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You wouldn’t think that Chennai’s weather is conducive to running or any sort of physical activity that involved stepping out of an air-conditioned room! But wake up early enough and you’ll be surprised at just how vibrant Chennai’s running culture is. If the beaches are crowded in the evening with college kids and couples, the mornings pull an equal number of fitness enthusiasts with sports shoes and iPods, ready to sweat it out. So if you’re the kind of person that substitutes a morning coffee for a morning run, here are some of best routes you should check out in Chennai.
There is no place more popular among runners in Chennai than Marina Beach. Every morning you’ll find the world’s second longest urban beach teeming with both professional and amateur runners. The most popular stretch is that parallel to Kamaraj Salai, which runs from Marina Lighthouse all the way to the Victory War Memorial through Napier Bridge, which offers spectacular views of the Cooum River flowing into the Bay of Bengal.
The Marina may be more popular, but Elliots Beach, Chennai’s other mainstream beach, is surely every runner’s paradise. Folks come all the way from Adyar and Alwarpet to take a morning run along Elliots Promenade, and the stretch also boasts vibrant groups of local runners, since Besant Nagar is a residential locality, unlike Marina. Most runners prefer the straight route through the promenade starting from the Velankanni Church and ending at Masjid Allah. While the route isn’t as long as the one at Marina Beach, you’ll never tire of the views.
Start from the famed Theosophical Society and run through Besant Avenue and you’d find that the experience is as close you can get to that of running in a forest while still within Chennai. For most of the stretch, Besant Avenue hugs the sprawling Theosophical Society campus on one side and the Besant Gardens on the other.
This trail is a double whammy when it comes to experiencing nature and getting spectacular sea views. Start your run from Adyar Eco Park, home to a pristine and well-conserved ecosystem, and sprint through the Thiru Vi Ka Bridge, which offers the best views of the Adyar Estuary and Broken Bridge. If you’re looking for something a little more strenuous then run all the way to the Besant Nagar Beach, for a good 5 km stretch.
Teynampet’s Semmozhi Poonga/Park is a great destination for a morning run, with its manicured gardens and artificial ponds. However, if you’re looking for more than just a run in the park, head out into Cathedral Road and run through Stella Maris College Campus, all the way to the Cathedral Road Flyover for a great running experience. Make sure you’re not anywhere near the stretch during peak hours, as Cathedral Road is one of Chennai’s arterial roads.
This too is a stretch that comes with double benefits. Start from the breathtaking Santhome Basilica to experience the heritage of Old Madras, and run through Greenways Road which, true to its name, is one of the greenest stretches in Chennai. Greenways Road also offers a brilliant running experience because of its wide footpaths that are for the most part covered under a canopy of trees.
Take all of Chennai’s running routes and put them together and they still won’t have anything on Chennai’s three most beautiful college campuses. The tricky part, however, is getting past the gates. If you can conjure up a way to do that, you’re in for an experience unlike anything else in Chennai. IIT Madras was once a part of the sprawling Guindy National Park and it still retains its natural beauty for the most part. The campus covers more than 600 acres, so there’s plenty of room to run. Anna University might be a lot smaller, but it too was part of the same undivided stretch of forest. As for the Madras Christian College, it is one of the most beautiful and vast campuses in the city, covering nearly 365 acres. What makes this patch of green unlike any other in the city is that it an artificial scrub jungle curated by a British couple in the early 20th century with trees that aren’t indigenous to the region.
The route up St. Thomas Mount is the best running stretch in Chennai if you’re looking for a challenge. The way up may not be too steep a climb, but it is most definitely more taxing than any other flat tracks in Chennai. Plus, the Mount and area around it is home to some of the best examples of Chennai’s British heritage. What makes this run quite spectacular is that the prize waiting for you at the top of the peak is one of the most mesmerizing 360-degree views of Chennai city.