A Different Way to Enjoy Ooty: Run There!

Being a person who is at extreme ends of the spectrum, I can be super active or lazy AF. This personality quirk also kicks in when I travel. To accommodate this, I usually compartmentalise in my head my purpose for travelling – for relaxation, adventure, for history, culture etc. Or if it is a permutation and combination of this, and how. That’s just how my brain works and it’s a primary driving factor for the things I do (or don’t do).

I’ve seen (more like read about) people who go about their daily routine even when they travel. They’ll wake up and do their morning workout or find time somewhere in between to work on a project. That’s always puzzled me. I’m seldom able to do that. I’m a maverick and it’s hard to stick to a routine as it is, and even more difficult when I travel. So while I have fantasised about combining a daily routine like going for a run with travel, I rarely achieved it. Till I signed up with Go Heritage Runs for their Ooty run.

Ooty Valley. Photo courtesy: Go Heritage Runs team
What’s Go Heritage Runs?

It’s a group founded and based in India and their concept is simple – fun runs at heritage sites. What’s not to love about that? You can combine fitness with sightseeing and get to learn more about the heritage sites in India. You do it with a group of like-minded strangers and get cool t-shirts and medals in return. The added advantage – you don’t have to worry about keeping time and simply enjoy the run.

Starting line at Ooty. Photo courtesy: Go Heritage Runs team
Why Ooty and why go running there of all things?

The Ooty run was my first experience with Go Heritage Runs (I’ve participated in three of their runs so far). For those unfamiliar with the place, it is a small, divine hill station in Tamil Nadu, nestled amidst the Nilgiri Mountains. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a small network with the cutest train, was granted World Heritage Site status by UNESCO about 12 years ago, in July 2005. The railway runs between Ooty and Mettupalayam. Since Go Heritage Runs’ USP is to merge running with heritage sites, Ooty was one of the first places they started with.

Ooty is challenging for a runner as it has undulating hills and hillocks. The trails are varied, winding up hills, curving through mini forests, and changing from mud paths occasionally covered with fallen leaves to tarred roads. The views are breathtaking with different shades of green and brown, a light mist enveloping distant hilltops.

In the relative quietness of this small town, especially in the early hours of the morning, you can also hear various chirps of birds, sounds of insects and domesticated animals. The run starts early so it even forces non-morning people (like me) to experience a part of the day we seldom see. This helps you see the landscapes change from dewy, misty and sleepy to bright, active and sunny. Running there brings it alive and makes you feel alive as well.

Volunteers patrol the trails in case aid is required. Photo courtesy: Go Heritage Runs team
From residential school grounds to up a hill, the trail for the run is quite something

The run begins at Lawrence Residential School in Lovedale. This beautiful property with its carefully tended gardens, massive courtyards and lovely exposed brick structure makes you think about Enid Blyton novels. I used to fantasise about staying in a residential school and having midnight feasts (that does not happen here though – inside information from a friend who studied there).

Lawrence School and grounds. Photo courtesy: Go Heritage Runs team
Photo courtesy: Go Heritage Runs team

Starting from the playground of the school, the trail takes you behind the school buildings, past open fields, into the woods and all the way up the hill. Pause here for a bit and take a breather while you gaze down at the valley below and take in the spectacular views. You then take a U-turn and make your way back down the hill. If you sign up for the 5-10km you can head back to the school grounds from the base of the hill. I was overenthusiastic and had signed up for 15km (my longest distance run till date) so my route led me away from the school, down another scenic bend in the valley before turning back and retracing my steps to the starting point.

The trail runs through the woods. Photo courtesy: Go Heritage Runs team
Why should you run with Go Heritage Runs?

It motivates you to explore your endurance and stamina. For those who are not routine runners, Go Heritage Runs is the perfect place to start or warm up with because there is no pressure to finish at a particular time (but do try to make it back before midnight :P). The route is so scenic and amazing that you will enjoy your run whether you are a professional or a novice. You also get really cool t-shirts and medals as souvenirs that you can keep for life. The run is organised professionally by a group of enthusiastic individuals and you’ll feel well taken care of. The trails are well equipped with refreshments and signs to guide you along. You get to meet people and also get to experience a unique take on a heritage site.

Snacks and aid stations are all around the perimeter. Photo courtesy: Go Heritage Runs team
Since you’ve come all the way there, why not check out some other things to do in Ooty?

Since you’ve come all the way to Ooty for a run you might as well stick around for a day or two and indulge in some of the following:

  • Visit the Botanical gardens
  • Visit the rose garden – if the run coincides with the blooming season you’ve got yourself a great deal!
  • Go to nearby Coonoor – you can go there on the famed heritage train! Check out these top 6 things to do there.
  • Go trekking in the Nilgiri hills and other small hillocks nearby
  • Visit Pykara lake and Pykara falls
  • Go boating in Ooty lake
  • View amazing lakes like Upper Bhavani, Avalanche, and Emerald
  • Go to Madhumalai National Park
  • Visit tea and coffee estates
  • I’ve even heard there’s a cheesemaking course in Ooty!

So put your running shoes on and get going.

The Ooty run is held every year. The next run is on May 31, 2020. If you are interested, you can sign up here.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Anuja, it was quite a stimulating read. Keep writing and sharing your experiences, would love to read more from you. I am signing up for the June one 🙂

    Thanks, Travel Earth. Happy to find you.

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