High altitude and a hilly terrain makes running in the mountains appear intimidating but the recent Go Heritage Run in Lovedale, Nilgiris, was truly picturesque. Every step was worth the effort.
The run in Ooty was part of a series conceived and executed by the Go Heritage team. The primary aim is to draw attention to under-appreciated and lesser-known cultural and natural heritage sites thereby packaging heritage in a fun and engaging manner.
The fourth edition of the run included three categories — 5k, 10k and a 15k — and around 1000 runners. The 5k trail inside the campus of Lawrence School was common to all three categories. In the 10k and 15k routes, the runners ran along the Nilgiri Mountain Railway line taking in some spectacular views of the Ketti Valley below.
The route inside the school snaked through wooded areas with towering Eucalyptus trees while one portion traversed a meadow. Owing to heavy rains on Friday night, parts of the trail were wet and slushy adding a bit of fun to an otherwise demanding run. It was definitely not the day to be wearing one’s best pair of sneakers.
The run was not timed as the organisers wanted to encourage participation from all age groups and lifestyles. The youngest runner was six years old and the oldest 77. The event was even labelled a ‘run vacation’ in an attempt to encourage the tourists who were visiting Ooty to join.
Although it is not timed, serious runners participate as the route is special and the support is flawless. This year two ultra-marathon runners were among the participants.
Some families seem to be making a habit out of signing up for Heritage runs. Many runners had participated in more than five heritage runs including Hampi, Khajuraho and Badami. For Sandeep Chatterjee from Hyderabad, this was his ninth heritage run.
While it is common to see lead cars, motorbikes or bicycles at the start of a run, this one had the distinction of riders on horses adding a touch of elegance and intrigue. The medals given out at the end also highlighted the cultural heritage of the Nilgiris. The striking colours of Toda embroidery made this medal extra special.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is one of the 35 World Heritage sites in India recognised by the UNESCO
The Western Ghats, which are among the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in the world, are also on the list of World Heritage sites
An oak tree planted by John Sullivan, the founder of the British settlement in Ooty, in 1823 stills stands tall in the Government Arts College campus
The YWCA-Anandagiri was originally a brewery
Teak wood for the doors of the St Stephen’s Church was brought from Tipu Sultan’s palace in Srirangapatna after the British victory
The Government Botanical Garden began as a vegetable patch for local European residents with a subscription fee of ₹3 a month
The Savoy Hotel was originally built as a school for European children