On the Feb 16/17 weekend along with a gang of friends travelled to Pondicherry for the Auroville marathon. Auroville turned 40 on Feb 28 and this was one of the events to commemorate the occasion. Though I must admit that I shuffled and walked through most of this one since I had fallen and knocked my knee a few days earlier while running in Cubbon Park. But I did manage to complete the half marathon of around 22 kms.
The trail was lovely : I did more of sightseeing and admiring while going through some of these kaccha roads that I would never have found on my own! Auroville was a pretty sight with the yellow, orange, red, pink bougainvillea in full bloom adding so much colour to the atmosphere!
We arrived in Chennai at 4 am in the morning and then had a yummy steaming breakfast at the station before catching a local bus to Pondi that was ready to depart. The Pondi bus deposited us at the junction of ECR Road where the turn forks off to Auroville. We started on a good note : a big breakfast right on ECR road called Beach CafÃ©.
We found our way to the Centre Guest House in Auroville, a place we fell in love with immediately. Just as you walk in is this huge and lovely tree in the courtyard that forms an umbrella, towering over everything around. It must be a really old tree and had so much character. The guest house was serene and peaceful and had a lovely room with a portico looking out into the forest. Sadly, we couldn’t spend too much time in it.
We hired a few cycles (most of them were really tall for me, but I managed to get onto one finally). We cycled around the area and I was finally getting a little confidence maneuvering except for the part when a vehicle would come from the other side and I’d ride straight into the bushes. Ermm… It was fun.
In the evening we got ourselves a few noisy TVS champs, and went to do some Pondi sightseeing – walked along Goubert Avenue, stepped into the Alliance Francaise, had coffee at the La Terrasse and then a drink at Le Club. Got back to Auroville and went straight to the Visitor’s Centre to get our registration packs. Dinner was pasta and lasagna and we wrapped by around 930 pm and headed back.
The next morning, woke up around 6 am and then started off for the Matrimandir gates : the half marathon started at exactly 7 am. I started off very slowly, quite scared of my knee. There was one cyclist leading the front and one at the back : Venkatesh. I soon got talking to him and he asked me if I planned to actually finish the run. He was obviously skeptical looking at my painful and slow progress.
As the miles went by, he got a bit more confident. After the 18 km mark he confessed that he thought I was going to give up very early on in the race (like the 1st km) and was impressed that I had come so far. â€œNow you can do it,â€ he said confidently. Venkatesh proved to be a big help for me : if I was alone I would’ve possibly just quit at around 10kms.
The trail was awesome : it was a spiral inside Auroville – greenery all around, a few cosy houses and buildings on the way and most of the race was inside forest area and thankfully quite shady. The only downside was the heat in the parts that were in the open, but thankfully they were few and far in between.
There were quite a few volunteers along the way at the aid stations and in between making sure we didn’t get lost. The only thing I missed was some Relispray or Moov, which would have numbed my pain : but apart from that it was quite well organized.
At the finish line, breakfast awaited us : lovely big idlis and sambar and we also got our certificates and a packet of Himalaya salt to soothe our feet. There were ice buckets but most of them were taken. Around noon, we were back at our guest house, tired and achy and thankfully they had lunch for us. After lunch, we packed up and headed back to Pondi town from where we took another local bus back to Chennai. This one took another route (not the ECR) and covered the distance in 4 hours, just in time to deposit us for our Airavath back to Bangalore.