Two weeks after 80 Km Tuffman Shimla Ultra Mashobra, on July 07, 2018, I packed my running gear and was off to Matheran– a hill station in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. I need not introduce Matheran to Mumbaikars and Punekars, for the others- Matheran is the smallest hill station in India and is located on the Western Ghats range at an elevation of around 800 m (2,625 feet) above sea level. It is about 120 km from Pune.
Matheran [ means “forest on the forehead (of the mountains)”] is an eco-sensitive region and Asia’s only automobile-free hill station. You have to park your vehicles at “Dasturi Car Parking” and hike up or ride a horse about 2 kilometers to reach Matheran.
We started early morning as finding a place to park the car is the biggest (perhaps the only) challenge at Matheran. This day was special though, the excitement caught on the moment we started driving- it had been raining in Pune for couple of days and the road to Matheran was flooded. There were sctions on the way where the car felt like a boat.
I still had pain in the knee ( though not as intense) from the injury I had picked up on June 4 trying to negotiate a tactical downhill . It was a niggling pain that intensified when I tried climbing down stairs. I was resting and mobilising my knee. Rational decision would have stay home and rest for a few more weeks. Also, this was the 3rd edition or Matheran Endurathon and I had run 25km and 50km in the previous 2 editions- the Charm of Matheran was calling. “I will take it easy”- I promised myself.
My wife loves the hills of Matheran, and this is the trail which beckons her to do the 10km. As she says it is the nature that makes her move, considering she has not taken to runing and does not like to run in the city.
On July 08, 2018 I finished the 50 Km Matheran Endurathon in 7 Hours 8 Minutes- 1 Hour 14 Minutes slower than my 2017 timing. It was #Fail run for me, as far as timing goes, however, there’s more to running Matheran Endurathon than timing.
In this blog I will NOT share my run, rather I will share got me to run the 3rd Matheran Endurathons inspite of injury and 5 reasons that make this is one of the most beautiful trails in India.
Matheran Endurathon is organised by Run Buddies a team lead by Arvind Bijwe and Nikhil Shah. Here’s the Matheran Endurathon story from the horse’s mouth- That’s kind of funny in this context and the Race Marshal is on a Horse at Matheran:
Here are the top 5 things that make Matheran Endurathon “Charming’ for me.
1. Mesmerising Matheran : Matheran is an easy 3 hour drive from Pune. Matheran starts to cast the spell as soon as you are parked at Dastuti Parking and buy entry ticket. About 200 meters from the gate is Aman Lodge the (now) starting train station for the famed “toy ( narrow gauge) train. The train meanders through the steep slope with mesmerising view of the valley.
The Neral–Matheran Light Railway was built between 1901 and 1907 by Abdul Hussein Peerbhoy and financed by his father, Sir Adamjee Peerbhoy, at a cost of $160000. A feat of Indian engineering and testimony of Parsi entrepreneurship.
Matheran has around 38 designated look-out points, including the One Charlotte Lake, Tree Hill Point, Louisa Point, Hart Point, Monkey Point, Porcupine Point, Rambgh Point, Panorma Point that provides a 360 degree view of the surrounding area . Each look out point is more mesmerising than the other.
Matheran is full of eateries and you do want to indulge in the fare after a hard days work. The street food tastes super special at Matheran be it the corn, wadapaw or Maggi noodles. One of my favorites is Chocolate Walnut Fudge- a great pre run breakfast.
Chocolate Walnut Fudge
2. Matheran Endurathon is a mud fest: You can’t run the matheran trail and finish in shining running gear for the selfies. You have to go all in to tame this trail- and reach the finish line in a mud pack. Your running socks will need 2 washes and shoes will never get the pre endutharon look!
Remember Vijay Chauhan and abduction fight scene from Agneepath?
Matheran Endurathon is organized in the peak of monsoon and the trail is full of puddles. There are sections where you feel like you are running is a stream or doing an obstacle run. As a first time endurathon runner you try to keep your soles dry for the first 15-20 minutes however, you soon realize its futile fightling the mud and puddles- running becomes easier once you start enjoying them.
Funny Fact: In the 2017 run, one runner lost his shoe in the first 10 minutes of the run and continued to finish the race!!
3. Race Route – Matheran Endurathon is a 12.5 Km out and back route passing through 8 lookout points. For a 50 Km run you have to run the trail rwice. You will want to stop at each of these points for photo opportunity, however, the runner in you will push you to continue. I find Charlotte Lake pretty interesting. You are running across a dam/ barage! There are not many visitors around the lake in the morning ( first 25 out and back) however, in the second round you have to push your way through 100s of selfie obsessed visitors. Some of them will ba amused on seeing the runners and may have a few not so polite comments for you.
Matheran Endurathon is a rolling trail with about 1000 meters elevetion gain and loss. There are a multiple tactical uphill and down hill sections.
The excitement on this route starts with the briefing. The organizing team and the race director do the final reccee the evening before and the brief includes instructions like:
“1 Km fromthe start there is a tree that has fallen on the route, do not return from there, jump across or crawl under and continue”
4. Ever walked on the clouds? Here’s your chance to run.
Need I write more? Let the photos do the talking!
5. Race support and team Run Buddies
Team RunBuddies are a great bunch of people with a mission “to make India run’. They organize runs across India and their events events are super charged and designed for runners.
I had a conversation with Arvind this year and he mentioned that Matheran Endurathon is a logistical nightmare for him and his team. They have to ferry everything (from Tshirts, medals to water up) on horses to Matheran. Here’s Arvind speaking about the logistics to the press.
Organization and race support is Amazing at Matheran Endurathon. The race Marshall is on a horse, there are guides at every turn and water, energy drinks and aid is available every few kilometers.
Kudos! to Team Run Buddies on pulling off Matheran Endurathon year after year!
Signing off note for Matheran Endurathon:
Here’s my run on Strava:
Arvind, Nikhil and Run Buddies- Matheran Endurathon is a wonderful event and kudos to you for the amazing planning and execution. Look forward to the 2019 run.
The message on the T-Shirt this year was ” Pain is Temporary Pride is Permanent” Here’s my suggestion to 2019 T-Shirt message: