We're off to India! It's time for a running tour around Pune and the Western Ghats with our local guide, Abhishek.
Tell us a little about yourself and your relationship with running?
My name is Abhishek Sharan. I am a software engineer by profession. I initially started running to lose weight and improve my fitness. To stay motivated, I joined a local running group. It was with this group that I came to learn about marathons and ultra marathons. I was so excited by the idea of ultra running that I ran a 100km ultra within my first year and a 100 miler to celebrate the completion of my second year of running.
I now motivate others in my group to start ultra running and teach them the basics of trail running and endurance racing strategy. I compete in local trail races and explore local hiking trails near Pune on weekends. Recently I started trail running coaching for various distances.
Describe the running culture in Pune?
Pune as a city is a budding ground for road half marathons and marathons. These days it's possible to register for a race every month! Running groups and running coaches are flourishing in every corner of the city and our runners are becoming more competitive than ever.
Pune has the potential to become a major hotspot for trail and ultra racing in India. It has easy access to the Western Ghats, one of India's famous mountain ranges that covers an area of 160,000 square kilometres and offers an incredibly varied landscape . You can plot trail routes from 10k to 200 milers or multi-day race adventures.
Where are the best places to run in Pune?
These are my favourite trails. Pune is well known for its rain and monsoon treks so for an added challenge and more colourful experience, try experiencing these trails during monsoon.
Rajmachi trail is a trail for every season but is particularly rewarding during monsoon. During a monsoon you will run in rain, through mud and enjoy the lush green landscape and waterfalls on the way. This trail has less of an elevation gain than others so if you're looking for an easier option, this is a good choice. Be aware that the trail is busy with hikers during weekends.
Rajmachi is easy to access by local train and you can run 30+ km with good support throughout as the villagers set up food and water stalls by trail all the way to Rajmachi Fort.
Abhishek running amongst the stunning landscape of the Rajmachi Trail
Sinhgad to Katraj Trail
The Sinhgad to Katraj trail is perfect if you seek solitude and some serious vertical gain. An out and back return to Sinhgad makes for a decent 28 km run with 3000+ metres of elevation gain.
Lonavala to Bhimashankar Trail
The Lonavala to Bhimashankar trail is a good choice if you want to attempt a longer route e.g. 60-70 km in one go. There are villages at regular intervals to allow you to refuel and continue. This trail offers some good climbs but less elevation gain in respect to the distance. Direct transport from Bhimashankar to Pune makes it best for a day run (60-70km with 2500+m of elevation gain).
Are you a member of a running club in Pune?
I'm an admin for a Facebook group called ‘Trail and Ultra Running India'. I have helped many runners to achieve their ultra running goals. Currently, the group's main focus is to create competitive trail runners in Pune.
In the off-season, we organise long hikes for beginners and teach them the basics of trail running. This way, they can learn to explore local routes and become more comfortable with running on trails.
Where is the best place to buy running gear in Pune?
We are limited for independent running shops in Pune. We have a Decathlon (Wagholi) as well as Asics, Adidas and Nike brand stores but most of these only stock road running gear. I tend to order online for trail running shoes and gear.
Tell us about the best local races in Pune?
SRT Ultra Marathon
The SRT Ultra Marathon offers 11km, 25km and 53km distance options with 2320 metres of elevation gain on the ultra distance.
Sinhagad Epic Trail
The Sinhagad Epic Trail is a sky running event in the mountains and trails of Ghera Sinhagad, south-west of Pune city.
The Sinhagad Epic Trail offers four categories: 11 km (790m elevation), 21 km (1220m elevation), 32 km (1730m elevation) and 42 km (2190m elevation).
TATA Ultra Marathon
The TATA Ultra Marathon is India's first IAU (International Association of Ultrarunners) certified ultra marathon. Taking place in Lonavala on the slopes of the Sahyadri range, it's just 50km away from Pune.
The TATA Ultra Marathon offers 50k and 35k categories and a decent elevation gain for a road race. The route passes through hills and dense forest overlooking Pawna Lake before ending near the Tikona Fort.
Abhishek takes on the TATA Ultra Marathon - a 50km ultra marathon in Lonavala
Can you recommend a local dish/venue to eat after a long run or race in Pune?
If you are in Pune City then Rupali and Vaishali restaurants on FC Road or any Wadeshwar joint around the city.
If you decide to venture out for a long run on the above mentioned trails, definitely take a food stop at Rajmachi village. Here you can enjoy traditional village food including village style chicken curry (pre-order) and rice bhakri (thick, flat hand-made bread).
Thanks to Abhishek for taking us trail running around Pune!
One last thing...
If you've enjoyed the content on this site and would like to support me by buying me a coffee, I would really appreciate it.