On 25 August close to 600 people, from across — and some, even beyond — India will be running on the hilly roads of the world’s wettest destination: Sohra (Cherrapunjee). The runners will start at a football field in a village called Saitsohpen. From there they will head on to Mawmai (famous for its caves), then to Mawmluh (also famous for its caves, especially the one that led to naming the current geological age, the Meghalayan Age), and then to Mawlong, Wahlong and finally the Thangkrang Park, from where the runners will head back again to Saitsohpen.
Along this ‘highly adventurous’ route — through rain, through clouds, uphill, downhill, on trail, on road — they will see waterfalls, creaks, and way down below, parts of Bangladesh. “At the 21km mark, there’s the Kynrem Falls — a gorgeous waterfall. When it’s raining, the spray falls right on to the road itself. We are hoping the runners will get a chance to experience that,” says Kailash Varma, President of the Rotary Club Shillong, the main movers of the Sohra Marathon 2018.
In all probability, it will be raining on race day, as the summer monsoons are in full force in Meghalaya right now. “We chose August for that particular reason,” says Varma, 67, who is a runner himself, “There is nothing as wonderful as running a full marathon in the rain.”
Apart from the (full) marathon, there will be a 5km “fun” run, a 10 km run and a 21 km half-marathon, too. “Sohra is hilly, therefore, there is no possibility of water clogging anywhere,” he adds. The runners will be provided with the usual marathon paraphernalia: timing chips and bibs, but also raincoats. “Not like they will use it during the race, but they might find it useful before and after the race,” says Varma.
The organisers are also eyeing a place in the Limca Book of Records for a run in the wettest place on earth. “This is not the first time the Sohra Marathon is happening. Ours is different because it’s localised strictly to Sohra, unlike the earlier editions in 2015 and 2016,” says Varma, adding that “nowhere else in India is the rain so spectacular, and that itself makes the Sohra Marathon stand apart from the rest.” The main sponsors of the race include the Northeast Council, Meghalaya Tourism and Meghalaya Sports Department.
James Perry, who is the race director, says the strictly Sohra-specific geography of the route aids local participation and support. From the Tyrna village — famous for the Double Decker Root Bridge — the people of the “smoky falls” tribe are contributing their indigenous coffee and chocolate for the runners during the race. “We are also trying to peg it as a ‘destination run’ that will encourage people to club their vacation with the marathon. August is off-season for tourists. But if this run takes off like we want it to, it will eventually help boost the local tourism economy too,” says Perry.