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Ultra run in India - Beautiful 31 miler!

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Malenadu a region of Karnataka, covers the western and eastern slopes of the Western Ghats and my home. An ultra run in the ever green forest was good enough motivation for me to register. I dint do any further reading either about the terrain or the organizers. We runners are deeply influenced by Born to Run, Caballo Blanco and the Raramuris, expecting the unexpected...

The Malnad Ultra (TMU), one of the few ultra run in India was conveniently placed on the weekend before Vijaydashami. A quick visit to my parents post the run along with my boys sounded perfect. Weeks before the event I spoke to Gauri, yes, Active Holidays were the accommodation partner. A hassle free booking followed. Her team is not just courteous but professional too. Train booking too were confirmed in minutes. Everything seemed positive, but my training!

Post the 12 hour stadium run and clocking 86k in August, I dint have much recovery time as my triathlon was close. First week of September I attempted my first Half Iron at Thonnur. Trust me, it was not easy! I now had 22 days before the first edition of TMU. Three days of Yoga (Core Hata, Yoga with props and Power Yoga), two days of strength training and Saturday and Sunday for long runs. My Saturday runs would be a good 30k and Sunday an easy 20k. Was the training good enough? I don't think much!

Come September 9th we took the passenger train that was to reach Birur at 5pm. It was fun to travel along with runners from Bangalore and Mumbai. My boys enjoyed the snack vendors and the short train journey. At Birur, the transport manager was waiting to take us straight to Rajgiri estate where the briefing and pre-race dinner was organised. Beautiful dusk and the smell of the wet mud, breeze and dropping temperature took the excitement to the next level.

The only light was that of the projector that focused the screen. Slide after slide, Anand (Race Director) took us through the route, the rest areas, hydration point and cut off timing. Anand was clear and crisp with the briefing. The race kit was not just a Bib, a large coffee mug from CCD (official partner), goodies from Unived (luggage tag and favorite gel), all this in a jute reusable bag. Dinner buffet was an array of local delicacy of Kori rotti, ghassi, mutton biriyani and korma. We sat around the bonfire and caught up with fellow runners. Amit, Monica, Aakrithi, Shyam, Peter, Athreya and many more. Jagdish, Sindhu, Brijesh were the volunteers and these known faces gave me the much needed comfort. Our stay was at KR Hills which was an hour away from Rajgiri estate and by 10pm we had tucked into our beds. The rooms were so pathetic that I am going to overlook that!

Without snoozing the 5am alarm, my boys and me quickly got ready and ran to the main gate to cheer the 80k and 110k runners, they were flagged off at 6am. We runners are a bunch of crazy people, you need to be one to enjoy the high! By 8:30am we reached the start point and sipped our freshly brewed coffee amidst the coffee estate. Everything seemed perfect expect ‘me’. It was my day-two of the monthly cycles and I was in pain, my lower back hurt and calves were not its usual. My pockets had SP and not gels! I had popped in a painkiller and Vitamin E the previous day. I had told myself, this is not going to stop me from having a good time. What more, it was the first time my boys had come to the start line of a running event. The plan was that, Gauri, her beautiful daughters and my handsome boys would stick together and enjoy the trail. 3..2..1.. off we were into the dwindling trails of the most enchanting Katle Khan (Kannada: Dark forests). Tall trees, rugged course, lush green surrounding... 12k was the rest point and I was surprisingly greeted by my sons. Darsh gave me hug and whispered, “You are fast, third lady.” 18k was the summit, a steep 700mts ascend and as Anand had rightly put across, you wont run but walk up to enjoy the spectacular view of the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. A few hi fives with Monica and Aakriti en-route and I was on my way back. Perks of having teenagers at home, your iPod is always updated with the best tracks and peppy beats. Dhruv had given me the best ones this time and I got into my rhythm around the 22k, that kept me going until the 35k or so.

Majority of the trail were 'Jeep' roads with plenty of pebbles and stones. The roads to the estate had fallen branches, twigs and totally rustic. Truly took me back to my audio book “Born to Run”. Only missing was Pinole (secret magical corn meal mixed with natural sugar)! I was looking forward to spotting any possible wildlife. Anand had mentioned that during recce the team had spotted plenty of small animals – Squirrels, Frogs, Porcupines, Chitals, Barking Deer, Gaur, Frogs and a variety of snakes. I stopped for a bit to take off the gravel in my shoes around the lake. This place was nothing like I had ever seen, so tranquil, wish I could stop for longer... Post the 38k the real challenge started, the elevation and the shooting lower back pain, the constant battle of mind over body. I was in a bad shape and needed a quick visit to the rest room. Back on the trail, I decided to walk for 2k and start running from the 40k mark. At this point I met a lad and got into a conversation. He was all of 20, wearing shoes for the first time. Buddied up for the next five kilometres. He was struggling and slowed down and I continued.

At the 44k I met another Tri athlete. Must say, he had so much energy, that he spoke non-stop and that's exactly what I needed, distract me from my lower back pain. We now decided to finish the race together and look at a sub 7! It was only after the run that got to know his name:) Some where at the 48K a tempo traveller with guests zoom passed us with my sons cheering for me. I was now determined to see the finish line... 10 minutes later I heard a familiar voice, “Amma, come soon, just 400mts.” Darsh had walked back for me, this was my moment, asked the pain to wait, sprinted to the finish line in style... Impossible is nothing.. I dare..I win!

A big shout out to the organisers for a flawless first edition. Anand, repeating my self “Start a course – How to be a fine Race Director”. The run managers did a brilliant job, the route was so well-marked with signs, there was no way one could get lost, unless one really wants to ;) The aid station were always well stocked, volunteers handing over the Unived During RRun. Gulped the green tea, where ever I was offered. Cut fruits, oranges. Papaya, bananas, boiled eggs and my favourite being the steaming hot sweet potato at the finish line:) Kudos to the photographers, your pictures have etched a memory in my heart, not mind!


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