Ooty – the scenic, but commercial hotspot in Tamil Nadu. This was not my first trip. I had been here before, twice over the last decade. Running across the hills of this Nilgirisque beauty hadn’t ever crossed my mind, not in my wildest imagination – such scenes were the stuff we saw in the 1980s artsy Tamizh movies – hero, heroine running, to songs in the background et al, but for slightly overweight mortals here, well…. But, last year, in 2015, after many missed attempts to be a part of the Go Heritage Runs, the dream run finally happened.
Good things should always come in small packages. I tread cautiously on my maiden run—deciding to pick on the 5KM. What if I dropped off exhausted midway, if I attempted anything more, said my analytical mind and I opted for the entry level. No laughing matter, this. I had taken up the process with utmost zeal.
One Saturday morning we show up there. It was happening now and for real.
Drinking in the beauty of the hill station, we walked by various sites till we reached a point and then were taken to and were lodged in the girls’ wing dorms of the St Lawrence residential School. Ah… I saw my childhood fantasy of going to boarding school complete as I drank in the dorms, the washrooms, the passages – this was a dream fuelled by Enid Blyton – blame it on her St Clairs and Malory Towers series that ate up most of my primary school years’ imagination. A dream that was fulfilled vicariously only through the books – I was always a home raised kid who compensated for her mundane urban family existence through the sheer thrill of Blyton’s girlie series.
With the excitement still young, my friend at whose behest and due to whose inspiration I shed some of my inhibitions to be a part of this, I got ready for the heritage trail. Part of the program, the old guard of Ooty – a clique of well-heeled local residents took a bunch of us through lovely sites across the hills – interesting insights of history – the English and the Parsi influx in Ooty since the late 18th century, the grave of Sam Manekshaw, the old post office, among others, capped off by tea at the State library.
The “Run Kit” was impressive –A logo T Shirt, a souvenir customized for the runners made by the local Nilgiri Toda community. Most importantly, the passport – a track record of all your Go Heritage runs – remarkable attention to detailing, I felt.
At the crack of dawn, the next day, early bath and the adrenaline rush… warm up to lively emcee’s jhatkas and matkas wala music, then the groups geared — on your mark, get set, GO!
I started running – my god, I was running, slow jogging, after years. In school, I was a runner, but that has been ages ago. Age hadn’t really caught up, as I discovered to my relief and joy; the trail was hilly, so we were briefed that even walking was okay, running was not mandatory. Drinking in the beauty of the 5 Km trail, passing by the famous Lovedale station (Tamizh cinema has benefited immensely from this picturesque locale) and then making it to the finishing line in a relaxed manner has been that experience that makes me want to take more time out and make more such trips.
Aspiring runners, seasoned ones and others, don’t think too much. Just run – for fun, for fitness, for the adventure, for heritage, for whatever, but yes, run. Will I do this again? That is a rhetorical question.
So, have you gotten your passport stamped as yet?
Shantheri Mallaya is a senior tech writer with a publishing house in Bangalore. In her free time, she reads and sings classics. If you have run at a Go Heritage Run and want to share your run experience, please email editor at goheritagerun dot com.