Race Director V P Senthil speaks to Radhika Meganathan about the origin, progress and of the pioneering running club of its kind, Chennai Runners
The Chennai Runners, or “CR” as they call themselves, can be called as pioneers in starting and maintaining the only volunteer-led running organisation in the country, along with an annual marathon that raises money for charities and sees thousands of runners participating. Some of the chapters even go beyond running, by incorporate varied disciplines such as strength training, cycling, swimming and even yoga in their schedules. Over to VP Senthil as he gives us the inside scoop on what makes Chennai Runners a great club to be a part of:
The genesis… Chennai Runners started when Harishankar, Ram Vishwanathan and Vidyut, three friends passionate about running, decided to wake up early and run together! This was during the time when there was no social media or fancy apps, so they literally called each other, met up at a place and just ran together. From that beginning, now Chennai Runners has thousands of members and is the only club of its kind, run entirely by volunteers, for runners and by runners.
Where do you run?…. We first started running in the roads of Alwarpet and then Besant Nagar, a small group of people making use of early mornings to run. On Sundays, we ran in Anna university campus and pretty soon we branched out to all other parts of the city. Right now we are 18 national chapters, with 9 more in waiting list, and we are expanding so quickly that we have to put a cap on people taking part in our annual marathon! I think it is due to our core values and personal commitment that Chennai Runners has so far achieved all its goals without compromising anything.
How does Chennai Runners function?…. If you want to join us, you can just go to the nearest chapter of CRA, give their contact details and join the next scheduled run. Each chapter has its own calendar. Each chapter also has its own moderators and Whatsapp groups, through which members can keep in touch. Local heads and moderators are nominated and organically selected based on their dependability and participation level in running events. They make sure that newbies get oriented properly, and all safety precautions are being communicated and followed thoroughly.
Is it all free?… Yes! Chennai Runners is completely free to join and participate. Browse our website and select your neighbourhood, and it’s as easy as showing up at the venue. Of course you are welcome to contribute during fund raising sprints and marathons, but by and large, CRA exists because of its members – who range from all walks of life – selflessly donate and volunteer their time. My role as Race Director, which to plan, check and arrange for routes for all runs, is also voluntary. My IT business may be my bread and butter, but my passion is Chennai Runners.
Wipro Chennai Marathon… We have successfully organised the mammoth Chennai Marathon every year since 2012. Wipro has been our title sponsor from the first year of establishing (2012), with Kotak lending strong support. Last year MRF joined our family. In general our sponsors have all been value-based rather than commercial based. Every year we raise funds for various charities, and this year we are targeting 2 crores. Though everyone volunteers their time, Chennai Runners is a registered organisation with many national chapters. We fraternise with the other chapters, such as Mumbai runners and Bangalore runners, and meet up annually to discuss scope of improvement.
Roadblocks/challenges… Of course we face many, in fact we have come to be prepared to anticipate them in any given year. Just on the day of a run, some unfortunate incident may happen, in which case it is my responsibility to make sure the right decision is taken.
One time, we came to know that public service exam centers for that year were all located in our designated route! Yet another year we had to postpone our runs due to our former CM’s death and the floods. Apart from these unexpected incidents, a general concern is that every year runners are increasing but the roads remain the same! Legal permissions need to be sorted out during every run, giving top priority not to disrupt public life and sentiment. But to be fair, these kinds of logistical issues will happen in a huge scale event like ours so we make allowances for them. Our motto is there are no problems, only solutions.
Most interesting incident… I have to say it happened a couple of years back, at TVK Bridge near Malar hospital. The run is scheduled at 5am, and I am doing a check at 3am when we find that the bridge route is barricaded with buffaloes! They were huge and menacing, and there was no way we could shoo them with a stick. There was an old man lying in a cot nearby and we sought his advice, and he replied weakly: “I am lying here because I am unable to move after being attacked by the buffaloes. My family went to get help and are not back yet!”
Amazed, we arranged for medical help for him and then somehow we found a box of crackers, and scared away the buffaloes. That was one weird night!”
- The Annual running festival is happening in Nehru stadium in Chennai, with sprints, 12 hour runs, live bands and many other features. It’s usually held during the first week of July every year, but this year, it’s happening in June.
- MMM or May Midday Madness is a run that’s schedule during noon on the last Sunday of May. Since it happens in midday heat, it is only open to experienced runners by invite.
- There is also a plan of having a midnight run this September in Chennai. For more details, please visit http://www.chennairunners.com/calender
To become a member of Chennai Runners, register at http://www.chennairunners.com/membership/registration.php