Avid marathoner and coach, Ajay Sethi talks about his journey through the Chambal valley and the challenge it presents to an endurance athlete.
Humans ran even before the original epic run of Pheidippides (from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens) and that became the foundation for the modern-day marathon. Then, there are Raramuri’s who can still run 400+ km in a single session!
The “Chambal Challenge” gives each of us a chance to explore and get in touch with the Raramuri that exists within each one of us.
The Challenge uses the vast expanse of nature – the rugged yet scenic beauty of the Chambal valley and the wilderness of the Mukundra Forest sanctuary to provide a soulful, sensory experience to the runner.
Every Ultra Marathon claim to be the toughest and it is, in its own way different but the Chambal Challenge is probably the only Ultra Marathon in the country that combines a road run, uphill, downhill and trail running all into one long run that demands the best of strategy as well as skill from a runner.
If a regular half marathon or a full marathon is about going the distance, then the Chambal Challenge is about Going Beyond. There is something transcendental, something spiritual about going beyond. Chambal Challenge appeals to this going beyond and exploring what’s hidden within you.
Chambal Challenge Philosophy: Chambal Challenge is an ultra marathon that has a soul. The event attempts to bring us closer to the ‘raramuri’ way of life (i.e. working together in teams, celebrating like a community and honoring one another) and engages a runner in pursuit of exploration with course variation and distance. This event philosophy and the soul is palpable in every aspect of the event.
A run for everyone: From a seasoned ultra-runner to an accomplished marathoner trying to improve his craft or a weekend running enthusiast looking for a life-altering experience, there is something for everybody. The challenge format dares you to choose a distance that you have not attempted before. The unexplored terrain and the distance create uncertainty which brings people with a common purpose together.
You can choose to run a half, full or the ultra-marathon depending on the distance you want to run such as the 33K, 50K and 63K challenge. These distances are more than they appear because of the course variation and natural ruggedness. The challenge is being upgraded to 84K this year to get elite Indian runners ready for International ultra distances.
Another unique feature is the 50K Corporate Relay. The purpose is to raise Corporate fitness quotient, to enhance Corporate-Community engagement and to provide big exposure, a healthy mindset and the ability to work together in teams. This is the only event where an employee can represent their company and is also a way for an organisation to show that it really cares for its employees.
Celebrating Like a Community: The Chambal Challenge race expo is designed as Fit Family’s Fest with activities intended to give early exposure to fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle to kids and family. It celebrates the success of accomplished athletes in a way that inspires others. We believe everyone will choose to live a healthy active life if they are given the right exposure at the right time.
Honouring One Another: A runner goes through a thousand emotions from anxiety, self-doubt, panic attacks to an overwhelming sense of joy, gratitude, and invincibility. Only a runner knows the sweat, the effort and the pain that goes into completing an Ultra Distance and only a runner can recognize and celebrate others success as their own. The gala awards night is the culmination of an ultra-runner’s journey, though it may not matter to some runners who are highly self-actualized it matters a lot if you want to inspire a generation to follow in their footsteps.
The multiple meeting opportunities built right into the event provides runners with an unparalleled opportunity to meet, interact and build a network across the country before the event is over. The event finishes on a high note leaving behind many experiences that shall remain with you long after the event is over.
The seemingly insurmountable challenge of running an ultra distance connects people across barriers of religion, culture, and hierarchy. It enhances self-awareness while building a deep sense of respect and camaraderie with fellow runners.