..

These folks helped make this marathon experience smoother and memorable.  Ashwin and Anand gave me ride and allowed me to pile on in their room.  That saved me a trek to Pondy and back. Most importantly, saved me from the hassle of getting up early commuting back at the wee hours for the start.  Of course, Balaji's being the key organizer, gave me a unique BIB.  Thanks Ashwin, Anand & Balaji.  You guys made it memorable less onerous for me.

Thanks to Balaji's personal touch I got vanity numbers and an aspirational 'title'.  I would like to be the Monk who sold his ferrari.
 Pasta dinner is another tradition at Auroville.  For a little extra, you get ample loads of carb.  I missed it last year, but I understand they have started including my favorite thayir sadham from last year.  For 250 bucks, we got salad, pasta, lasagne and thayir sadam. Man.. what a deal.  Here with Ashwin, Krishna and family.

Running in the dark is another tradition at Auroville.  The FM starts in pitch dark and you get or run with torch light for an hour.  500+ plus FM runners slowly trickled in and after some stretching sessions by a lady from UK, we were ushered to the no frills start area at 4:50 AM and the run was flagged off at exactly 5:00 AM.  Here with a bunch of runners from Chennai.

 Taking interviews while running - This is my tradition.  I took this clip after the first loop and Deepa wanted to know how much more we got to go.. listen in on math challenges..
 Deepa was my running partner for this marathon.  She ran her first full marathon with gusto.  At times we talked, at times we ran in silence but at all times we kept the leash and the promise that bound us.  We stuck together like siamese twins and made it through.  We had originally planned to come under 5:00 hours, but came a little over.  That was a remiss on my part.  Congratulations Deepa.. you are a marathoner.  Here is Deepa with her family at the finish line.
 The KK Nagar tribe keeps growing and growing.. like the energizer bunny which keeps going and going.  They make a party out of every run, whether it is regular practice run or an event.  May your tribe continue to grow and flourish.  Here, a few from the KK Nagar bunch..

Here is another unique thing about the Auroville.  They completely 'localized' the customary photo shoot.  The backdrop was unique and so was the local dance troupe that seemed to have boundless energy.  The tempo and the beat went on for hours on while the runners took their photos.  Here is your truly with the mayilattam dancers.

Marathon # 47 - done
Name - Auroville Marathon 2014 (my seventh here)
Place - Near Pondicherry
Kind - Dirt / Trail marathon
Time - 5:07
One of the must run marathons in India for its uniqueness.  It is held in a international commune yet with a distinct local touch.    

I do have Tokyo coming up in two weeks and Comrades in June.  But will I reach my target of 50 this year? I hope so..

Auroville Marathon 2014 Album here

Previous Years.. 
  • Post on first Auroville Marathon here (can spot some familiar faces.. including Balaji & Siva)
  • Post on second Auroville Marathon here (Balaji ran this..)
  • Photos from last year Auroville Marathon here and here 
  • Photos from 2011 Auroville Marathon here
  • Photos from 2010 Auroville Marathon here