Rain lashed Run on a Challenging Choolavaram Course – A Runners Delight and Volunteers Pride

by Durai on October 21, 2013

Lengthy and scenic trails have been buried along with our ancestors underneath the modern and urban cities. Running as one the best ways to stay healthy and fit has been picking up like wildfire in recent times and every city has started hosting marathons to meet the never ending adrenaline rush of the runners. However, the longing to connect to the nature and beautiful trails through running has created a vacuum in the minds of the runners.

The craving to reunite to the Nature;

The hunt to trot along scenic trails;

The desire to enjoy refreshing aroma from the flora;

The demand for a challenging trail to test endurance;

Chennai Trail Marathon stood as an Answer to the Runners

There was no police personnel deployed on the running trails, there was no external photography professionals hired, there was no external cycling or biking group looped in, and there was no cheer leaders called in for. The run was bleeding with absolute sense of volunteerism. I would call it as an event from the trekking community to the running community although there is nothing dividing these communities.

 Chennai trail marathon - Mr Ram

Delightful Pre-Run Recce’s and Last minute Down Pour:

Meticulous planning went on to bring the best trail running experience to the runners. We ran miles and miles at this place, spent weekends to connect the scenic trails and make it one of the challenging ones. At the end of every successful time we ran on this trail we felt delighted with its beauty and were appeased with the challenging course. It was around 1.30 a.m on the race day we almost fixed our miles markers, route pointers, and marked the entire trail with white powder giving directions. It was just 3 ½ half hours left for the full marathon to begin. We heard loud thunders and saw lighting in the sky above the nearby Nagalapuram and the dark clouds slowly engulfed the full moon and dark clouds opened up and it started raining incessantly all the powder markings was washed away right in front of our eyes.

 Water logging - chennai trail marathon

Drenched in rains our mind was not worried about the trembling body but afraid about the trail being slowly flooded with water, which started disappearing. Hardly we had 2 ½ half hours to kick-start the event and we even received a call from the transportation lead that runners have started pooling at different start points in large numbers. We almost thought that unless some miracle happens its impossible for us to run on this trail. Each step we kept on the trail our legs went almost 2 inches deep into soil and our shoes and sandals got struck into the slush.

Chennai trail marathon finisher

Discovering the Connecting Trail:

The monsoon treks and survival missions came to our rescue since it had taught us, how to survive in heavy down pour and how to create trails even on a heavy monsoon inside very thick forest. Quickly, Peter said lets get into the Fortuner to explore the north side of the lake to find a trail clear off water and by now the time was 4 a.m and it was raining with calls even on the mobile. Everyone wanted to know if the run was on – to buy sometime we informed the race starting point organizers that the run will start 1 hour delayed. Peter was driving the car inside the village roads and looking for a trail that would connect the Choolavaram dam. Almost 30 minutes passed by and we were not able to locate any trail either on road or on the google maps. We almost lost the confidence of finding a connecting trail and were about to give up. It was then the master of all explorers rambled his Fortuner into a lonely trail and we got back the lost confidence and in no moment we were back on our toes with full zeal and energy. We exclaimed with unbound joy for discovering a scenic trail with which we can manage the run. My mind almost forgot that it did not sleep now for the past 36 hours nor was my body tired to sense the tiredness. I was as eager and enthused as the runner who was waiting for the run at the starting line.

 Abhijit Shone - Chennai trail marathon

Chased by the Lead Runner – Marking the Trail and Refreshment Points:

We reached the starting point at 5.45 a.m and witnessed that the entire college was beaming with great energy, high enthusiasm of runners and the starting point was rejoicing with drumbeats. Peter assigned me with another challenging task of marking the entire trail and refreshment points afresh. Switching my GPS I started with our strong team of bike marshals and for every left/right turns, deviations and at refreshment points I kept dropping one bike after another bike and finally at the 8th kilometer when I turned back the lead runner was just 200 mts away from me. He was pouncing like a tiger at 15 kms per hour. We entered a village and the road divided into two parts and I had absolutely no clue which side of the village road I should take to mark the 10.5 kms U-turn point. Confused to take a decision I quickly took the guidance of an elderly man sitting underneath a tree who guided me inside a village trail. We blazed inside the trail and finally were forced to end our ride in front of a flooded pond, which was almost a dead end. By now the lead runner reached me and asked where is the way, I politely said this is the U-turn point with 500 mts short of the actual distance. Finally, ended my non-stop run searching for trails, being chased and stood cheering and serving the full and half marathoners for another 6 hours till the last full marathoner Mr. Arul came limping at around 11.30 to the refreshment point were I was volunteering and walked alongside him till he successfully finished is run at around 1 p.m.

 Winner of chennai trail marathon 2013

When I now recall those 36 hours of fun-filled, exciting and non-stop activity of marking the course, fixing the trail and taking one of the most challenging tasks of being the trail lead. The encounters with drunken patrons of the village late in the evening, the so-called President of some village who created havoc late in the mid-night, the panic created by the Engineer of the Dam and the timely help from a senior officer, the unending conversations with a kind-hearted policemen, all these things just fade away from my mind and now all I am able to witness for myself are the encouraging feedback, wonderful photographs of the runners and the smiling faces of my fellow volunteers.

 CTM 2013 volunter group photo

While normally my legs run across the country participating in various running festivals I dedicate my heart and self to the running community through Chennai Trail Marathon.

Happy Volunteering,

Durai Murugan

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Nambi October 21, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Super Durai !!! Drunken president really tested our patience !! U have handled him very well !!!

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Karthik R October 21, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Durai… Once again a wonderful blog post from you. In my interview I asked Peter, what sets CTC volunteers apart? He was unable to answer… I guess its the passion… No one foreces any one…. we are self fueled aircrafts…

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:05 pm

‘Self-fueled aircraft’. That’s a brilliant way to describe our commitments Karthik. Your work in roping in the photographers was commendable.

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Kumarvel Sriranga October 21, 2013 at 8:06 pm

I missed to be there as I am in US due to work…

But I wanted to know how it all went… You made me feel as if I am there… Good Job bro…

Volunteering at its best… 🙂

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krishnan October 21, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Never knew about this. The event and the race route were so well organized that we did not know about the struggle that went behind. Thanks to the volunteers. Great example of the collective strength of the like minded.

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Sathya Natarajan October 21, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Durai, As usual, best write up from you.

I think, success of CTC events are from the passionate volunteers with a objective, though all of u have our own approaches and different ways of handling things.

# of calls each one of us handled from 2am to 4am on 20th Oct, beyond imagination. when participants started asking, is the event on? Confident answer from all the volunteers, Big “YES” while we had our own small fear in each of our minds.

Amazing energy level and committment from all the volunteers.. Kudos to all.

Looking forward to work together again in the next event.

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Well said Mr. Sathya. It was the team work which finally made this Run happen, everyone volunteers role was significant and without any expectation they outlived the expectations.

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J Suresh Kumar October 21, 2013 at 11:55 pm

Super Durai – The highlight of your blog is that, it always keeps inspiring others, and i am one among that. Inspiring lines were ..”The run was bleeding with absolute sense of volunteerism…” and the undigestable part was ” all the powder markings was washed away right in front of our eyes.”. I just enjoyed the whole trail….. took my own time…, with no other constraints.! CTC volunteers Rocks

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Suresh, you rock man i hardly see full marathoners dancing on the course you are an exception to that. In your maiden marathon you were exhibited tremendous energy and finished strongly. Congrats.

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Srinath October 22, 2013 at 1:22 am

Durai, hats off to CTC for organizing this event against all odds. I could see the commitment and enthusiasm at each water point, we were asked what we wanted and taken care off. Definitely one of the toughest run due to the conditions but worth the experience. Well done.

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Srinath Ji,

Its a collective effort by my fellow volunteers. I am very happy for you that you completed the full marathon in style. Looking forward to run with you in the upcoming Chennai Marathon.

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Balachandar October 22, 2013 at 3:05 am

Thanks for sharing the other side of the story which goes unheard most of the times. We all know how tough it is to organize a running event, and even the extremely experienced organizations struggle and you guys pulled it off. I and my friend came all the way from bangalore to participate and belive me not even a second we thought about the cancellation of event due to rain, if we had witnessed this an year ago when we were not runners we would have been skeptical but not anymore. Running gives you immense positive energy and attitude, gives you a feeling that anything can be achieved and you chaps proved it. Thanks for giving us this wonderful experience. See you all next year. :)) cheers

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Balachandar thanks for coming all the way from Bangalore and for giving us an opportunity to serve you. It was our pleasure. For a runner Rain or Shine the practice session is always on. Nothing really stops except for the mindset.

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vijay October 22, 2013 at 4:03 am

He is an animal heard he did a FM in 3:05, hope you guys enjoyed being chased. Thanks for not cancelling the event and taking all the trouble to find a new trail and changing the hydration points while being chased. Had a firsthand experience of true CTC spirit, Hope to participate / volunteer in more CTC activities.

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Murali October 22, 2013 at 5:19 am

Durai,

Excellent write-up. I was really awaiting this post.

You guys are awesome. Volunteering at its best. As Srinath mentioned, folks were asking what we want at every water point and absolutely no shortage of essentials.

Seeing you at the U-turn point made me realize the challenges you guys must have faced for creating the alternate trail. I have told Bib Bala that I would volunteer for the CoolRunners event next year and hope to have a great time volunteering.

Kudos to the entire team.

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Murali Ji,

I was really happy to see our twit runners gang participating in big numbers. United we Run and Divided we Tweet. Now waiting for Dec to come to run in the TWCM ‘Unitedly’.

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peter October 22, 2013 at 5:49 am

Well captured Durai. This marathon felt indeed like one of our trek explorations where sometimes hard decissions have to be made on the spot.

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Peter,

Will remember the rain lashed night and your never say give up attitude, I can recollect your words, “Cancelling the event is not my cup of tea, there are more than 1000 runners waiting at the starting point, we need to find an alternate trail”. How inspiring was those words to pull back our lost energy. You are the Man.

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santhosh October 22, 2013 at 6:02 am

Good post Durai sir, missed my presencce in the group pic 🙁

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Vadivel October 22, 2013 at 6:06 am

Nice write-up Durai. I know you and our CTC volunteers always doing all the work with high energy level, dedication and commitment. Kudos to all. Keep going!!

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mahesh Sukumar October 22, 2013 at 6:16 am

Excellent write up Durai!

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Deepak Gupta October 22, 2013 at 6:20 am

I couldnt do as much as I would have wanted to do for the CTM cause I was out of station and reached chennai, late the previous night. Dint know all this action had transpired the previous night… excellent post Durai… and hats off to all the volunteers.

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Venkat Venkataraghavan October 22, 2013 at 6:37 am

When we started for the course ad were on Beach road, we thought we would end up in a wild goose chase and get back without running or that, even if we run, we may not enjoy it. It was totally the opposite and kudos to the organisers and more importantly the volunteers for quickly positioning themselves at the vital points. We enjoyed running in the slushy trail and that was an experience of a different kind for road runners like me. Thanks to the weather as well and the scenic surroundings, I could finish my first Full Marathon which many fellow runners tried dissuading me and ended up showering accolades for debuting in a tough course. Thanks to the efforts of Team CTC.

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Senthil Nathan(4sn) October 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

Superb blogpost and hats off to CTC group for organizing the event challenging the nature. Any other group would have given up and called off the event. I enjoyed running and as people mentioned the biggest success is that, we didnt realize that this is a newly discovered trail.

May be next year, CTC should think about moving this event to July/August to escape the rains?

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Durai October 22, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Senthil,

That’s a good suggestion to host it before the start of monsoon. But there may be a surprise CTC folks may discover another scenic trail and it may withstand any heavy rains :-).

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Harishkumar October 22, 2013 at 9:42 am

Awesome write up Durai. It was the amazing trial u found.

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R.K.Sudha October 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

Impressive photos Durai! Great write up too!

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Ganapathy October 22, 2013 at 5:44 pm

WOW Durai!!!… That was quite a story… U rock really…. And you seems to have lost quite a bit of weight…

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Swetha Christy October 23, 2013 at 5:13 am

Very well captured, once again, the mood and sense of the CTM 2013. Kudos to Peter and you guys! With questi0ns being raised amongst us on the trail, you guys pulled it off really well. It’s always fun and good experience being part of volunteers or any event.

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Vikram Krishnakumar October 23, 2013 at 5:13 am

As usual Durai’s wonderful Write-up . . . CTC does gr8 events like CTM 2013 coz of ppl like you . . .

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Nandini October 23, 2013 at 8:34 am

Excellent write up… oh .. so much effort, so much tension…. washing away of the markers due to rain & finding a fresh trail… Great appreciation to one and Kudos to one and all those associated … your words brought all that excitement, tension… as if I experienced them first hand… I am proud of you CTC !!

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Jayakanthan October 27, 2013 at 8:06 am

Nice write up Durai!… CTM runs are always special to me.. I did my first 10K last year and now my maiden full… You guys are amazing! CTM stands apart because of the energy, commitment and passion shown by the volunteers. Kudos to you and the organizing team. Looking forward to the next edition of CTM.

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Afzal November 13, 2013 at 5:36 am

There are not many times when I read thru such a long article … But I really enjoyed reading your entire piece right to the end … Very well written my friend Durai …All the best …!

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bala June 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

when i saw you soaked in mud i did not realise that you had already run an ultra marathon to make way for the “so called” runners. How is it that you folks are so passionate and full of energy. I must completely surrender to this himalayan energy resources. in a world full or breast beaters on achievements, i can see who the real achievers ARE. and definitely YOU ARE ONE OF THEM

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Durai June 28, 2014 at 1:59 pm

Thanks Bala Sir for your kind words 🙂

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