Visakhapatnam gears up to host Andhra Pradesh’s first-ever ultra trail running event

Runners from Visakhapatnam have been busy concocting the perfect challenge. This December they will host the Ultribe-Paderu — the first ever ultra trail running event of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, set to be held in the Eastern Ghats.

An ultra marathon is all about ultimate endurance and regular training; running more than 42.2 kilometres is no mean task. The run also takes participants to some of the world’s most idyllic locations, where terrain and environment together pose a bracing challenge. Ultribe-Paderu, organised by the Visakha Trail Running Association (VTRA), promises to have a trail for everyone, from beginners to endurance runners, in a unique geographical terrain.

The event will be held on December 12 at Paderu, a sleepy town located at a height of about 900 metres above sea level in Visakhapatnam district. Nestled amidst valleys, picturesque hills and gushing waterfalls, Paderu is situated at a distance of 100 kilometres from Visakhapatnam in the serene Eastern Ghats, dotted with moist deciduous forests as well as dry evergreen vegetation.

Trail running combines running with hiking, where there are steep gradients. Unlike road running and track running, it is generally organised on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be larger ascents and descents.

About the run

  • Two doses of COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for participation. A soft copy of the vaccination certificate needs to be submitted.
  • The event is held in three categories: 50 km (flagship event), 25 km (hill challenge) and 10 km (trail debut).
  • Runners will be supported by an aid station (or a hydration point) at earmarked points, all along the route. These aid stations will be manned by volunteers who would also be runners.
  • Each aid station will have basic hydration like water, electrolytes, fruits and other eatables like peanut bars and chocolates. This is primarily to keep the runner hydrated and provide strength for the run.
  • The event will be kicked off at a start point which will also double up as the finish point. Once the run is completed within the cut-off time, the runner will be provided with a medal and a certificate (or an e-certificate) accordingly. Any participant not completing the run within the cut-off time, will be categorized under Did Not Finish (DNF).

The Paderu run will be held in three categories:10 kilometres, 25 kilometres and 50 kilometres. “The route has been marked in such a way that it gives the runner an experience of a lifetime, covering trails, mountain peaks, coffee estates and streams. The idea is to provide a sense of both challenge and satisfaction to the runner,” says V Yogesh, a core member of VTRA.

“Contrary to popular belief and widespread notions, we don’t require mountains for trail running. Trail running can in fact be done everywhere. It is considered a ‘trail run’ when you are not on surfaced, paved, sealed or asphalt roads. For trail running, it’s all about movement outdoors in Nature. The mixed geographical terrain of Paderu makes it an ideal location for trail running,” says Yogesh, who is currently based in Visakhapatnam.

Yogesh started with his marathon experience way back in 2010, but “sports and fitness was a way of life” for him even during his school years. “While I was mostly into cricket during my formative years, after entering the corporate sector the hectic timelines took a toll on me and I ended up becoming a chain smoker. To escape this, I discovered running when I was working in Mumbai,” he says.

The trail reaches Vizag

When Yogesh relocated to Chennai, the Chennai Trekking Club introduced him to barefoot running and trail running. He completed his first sub-two hour half marathon running barefoot in the Chennai Trail Marathon in 2015 . Subsequently, he went on to complete 50 kilometres in the Malnad Ultra in 2018 and 60 kilometres in the Vagamon Ultra in 2019 . “Running is now a way of life for me and this is what I am aspiring to bring by getting the trail running culture to Visakhapatnam,” he adds.

The VTRA is a not-for-profit group, wherein each member is a working professional with a varied experience in trail running. “We are dedicated to bringing trail running closer to people and foster the spirit of trail running in both the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Our aim is to come together to give a similar kind of experience like other popular trail running regions to passionate runners across India and promote Visakhapatnam as the running hub of India,” says Bilal Mohammed, part of the core team of VTRA.

The group, that currently has about 10 runners, hopes to make the Ultribe-Paderu an annual feature in the city’s events calendar.

While many a seasoned runner, after adequate practice, can complete a half marathon or a full marathon, it takes a different level of training to complete an Ultra run. “Not just physically, the runner must be mentally strong and should show enough perseverance and guts to even decide to run an ultra. And this cannot be an overnight transformation. The way a child moves from lower classes to upper classes, a runner must gradually run ultras only after being comfortable with half and full marathons,” says 36-year-old Yogesh.

A tough task

Training for such an event needs to cover aspects of both fitness and nutrition, with a specific focus on trail and long runs. Kirti Kumar, who will be participating in her first ultra trail run at Paderu, has been into endurance sports for many years now. “But availability of a trail run close to Visakhapatnam has motivated me to give it a shot,” says 40-year-old Kirti, a mother of two. After going through gestational diabetes during the birth of her second child and considering her family history of diabetes, Kirti made some conscious lifestyle changes and took to enduring running. She participated in the Olympic distance triathlon in Hyderabad in 2018, and ended up in the third position in the sprint category.

“Though I could not participate in any marathon events in the past one and a half years due to the pandemic-induced halt, I never missed my daily run. I am on the road, cycling or running, for two hours, six days a week,” she says.

According to Kirti, preparing oneself mentally is as important as physically gearing up for any endurance sport. “Even if you give a week’s gap to your regular run routine, it takes a great effort to get back to track. My daily runs have become an integral part of my life,” says Kirti, who believes that there is no substitute for years of running. She adds, “Ultra running takes time; there are no shortcuts. If you have been a regular runner, just get out there and go for it.”

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