Like every runner, every race is different. Every race has its own personality. Some races are prestigious because of their history and heritage. Some races attract those who wish to push their bodies beyond the limit. Some races are run to achieve personal bests. And then, there are the races where you run for yourself, for connecting with the earth, and for liberating your soul.
Since its inception in 2008, runners have been coming back to Auroville, Pondicherry for a marathon like no other. The running tribe at Auroville has grown be sheer word of mouth, from a few hundered in the first year to about 3500 this year. In the time of frenzied competition at events, the dazzle of goodie bags and the peer pressure of setting PBs, Auroville is a breath of fresh air with its ‘back to the roots’ approach towards running. Auroville is not a competitive event. The only reward on offer is the unbeatable experience of running in one of the most serene trails in India, driven by nothing but the joy and romance of running. This year, the Unived Sports team had the chance to experience the magic of Auroville first hand – with two of our team members running their first half marathon at the event.
It is often said that every marathon imbibes the unique character of its venue, and this surely holds true in this instance. Auroville is renowned for its international commune and the values of harmony, togetherness, and community living. The radiant Matrimandir at the heart of the Aurobindo Ashram is a beaming emblem of these values. Once a year, the Auroville Marathon becomes a way for the local community to share these values with runners from India and abroad.
At Auroville, the race is between the runner and famed trail trickling its way through the forest – a trail so narrow in places, that only one person can run at a time. This is a unique experience for runners who are used to the jostle and impatience of getting ahead of each other during competitive races in cities. The dirt trail is uneven and challenging, but also unparalleled in the communion that it offers with nature. Running at Auroville is truly primal running.
A day prior to the race, the bib collection was held about 500 meters from the start at Bharat Nivas from 9.30am until 8pm. Roughly 3500 runners came by during that time, and the Unived team got to catch up with some familiar faces and some new ones. Some were Auroville marathon veterans who come back every year, drawn to it by the unfettered nature of the run, while others had travelled all the way to Pondicherry to experience the trail firsthand. Later in the evening, the pasta party served a sumptions spread – vegan pasta & salad, and Thayir Sadam (curd rice) and spinach lasagna – carb loading at its best!
Unlike the hustle-bustle and nervous energy at the starting lines of other races, Auroville kicked off with the lighting of a traditional lamp, the cheering of the friendly local community, and drums to match the heartbeats and the strides of the runners. As the drums faded away and the trail narrowed, the run came down to the essentials – the body, the mind, and the soul of every runner. A member of the team who ran the 21K says, “You simply feel free and at ease. It is so much better than running in a city – quiet and undisturbed. Once you find your rhythm you are able to take it all in and enjoy the trail.”
It might be a no-frills event but it did not compromise on the quality or the safety of the participants. The team gushes about the friendliness and dedication of the volunteers, hydration and nutrition support which was readily available, and the overall effort to ensure that the runners were comfortable. The trail had aid-stations at every 3 kilometers which were equipped with water, electrolytes, peeled oranges, and a nurse with a full first-aid kit.
The Auroville trail is an equalizer – from the beginner to the experienced runner – everyone is running at the rhythm of the trail, and running towards tranquility. After the event, participants re-hydrated with RRUNN which was served at the hydration station post the finish line – a good sight for sore eyes, given the humidity and challenging nature of the trail. As runners enjoyed the refreshments, the team took the opportunity to have a chat with them about the physiological needs of the body during running, and to impart the awareness of incorporating proper pre, during, post nutrition into training and races.
It has been a hectic few months for the Unived Sports team – as we have had the privilege of hydrating several prestigious events and thousands of enthusiastic runners across the country. Auroville was a chance for the team to take a minute to stop and stare, to feel refreshed, and to look back at our amazing journey so far with RRUNN.
The Auroville Marathon proved to us that we are not just connected to the community through events and nutrition – it is also the love of running that binds us all.