I run because… a runners perspective

I came across an anti marathon campaign today & was shocked at the restrictive thinking. The campaign could have been anti-being-a-couch-potato or anti-smoking or anything else. But seriously, anti-being-active-and-fit was not something I would ever expect.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_antimarathon/2016/05/running_a_marathon_is_a_dangerous_expensive_stupid_meaningless_task_don.html

I have been running half marathons for about 7 years. I have seen several runner start from couch to run ultra distances. I have witnessed major transformations that leave the rest of us in complete awe.

Here is a post from a runners perspective:

Running is a hobby or passion, just like painting, dancing, reading, travelling or singing. (wonder if there would be any anti-campaigns against one of these too. Don’t paint & waste your time. Just work harder & do something more productive :p )

There are runners & then there are non-runners, its only a matter of choice. Either you love it or you don’t. To each their own. No one can be really forced to run a marathon. Don’t like it, don’t do it. Simple isn’t it?

It’s a sport & not everyone who runs is a star. But we all are achievers at our own level. You don’t always have to win the Olympics to be an achiever. Yes we post it on Facebook, because its important to us. If its looked down upon as spam, there is an ‘unfollow post’ or better still, ‘delete friend’ option available that can be freely used.

You don’t need organised races to run. But think of it, organised races are a business by itself. It creates employment to many (event organisers & coaches), a platform to perform for some (runners), source of income to few (professional athletes) & entertainment to the rest (who need it).

There is a common fear that running leads to knee problems. I am sure that sitting around and doing nothing is equally dangerous! Both have to be done with caution.

Yes, there have been deaths on the tracks. There have been deaths on football fields too. But I can tell you with fair conviction that there have been more deaths off the tracks & fields!!!

There are so many industries benefitting from this sport – Apparel industry (running gear), Tourism industry (hotel/flights), Pharma industry (Doctors/Physios/balms & medicines), food & beverage industry (health drinks/ breakfast) etc. Sometimes we even travel to run. So a small sleepy town suddenly buzzes with activity during run season helping the locals make a quick buck. So in a way we are contributing to the economy as a whole & also promoting tourism. How selfish it is to think about individual fee as it is nothing when compared to the good it does at large. (wonder how investing in personal skill development as an alternate during training time can help the world!)

Do let me know how else you think running helps. (I have intentionally left out physical or mental heath related benefits). If you disagree completely, you are free to join the above anti – campaign and i would love to hear how it goes 🙂

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An update – got to know the campaign was supposed to be a comic take on marathons; but has resulted in serious discussions in some circles. I got the link from one such forum. No offence to the original blogger, i understand his humor 🙂

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The Maniac Runner

My day started when the alarm blared to a horrendous tone (even the sweetest music can sound bad if that’s the one waking you up from your Sunday morning sleep). Cursing myself for pursuing running as a hobby, I went on to make some fresh coffee to actually wake me up. (I was moving around like a zombie until then). The thought of a pleasant rainy day, picturesque surroundings & awesome company is what really made me get out of bed.

My strong cuppa followed by a sandwich infused some energy into me & off I went to join the rest of the group. We reached the location chosen for our run that day at about 6 AM. The weather was just perfect with strong cool breeze blowing & the sun nowhere in sight. Each of us started our own respective runs. I did’nt go with any plan, but let my body & my mood do the talking. Ended up doing a very Forrest Gump-ish run. I had no idea about the distance, pace or time I intended to run. I had no reason for running. I just ran because I felt like and at the pace that my feet agreed to carry me forward. I kept running till I thought I had enough, then, I turned back to go the start. (where the group had assembled)

Run 3
Endlessly long roads inviting for a run

I was on foot for more than one and a half hours when suddenly the winds grew stronger, the clouds grew darker. With just open land in all four directions, I could see the rains fast approaching. I kept running & the rains caught on with me within a minute or so, completely soaking me in its cool showers. The drops hits hard on my skin & it felt better than what any Jacuzzi could offer. The pure water was so sweet. I was now running with my arms stretched out looking upward to the sky & keeping my mouth slightly open, trying to take in as much rain as possible. Few villagers wearing plastic ponchos & running to find shelter in an otherwise open place, stopped to look at me with bewilderment. This was the best cool down I have ever experienced after a run.

A run in heaven
A run in heaven

I love Mumbai, I love Monsoon & I love running. Managed to cover a distance of about 14.5 kms (about 9 mi) in 1 hour 50 mins including a warm up & cool down walk of about 1.6 kms (1 mi). Happy week ahead!

The treadmill of life

Another week ends. My life is getting as hectic as it can probably get & I am loving it. The more I keep myself busy, the more I can be distracted from the truth. Some decisions are perhaps better not taken. So here I am living my regular day. Tweaking my schedule just that little bit to fit in as much as I can. Health & fitness is always last on the list, right next to sleep. You get one you lose the other! At least that’s how it is for me.

These days I have simply stopped planning to run on the roads. To compensate, I try extra hard & make some time to go to my office gym. The down side is that I am now forced to use a treadmill. I don’t know how anyone can do this to themselves. Imagine, you are running, panting but nothing around you really moves. There is this beautiful view that you face, but it seems so unreachable as the distance between you never diminishes. You see the same things around you, the same buttons on the machine and out of boredom, you keep looking at the seconds that seem to be ticking so slow that 30 minutes seem like forever. Then when you are sweating profusely, you suddenly see the weather getting enviously beautiful on the other side of the large window. Nice soft breeze accompanied by rains. And here you are in an air conditioned room looking at the showers that would otherwise drench you & rejuvenate you. I do feel like a chimp at the zoo, looking out of an enclosure. Now that is what indoor running does to me.

No choice here, so do just that as of now, 30 minutes of running but not getting anywhere.

Lessons learned while on the run :)

There is a popular joke that goes like this:

Once a journalist is interviewing a doctor at the mental asylum. He asks the doctor, how he decides whether a patient needs to be admitted in his ward or not. The doctor explains that there is a really simple test for that. “We take the person to a bath tub filled with water. We then give them a spoon, a mug & a bucket & ask him to empty the tub. Based on their choice, we decide whether or not they need to be admitted’. The journalist says ‘oh that’s really simple, any sane person would choose the bucket.’ The doctor smiles & says, ‘no, they would just pull the plug. Now you may proceed to bed no 43.’

Yesterday, I remembered the above joke that took me back to one incident while I was running. I run my Sunday long runs on a very long & wide road. It has 8 lanes & is as good as a free-way or express-way. These roads are usually deserted in the mornings. It is not usual to spot a lone lady running. On one side is the entire 8 lane which has few passing vehicles moving at top speed early in the day. On the other side is a stretch of green landscape & trees decorating the entire length of the road. This part is barricaded with a thorny fence to keep away little animals from getting on the road. There is a service road beyond that & finally the pavement where you can see few people.

One day, while I was towards the last leg of my run, I had little to go before I could exit off this road & reach my parked vehicle. I was tired & exhausted & ready to go home. I had left my previous exit few kilometres behind me & was soon approaching my destination panting & sprinting, when suddenly I saw a man enter the road from where I was to exit. He appeared to be a homeless guy, complete dishevelled. With long & dirty beard & hair He looked as if he hadn’t bathed ever. He had random things like rags of clothes etc in one hand, a sack filled with something over his shoulder & a stick in the other hand. He was talking to himself & coming straight towards me. He was no rag picker, but seemed to be of unstable mind. (we have seen many around to know one from the other, right?) I was terrified. There were no other people in audible distance, so even if I was attacked (he had a stick in one hand, remember?), there would be no use screaming. I couldn’t run back as I was completely drained out after my long run & didn’t want to do the extra distance just because of my paranoia. There was a barricade on my right that I couldn’t jump over & a very wide road with fast moving vehicles on my left. Now here I am on the road running towards him & him walking steadily towards me, looking straight at me.

So I did what my tired mind thought fit. I started to run in an angle, slowly moving towards the centre of the road. We had not more than 200 metres between us. I planned to come back to the side as soon as I crossed past him. I was moving with one eye on the traffic & the other on that man (imagine how cross eyed I must’ve looked then). The distance was closing in between us, when suddenly, he stopped walking, put his things down & raised his hands bent at the elbows, gesturing towards me as if to ask what the F*** are you upto. (gesture plus expressions) Then he starts to sway his hands in the direction of the moving traffic, indicating to me that there are vehicles approaching. Next he bows down a bit & sways his hands again, but this time in the direction of the safe side of the road as if welcoming a queen to come & sit on her throne. Well in short he just asked me to run on the safe side & not the centre of the road. While I complied, I also couldn’t stop myself from smiling at him, then I nodded politely to say thanks. Once I was on the safe side, his side, he picked his belongings & walked away without even looking.

I can’t say he saved my life, because I knew where I was going, but he did open my eyes. We sometimes judge people without realising what’s going on in their minds. So here, while I thought he was mentally unstable, he probably thought the same about me! While my mind was busy cooking up situations & stereotyping him, his mind must have been wondering, ‘who is this insane lady running dangerously on the road’.

The Yogi in me writes :)

Few days ago was International yoga day. The whole world was celebrating. My friends from across the globe were posting pictures of large groups who had gotten together on that day for a yoga session. One from Kuwait, the other from Africa and many more such. Here back home in India, we had several local yoga events taking place. Once such was the Surya Namaskar challenge. For those who don’t know what Surya Namaskar means, it is simply a salutation to the Sun (whom we Hindus consider to be God), where Surya means Sun & Namaskar is Namaste or a salutation done with folded palms. SN is an intense series of 12 steps that are performed in perfect symmetry. Two rounds of these 12 steps in succession ie 24 steps (12 for each side of your body- left & right) constitutes one SN. A good friend took up the challenge & completed 1008 SN’s ie 1008*24 = 24192 steps. Whew!! He did this in about 4.5 hours. If done correctly, SN has many benefits to the human body as well as mind. It is a complete exercise form by itself as it improves your overall strength & stamina.

My mom introduced me to yoga when I was still a girl. And nothing gives me so much peace than practising this form of exercise (other than running of course) it was by chance that it happened. Mom wanted to join a group of people who practised yoga at a nearby park that was about a kilometre away from where we stayed. We had to be there at 6 am & she was afraid to walk alone that early. She asked me if I would accompany her & that is where I had my first session of non-professional yoga, with senior citizens (most of them were in their 50’s. Today, as I add numbers to my years, I have many friends who are in their 50’s & no, I don’t think they are old :D. But that was then, when I was still to turn 18). An old lady shouting out instructions, the others following (not necessarily maintaining the right posture); no one corrected us! Then some elderly would freely fart when we did the ‘pavanamuktasan’ (a pose that helps relieving gas especially for the gastronomously inclined 😀 ).  This leading to many giggles and friendly comments from the rest of the group. I was the youngest there (only one in that age), but loved what I did.

When I grew up, I took up to running. Slowly I felt the need to balance my runs with some alternate form of strength training. I naturally chose yoga (I have also tried, gym, aerobics, pilates etc but stuck to yoga). The breathing has opened up my lungs & helped me to be a better runner. The planks have strengthened my core & improved my posture while I run (or even during the normal course of the day, I don’t slouch). I can go on about the benefits, but will stop here atleast for now 🙂

So when the world has suddenly woken up to understand the benefits of Yoga, I smile to myself with a sense of satisfaction. Been there, doing that..Till death do us apart 🙂