The first Ultribe-Paderu, an ultra marathon – trail running activity, in the Telugu speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana was successfully held in Vizag. Witnessing over 150 participants from across the country, the race was conducted at Paderu, a sleepy town located at a height of approximately 900 metres in the district of Visakhapatnam. In a chat with Yo! Vizag, the members of Ultribe-Paderu – the team that organised the first-ever trail running event in Vizag, and the runners share their experiences on this journey.
Like any memorable and historical event, even Ultribe-Paderu has a genesis that makes it even more interesting. The Founder and President of Ultribe-Paderu, Yogesh, came up with this concept in 2018. And as luck would have it, the idea was further reinforced when Yogesh met Amit on the trail of a renowned Ultra. That was how Ultribe- Paderu was born. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Elucidating on how he materialised this concept of having a trail running event in Vizag, Yogesh, who is an IT professional, shares, “working from home during the pandemic came as a blessing in disguise. My friend Bilal, and I, started exploring a few trails in and around Vizag viz Gajuwaka – Yarada route, Simhachalam – Hanumanthawaka trail, Kambalakonda trails and Meghadri Gedda trails. This was when we came up with the idea of organising a trail marathon in the hills of Paderu. And since then our only motto was to bring that similar experience to all the participants”.
While preparing for the grand event, Ultribe-Paderu, had its own share of obstacles to be faced before calling for participation from runners. “Unfortunately, elections had been scheduled in between and the trail running had to be cancelled. This spurred the resolve of the team to organise the event anyhow and preparations started again with full fervour,” says Yogesh who was resolved to organise the event come what may.
As a next step, the Visakha Trail Running Association (VTRA) was formed with a few like-minded individuals as office bearers. Subsequently, the Ultribe-Paderu event was organised by the VTRA with the main objective of fostering the spirit of trail running in both Telugu states. Sharing his experience on the event, seasoned trail runner and podium finisher at 222 km La-Ultra, 115 km Deccan Ultra and the Member Advisory Board of VTRA, Amit Kumar, says “considering the remote location that compounded with logistic difficulties, organising the Ultribe-Paderu event was a Herculean task. To add to it, significant portions of the track passes through dense jungle and organisers had to run the entire route multiple times for identification and marking. However, we were determined, and in a display of indomitable team spirit of VTRA, all the challenges were overcome with careful planning and meticulous execution”.
To get things started, District officials like Police, Project Officers, etc, were approached and approvals were obtained. The team explored the trails extensively and then the route was finalised. Yogesh adds, ”we then decided to apply for recognition. Taking into cognizance, 2200 metres elevation gain and technicality of the trail, prestigious institutions like the International Trail Running Association (ITRA) and Ultra Tour Du Mont Blanc (UTMB) readily accorded approvals. This was a confidence booster for us and prospective participants alike”.
As the word spread, interest for the event increased rapidly in the last few weeks before the closure of registration. The D-day was the culmination of all the efforts the Ultribe-Paderu team had put in for months. With Mahesh and Venkat leading the logistics and volunteers efforts across the route, the Ultribe-Paderu event in Vizag finally kicked off.
“Witnessing the joy and happiness of the participants, all the efforts and struggles of making multiple trips to Paderu to arrange for the food, accommodations, start/finish point, hydration at aid stations, reaching out to volunteers etc., had all vanished,” shares Yogesh who was delighted that the event was finally happening.
Dr Madhuri, who is a Consultant Radiologist and HOD at Mahatma Gandhi Cancer Hospital, had participated in a trial run for the first time. She shares, “when I first heard about it, I was all excited as it was close home. I had never done a trail run also so wanted to try. I must say it was a beautiful picturesque route through the clouds, streams and jungles. And most of the time one was alone so it was liberating. Looking out for those small ribbons couldn’t help appreciate how difficult it must have been to mark the route. Though I did think many times “who thought of this route”; it was a joy to complete it. I will talk about this beast for a long time.”
For Swapna Sathish, a Professor of Fine Arts at Stella Maris College, Chennai, it was altogether another experience. “I’d enthusiastically signed up for 50k not realising what I was in for! Used to running only on roads, this trail run was an experience of a lifetime for me – something I had never imagined. I twisted my ankle at 6k but plodded on until 25k. I don’t feel bad because 25k has been an achievement for me at Ultribe. This meticulously planned event in picturesque surroundings with healthy camaraderie has given me fabulous memories.”
For Ramji, from Chennai, the trail running activity was a break from his IT Marketing career. He elucidates, “Paderu being one of the most underrated and unexplored hills of South India, the very idea of conducting an ultra running event in such beautiful landscape itself was so fresh and kudos to the organisers for choosing Paderu. Coming to the trail and the route map, it was pure bliss running in the rolling hills of the Eastern Ghats. Passing through some sections of stream canopy and dense coffee plantation has to be the best takeaway from Ultribe Paderu 2021. I finished the race under the stipulated cut-off, thoroughly enjoyed the course, and would surely come back again for such experience.”
The Ultribe-Paderu run in Vizag was conducted in three categories. The shortest category was a 10km dash that was called ‘trail debut’. The other is stretched to 25kms – called the ‘hill challenge’. The flagship category involved trail running for 50kms. Suman Kumar, Devdutt and Sudipto finished first, second and third respectively in the male category. And In the female category, Kirti was followed by Aditya Devi to the finish line. Attractive trophies, gift hampers and discount coupons were handed over to the winners.
To conclude, Yogesh, who was elated all throughout the conversation with Yo! Vizag, shares that the Ultribe-Paderu event wouldn’t have been possible without the selfless and wholehearted participation of the volunteers and the overall support from the running community. He adds, “a team of 25 dedicated volunteers came together to help conduct the event. The entire route was cleaned up by volunteers after completion of the event”. Ending on a high note, Yogesh asserted that VTRA has plans to continue the tradition of Ultribe-Paderu and has already started working for the next edition.