This year, 45 participants from 11 countries will be spending New Year’s Eve on the road to Pondicherry in the first of seven stages of the fourth annual Classic Run Rickshaw Challenge. From Chennai to Kanniyakumari, these participants will experience an autorickshaw adventure that will take 11 days and 1,000 kilometers to complete!
The idea is for every participant to travel to Chennai, learn how to drive anautorickshaw, and then personally drive their custom-made autorickshaws along a pre-charted route through Tamil Nadu. Participants will be allowed only one break, which will be on New Year’s Day to recover from what is anticipated to be an incredible beach party in Pondicherry.
This annual event hold significant importance for its founding company, Chennai Event Management Services. In 2006, founder Aravind Bremanandam introduced autorickshaw expeditions to India in response to the growing trend of adventure tourism. His first route and only route in 2006, an event called the Indian Autorickshaw Challenge, started in Chennai and finished in Kanniyakumari. Today, four years later, that route has been renamed to the Classic Run and three more unique routes have been introduced into the Rickshaw Challenge franchise.
Despite what appears to be a quickly aging adventure, the Classic Run remains the most popular Rickshaw Challenge event as it explores the unique and often underexposed culture of South India. Further, its appeal as a winter getaway for many Westerners and its dedication to ultimate adventure and a sense of a true getaway remind participants of the importance of travel, challenges, and intrepidness in a time of fresh starts.
Representing countries from Australia, Japan, Hungary, the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, and Brazil, the 43 participants of the Classic Run will compete to win free entry into another of Chennai Event Management Service’s global events, the Caucasian Challenge. Participants will earn points through a series of daily challenges, by contributing toward charity efforts, and through miscellaneous recognitions, such as best costume, most bizarre autorickshaw design, and even fellow participant and organizer nominations. Participants are allowed to bring maps, GPS units, and any other items that they think will help them compete, but ultimately, the culmination of each effort of participation – small and large – will determine the Classic Run 2010 World Champion.
The Classic Run provides for mechanical and medical assistance for participants, though the adventure still remains highly participant-based. It remains up to each individual to explore, enjoy, and embrace the experience of South India, which has so much to showcase to the world.
But more than just an adventure tour for internationals, Chennai Event Management Services plans to work with governmental and non-governmental organizations in efforts to improve the livelihood of India’s autorickshaw drivers and their families through welfare and developmental initiatives. Previous CEMS events have already drawn more than 25 lakhs over the past three years for Round Table India, an organization known for its “Freedom Through Education” initiative. Rickshaw Challenge participants were able to witness firsthand the efforts being made by Round Table India to improve the education of underprivileged children and were able to contribute on a personal level that yielded successful and bountiful results.
With a growing number of followers, fans, and participants, despite the continued growth of imitation events, the Rickshaw Challenge will continue to be a major force in the growing response to adventure tourism in India.
The Classic Run kicks off on December 29th, 2009 in Chennai and is expected to reach Kanniyakumari by January 6th, 2010.