Murali Ramanath talks about how he moved from his passion for cycling to establishing the Yogi Run.
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”-Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle, Scientific American, 1896
This is true of Murali Ramanath who found a passion for cycling during a working visit to Paris. He rode 100kms in just 5 hours and to put it in his own words, “I felt a sense of liberation”.
He continued cycling when he got back to India at a time when cycling was still quite unpopular. Hoping to stay fit and reduce his commute time, Murali started biking to work. Around this time, a close friend Pradeep Banavara starting a cycling tour – Tour of Nilgiris (TFN) for which Murali was invited to volunteer. In 2009, after riding the TFN, Murali was fascinated and hooked. Since then, he has cycled across many countries and across rivers too.
But Murali wanted to contribute even more and he recognized that a lot more needed to be done to bring cycling into prominence in India and for people to understand its benefits. To this, he says, “We realized that cycling needs a greater push in terms of policy and infrastructure. We started working with the state govt and have been part of many cycling initiatives like Dasara cycling, Cycle Day, etc.”.
Murali went on to start a company called “Namma Nimma Cycle Foundation (NNCF)” in 2016, a start-up that enables bicycle tourism on a large scale in India. They are also building a platform co-operative for bicycle sharing to create more awareness among people. He has come a long way since then and has been working with various local authorities to build the basic infrastructure enabling the sport to grow organically across India and actively campaigning for clean and sustainable living. They have also organized heritage rides in Srirangapatna and Cauvery River in the hope to revive history and significance of these heritage sites.
Venkatesh from Wheelsports (a close friend!) challenged Murali to a 10K since he was participating in the Bengaluru Adventure Festival event at Nandi hills. Murali says, “He challenged me saying, if he completes the run, I should do a run the following year – so I took up the challenge and finished the 21K at the Bengaluru marathon. And thus, started my running journey in 2018”.
Running has changed Murali’s life and he says “Running as an activity requires more stamina than cycling and it has also made me younger and more energetic than I was 20 years back. Secondly, I made a lot of friends from the various running groups who can run 100Km + in a day. The company of runners is in itself rewarding and energizing”. Among the various events, Murali has been a part of, the one that he holds close to his heart is the Bengaluru Mountain Festival as he loves running in the mountains and through nature trails.
Running has also opened up new avenues for him and through this, he wants to explore and run across all the various heritage sites and rejuvenate those spaces. Last year in Oct 2018, his company along with other like-minded organizations had organized the largest Plog run (http://plog.run) to create awareness among people to responsibly dispose of plastic waste and this saw them enter into the Guinness Book Of World Records for collecting the highest amount of plastic waste.
Launching the Yogi Run -A first of its kind
Another run that brought people together was the Yogi run that saw its first edition on June 9th, 2019. When asked about the run, Murali has this to say “This run is to mainly purify your body and mind, find inspiration at the sacred location, tune your body movement to the music we have created and serving the best energizing food for runners with focus on fruits. Lastly, the run is set in heritage locations with history and nature all around so that runners appreciate the location as well as the glory of our heritage”.
With the Bhoga Nandeswara temple forming the backdrop and the beautiful run through heritage sites, this is truly a unique run. Speaking of the goal of the run and the response, he says “We received an amazing response to this event. Through this run we enabled runners to learn about the Nandi hills and the surrounding ecology, connected them with the local community like the potters, artisans, gave out unique medals that came from Channapatna and most importantly runners need a space to get together and find peace and this Yogi run is all about finding that space for yourself while running”.
Financial aid and Safety measures
No run is a success without the support of the local people and financial aid. This run was no different. According to Murali “We try to get as much support from the local neighbourhood where the run is organized. We are also looking to find private donors who would be interested in conserving the heritage of our temples and the ecology around them. Discovery Village extended their support for the first edition of the Yogi run. Our next edition will be in Deverayanadurga and we plan to approach companies in Peenya and hope to have 4 editions in a year in 4 different locations”.
Regarding promotional activities, Murali says “We did a promo run at Cubbon park as we wanted to introduce people to the idea of yoga and running, serving natural food to the runners and the need for thinking about the body and the essence of life as a whole. We also want to do yogi run workshops with our partners like lyrical yoga and enable runners to connect with themselves. Going forward, we want to organize small group retreats and workshops for people interested in yoga and running at Nandi hills.
Organizing an event is not easy and involves a lot of people coming together and working for months on end to ensure the event goes smoothly. “We had sought the assistance from the district police and had a couple of volunteers along the trails. We realized the need for more volunteers in cases of an emergency where the victim should be brought back to the base to rush him to a hospital”, he says.
At the end of the first edition, Murali and team were ecstatic but have a lot to reflect and learn for their next editions. Talking about this, Murali says “It was an adventure for us as well as the runners. But some of the takeaways from the event were:
- People are looking for running and cycling trails beyond the city.
- Additional volunteer support much ahead of time
- Ensuring timely transportation for runners to get to the venue on time
- Add more support stations with more volunteers to support the runners.
- Addition of the yogi run – Grameena by involving the local community in the next edition.
- Get more brand ambassadors to talk about the yogi run.
- Involving the local population by ensuring the Yogi run becomes the run for man to find the sacred.