Just five years ago, a list like this would have been impossible. However, running has exploded in India and almost every major town in the country hosts at least one distance-running event a year. In cities like Mumbai and Bengaluru, a weekend without a running event is rare. If you are planning to run a marathon (42.195km) or a half marathon, put these on your calendar.

The toughest

Satara Hill Half Marathon, Satara

This Maharashtra race has been started by a group of people who had been making an annual trip to Mumbai to participate in a distance-running event. They began their own race in 2012. In 2015, they entered the Guinness World Records book for Most People in a Mountain Run (Single Mountain) with 2,618 runners. Despite the lush green Western Ghats, the rolling terrain and a route twisting through the Deccan Plateau make it one of the toughest runs in the country. So tough that the organizers call it the “ultra" half marathon.

Distances: Half marathon, 7.5km Dash and Dhamaal Run (non-competitive)

When: 18 September

The prettiest

Sohra Cherrapunjee Marathon, Shillong

Cherrapunji is known as one of the wettest places on earth, receiving rainfall throughout the year. Now, it is also home to probably the prettiest marathon in the country. Though the Auroville Marathon gives this race in Meghalaya a run for its money, what tips the scale, in favour of Shillong is the mild temperature, which makes it perfect for running. That you will run through clouds is a guarantee.

Distances: Full, 21km and 10km

When: July (date yet to be confirmed)

The greenest

Javadhu Hills Ultra, Bengaluru/Chennai

Disposable cups, plastic signages, paper bibs, timing chips, electronic mats, loudspeakers: These things are missing at this trail run organized by the Chennai Trekking Club, making it one of the most environmentally friendly runs around. Disposable cups are replaced by regular glasses runners have to pick up and drink and deposit at the next table a few metres ahead, bibs are made of cloth, the timing issue is solved by using coordinated stopwatches. With the registration fee comes a free stay in a classroom or camping ground at a government school in Javadhu Hills, breakfast (served on leaves) for the 25km runners, lunch for the 50km participants and two meals for the 75km participants. That apart, volunteers (themselves runners) are at hand to give the runners a massage and help them stretch—ultra running does include these recovery breaks. The money raised through registration fees and sponsorship is used for planting trees and helping local communities. It is also one of the friendliest runs around.

Distances: 75km, 50km and 25km

When: 7 August

The newbie

Kolkata

The running wave took its time to hit this eastern city. Since the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K in December 2014, there have been several big runs in the city, including the Srei Kolkata Marathon, Puma Urban Stampede and the second edition of the Tata Steel Kolkata 25K, which is turning out to be the marquee distance-running event of the City of Joy. Its 2015 edition saw 8,208 participants, including Olympic athletes Lalita Babar, O.P. Jaisha and Sudha Singh.

Distances: 25km, 10km and Ananda Run (around 5km)

When: 18 December

The sweatiest

Spice Coast Marathon, Kochi

Till 2014, there was only one race in India that could have got you a Boston Marathon qualification—the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon. Now, there is also the Spice Coast Marathon. The route is flatter than Mumbai, the air cleaner, and it is indeed very beautiful in God’s own country. But the humidity levels in Kerala make it one of the sweatiest races in the country. The race, organized by the Soles of Cochin, also sees an unusually high number of barefoot runners, thanks to the founder of Soles of Cochin, Ramesh Kanjilimadhom, being a barefoot runner who mentors several runners in Kochi and elsewhere.

Distances: Full, half marathon

When: 13 November

The coolest

Sandakphu 70 Mile Himalayan Race

Not only are there postcard-like cool views at every turn, it is also pretty cold in the Himalayas, where this four-day stage ultra takes place. The registration cost is high compared with other road races but it covers everything—food, boarding, lodging, massage, medical support, even sherpas to carry your bags while you, simply, run.

A friendly organizing team consisting of runners and endurance sports enthusiasts ensures that the participants have a good time in the hills. Remember, you will be taking in views of the Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu peaks.

Distances: 112km

When: 9-14 April

The fastest

Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

The suspended particulate matter and relatively warmer November in the Capital notwithstanding, Rio-bound Olympic athlete Babar took the top spot among the Indian elite women, completing the run in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 52 seconds. The elite men’s race was won by Nitendra Singh Rawat in 1 hour, 4 minutes, 41 seconds. This race is equally fast for the recreational runner. Several come to Delhi for this one, just to improve their personal best timing in a half marathon.

Distances: Half marathon, Great Delhi Run (6km)

When: November

The biggest

Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon

Well, this is the one that started it all. And now it is the race everyone wants to work for as runners need to qualify for it. Yes, the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon organizers have set cut-off times for all age and race categories to ensure that the more serious runners get to run this one. Despite that, there were 40,529 participants in 2015, while 40,250 people (numbers of full and half marathons have gone up by about 2,000) are slated to run on 17 January. Registration typically starts six months before the race, around June, so do keep a tab.

Distances: Full marathon, half marathon and Dream Run (6km)

When: 15 January 2017

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