Inspired to run toward adventure in the mountains

Chitra’s son Sidd lifts his mom’s spirits during the Brush Mountain Breakdown a few years ago.

Blacksburg’s Chitra Ranganathan has one primary goal when it comes to running: Seize every opportunity she finds to “move in the mountains.”

Climbing peaks in the Pacific Northwest with her son, Sidd. Check.

Cramming in solo adventures while traveling for work around the globe. Definitely.

Cruising the familiar paths around Pandapas Pond. Perfect.

No matter the trail, she’s game to tackle it.

As a young girl in India, Chitra didn’t have running role models.

“Running was not a thing where I grew up — at least not when I was growing up,” she recalled. “My first vivid memory was running a full lap in 6th grade for sports day, the only day you were allowed to miss class, and fainting at the end but finishing ahead of everyone.”

She quickly found an “everlasting love” for the sport – but not because she wanted to race or compete. “I ran because of the way it made me feel. It let me transcend to a different place, mentally and physically, to places that I read about in books, snow-covered mountains mostly.”

It’s a feeling that hasn’t changed, decades later.

“While I don’t do many organized races, I make up my own adventure runs especially when I travel,” said Chitra, whose job in industrial market development takes her around the world.

“My work takes me to interesting places although mostly highly-polluted cities, I have been able to carve out time and put the effort to get to amazing places. Most of the time, it is getting to these places that becomes the adventure, rather than the adventure itself,” she said.

And it all connects back to her childhood in India.

“I grew up in ‘North Madras’ where the only adventure running you got to do in those times was running with the dogs — but I did make a couple of friends along the way and unofficially adopted them,” she recalls with a smile. “But being in that outskirts edge of the huge city also meant that there were still some rice fields left then, and I have memories of small jaunts along the boundaries of rice fields. But no one was able to relate to why I ran in my community. Then, and even as an adult now, I hear people say, “What are you running away from?” and my answer is always, “Maybe I am running towards something.”


Chitra Ranganathan

Hometown: Born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India; Blacksburg is home far away from home for almost 25 years

Family: Husband, Srikanth Nathella; son, Sidd Nathella, a Purdue University student and an avid runner.

Age: It’s just a number — but I am child-like.

Occupation: Worked in specialized equipment product development for over 20 years and have recently taken on industrial market development worldwide.

Most satisfying running accomplishment? I am not a huge racer, I mean I don’t sign up for too many races, nor do I run with groups. Mostly I run alone apart from occasional runs with my friend Carla. But running is definitely a significant part of my life. For the last few years, I have been managing several injuries and other chronic pain. Last year (2018) was an especially challenging year. For more than six months I was unable to use my right arm at all. It felt satisfying to come back in 209 to run a long and challenging 50K (Grayson Highlands). So, continuing to get what I have been able to get, when I can get it, out of running is what I feel is my most satisfying running accomplishment.

Proudest race moment? Conquer the Cove trail marathon. I ran into a black bear during the race and was not sure how to handle it. After some time, I took some deep breaths, calmed down, and continued to the finish.

Most frustrating running experience? By far, Richmond Marathon 2013 (my only road marathon). My head space was not in the right place and that race tested my relationship with running.

Who inspires and/or motivates you? I am always surrounded by inspiration and motivation. My son is my main inspiration. He never gives up no matter how hard it has gotten for him. And every runner I encounter on the trails is an inspiration to me. It’s not the elite runners but the everyday mom or dad, with a full-time job and no sponsors but getting it done, those are the ones who inspire me.

Favorite race? Hands down Eastern Divide 50K. Cascades Falls was my ‘happy place’ to imagine during childbirth, so 12 years after I had my son, and the fact my friends at TriAdventure were race directors, I could not pass that opportunity to run it. Hope to run it again in future. I also enjoyed running with the wild ponies in Grayson Highlands.

Longest race? 50K

Trails or roads?Trails, trails, trails

Favorite NRV running route?  The one I get to do frequently is Poverty Creek Trail, Snake Root and Jacob’s Ladder.The one I want to do more: Cascades to Barney’s Wall to Wind Rock.

Favorite pre-race meal? Just my favorite south Indian foods always. I do crave ‘dosas’ during long runs. That’s kind of impossible to get!

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