The Navagraha Ottam – Preview

There is no better way to reflect on my Comrades experience except through a short story of RK Narayan. And the one that sums it up best would be ‘The Hero’ – where Swami attains stardom by accident and how alone knows what he did was out of luck while rest thinks that it is an act of bravery. Shankar Nag did a great job depicting the story in his Malgudi Days.

My Comrades Marathon experience was very similar to that. Just like Swami, I was confined to my own world of running until my friends dragged me into running the Comrades. I managed it to finish it miraculously and now gone back to my simple world of running. The post run accolades have been coming in regular intervals (mostly undeserved) and still keep coming even if the medal has already started rusting. Since that miraculous run, it has been a relatively quiet year of missing many morning runs with a few exceptions – the run with Bala on 8th day of 12 days 12 marathon endeavour, the run up to Kothagiri from Mettupalayam and couple of marathons, which I struggled to finish.

Just when I decide to confine my running to a simple 5K-a-day runs, Bala a.k.a ‘Bib Bala’ throws down the gauntlet – ‘Navagraha Ottam’ – A run across 9 temples in Thanjavur District over four days. The details of the run and its significance was beyond my ability to comprehend. All that I am aware of the run is that I need to run for 4 days in a row (haven’t accomplished that for more than 5 years!) and on each day, I need to cover a distance ranging from 40-55 kms. Bala and his team has prepared an excellent write-up (with an unauthorised profile of mine) and an android app. You can download the fancy Android app from here. and the PDF from here – The Spiritual Run.

I have to admit that I haven’t read the document in detail as yet and prefer to read it after the run. Instead, I look forward for the four days with wonderful company – the challenge is just a consequence! I am looking forward to the run more than completing it. Moreover, these are the runners whom I look up to for inspiration. Some of them whom I can take liberty in profiling,

On the top of the list is ‘Bib’ Bala (I hate to see him write his name as Bala J, creating unnecessary confusion). He is the guru of ‘repetitive running’ – 21 half marathons in 21 days, 12 marathons in 12 days and many other such feats.

Selva Sir, the suffix is crucial as his appearance quite often reminds me of my hostel warden. He is indeed the Captain on the run (while Mr. Narayan has volunteered for the role of non-running Director of the run)

Ram Viswanathan, Need I say something? One can write a book on him. For most runners, their running autobiography will be invariably titled ‘I ran with Ram’

Neville – He gives tough times for many challenging events. Be it riding his bike for over 1000 Kms or running/cycling all through day, he accomplishes every challenge with such an ease and yet retains his humility.

Srikumar – He runs a lot and yet does not want to be called a runner. A year back, he appeared for the Hyderabad marathon having not run for over 6 months and yet finished it helping other runners. Few months back, he went on to run half-marathon every day for 80 days!

Viswanthan Jayaraman – A celebrity runner who shuns publicity. You can read more about him in this piece.

Bala’s Family – Bala’s wife Shanti, writer of the brochure, and his two kids. They deserve appreciation for their tolerance levels towards Bala’s eccentricities. Now, their tolerance levels are to be further tested by his eccentric friends.

And many others about whom you can read in the excellent brochure

The opportunity to run with this group was indeed tempting and cannot be missed. Notwithstanding how the run goes, I look forward for every moment of the run.


  1. Aravind says:

    A typical Balaji style blog post. All the best, Balaji

  2. ajeya says:

    nicely written; but still doesn’t get me moving out to run; am too lazy for that

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