Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Running is Like Cricket

Life is like a Cricket match. A bowler bowls a superb delivery which just missed the stumps by a whisker and you moan and berate the luck if you are on the fielding side or heave a sigh of relief and thank your luck if you are on the batting side. Next instant the batsman hits the ball to a beautiful shot and you are euphoric or despodent depending on whose side you are on and you either urge the ball to travel faster or the fielder to catch or stop the ball. Next moment either the firlder has fielded it very well or the ball had missed the fielder. Next moment either the batsman is out and the bowler is elated or the ball has crossed the boundary and the batsman is happy.

Life is full of such moments. The moments might look momentous and long and might look like they are insurmountable or you might not want the moment to end. But the days pass by so fast like a fast movie reel and before you know it many years have passed.

Running is like Cricket. The 10k is like the T20 game. fast and Furious where you run fast and hard and try to complete the distance in the fastest time possible. You do not have much time to brodd and contemplate much like the T20 game where you do not have much time to set right one mistake. One bad over for the batsman or the bowler and the game is lost to teh coresponding side. You cannot make up fot it. Same way, in 10K if you have started slow you cannot make up for the lost time and if you have started too fast and have burned out too soon, you cannot make up the time. Its highly unpredictable and on any given day the team that plays well on that day wins. This unpredictability of the format makes it highly exciting and thrilling to watch. 

You do not need to be a highly accomplished player to hit or bowl in a T20. A single over with sixes or a single over with 2 or 3 wickets is enough to make you a great bowler or batsman. Similarly a 10K is a distance that is runable by all novices and even couch potatoes can aspire to be runners. This makes it a very popular distance and attracts the most number of participants. 

The 21k or the Half Marathon or HM is like the 50/50 or the one day international or the ODI. It is not too short and not too long. It does not take too much of you time both in training and in the race and is a distance that is doable and yet is challenging and gets you out of your comfort zone. Similarly the ODI is not too short for the purist and not too long for the youngsters and has its own charm and fans. 21K needs a runners to be strong and able to run the distance. it requires that the runner has a certain amount of fitness and committment towards training. Similarly a ODI match requires the cricketer to be competent. there is scope to a certain extent for a mistake to be set right. A bad over can be made up by takign a couple of wickets and a few wickets lost can be made up by a good partnership by the next batsman There is even scope for increasing the total by pinch hitting in the end if there are wickets left just like there is scope for improving the timing by increasing the tempo in teh end if you have started slow and have conserved your energy in teh beginning.

The Test match is the format that all purists and old fans of cricket love. It is the true test of the high skill level and competance of the cricketer and the technique has to be perfect. 


Training for the Bangalore Ultra 2013, 12.5K on November 10

I have a tryst with the Bangalore Ultra course on Nov 10. I have a point to prove and a bone to pick with this trial. It has mocked me and it has challenged me and I have accepted the challenge. It did not ridicule me or belittle me but even then I feel that I have to stand tall in front of it and say “ha ha ha! I got you!”

To explain myself better, I need to rewind and take you on a flash back. Last year when I ran my first Ultra, I had just started running or should I say waddling. I could barely run 50mts and had trained for 7 weeks and had bravely signed up for 12.5K in the Ultra. On the pre race day I developed a pain in my left knee and as I started the race, at around the 1K mark I developed a pain in my right shin. Added to all my woes, at the 2K mark I developed the worst nightmare of any runner, the nature’s emergency call, the urge to visit the loo immediately. I stopped sipping water or eating anything at the aid stations for the fear of having a serious GI issue.

With all these nightmares hovering around I was hardly able to run or waddle along. I walked hte entire distance. I was cursing myself for landing myself into this and was asking myself what I was thinking when I signed up for running. As each runner cruised past me showering words of encouragement and praise I gained some energy and courage to carry on. But the cource seemes never ending and the pain was excruciating. I was nearly in tears and only the appearance of my daughters, niece and my husband at the 500mts mark prevented me from bursting into a sob and somehow with the encouragement of Manju and Shruthi I reached the finish line.I was rewarded with a medal by a smiling volunteer which I felt that I did not deserve for I had taken 2:08 long hours to finish the race.

I resolved to transform myself into a runner and show the Ultra what I was made of! I continued training with Runner’s High and am training hard and have finished many 10Ks in the past 1 year like the Auroville, TCS and KTM 10Ks and so here I come with renewed vigour and fresh resolve to see the ultra in the eye and say that now I am your equal and now I can call myself a runner.

From my experience last year, the ultra trial is very flat with a slight incline from the 5km to th 6.25 km mark which is not very tough. There are some rocky patches. From the 3km to the 6.25km mark there was not much of a tree cover. Since it a out and back loop and the turn around is at 6.25 mark, it means that there is not much of a tree cover for about half the course or for about 6.5km. So I am prepared with a cap and water bottle to beat the heat.

My time was 2:08 hrs last year and this year I hope to complete it in 1:40 hrs. Hope that I am able to achieve my timing. With just 11 days to go I am really excited and looking forward to this wonderful run.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Running is a metaphor for Marriage.

Running they say is a metaphor for life. You get out of it as much as you put into it. You might think you deserve more and you might whine and crib. You might get angry at times and sore. But in the end, you realise that you have got what was your due and the euphoric moments and the times of happiness made it all worth it.

But in my opinion, (I know no one asked for it but hey! I am known for speaking even when no one is listening), running is a metaphor for marriage.

In India marriage is a misunderstood word. People usually refer to the wedding day as marriage day. But actually Wedding is the ceremony where two people are united in marriage. Marriage is the entire process and the duration of the union of two people in which they live together with the consent and approval of the families and friends. Matrimony, Nuptial and Wedlock are other words that recognise the social and legal acceptance of the union of two people. When I say Running is a metaphor for Marriage I mean this entire process of two people living together.

When you become a runner it is at first with a lot of apprehensions and doubts about whether you will be able to do it or whether you are cut out for it etc. But you enter into the fray because you saw someone running, or you got talked and brain washed into it like me or because your friends run and you don’t want to be left out, you heard great things about the benefits of running from your running friends, you saw your running friends having too much fun without you, your doctor or parents or relatives recommended it to you, the reasons can be many for why you started running.

You replace the word running with marriage and the reasons why you got married will turn out to be one of the above sentences J Ya ya ... there was love and all that..... but ultimately you signed the legal bond and tied the three knots or said ‘Yes’ or ‘Kabool hai’ for the reasons mentioned above. You get married because your friends got married, your parents forced you or your partner put his/her foot down, for security, for society, because that is what everyone is doing, because its the right thing to do, you are of marriageable age etc.

When you are running and the muscles heat up, the lungs scream and you cannot go anymore and you still carry on... you ask yourself why have I got myself into this? What was I thinking? Was I not happy and contented without this? I could have been sitting and watching TV or I could have been sleeping in bed for 4 more hours. Why did I get into this? Why do I put myself through so much torture? Do I need to carry on? You curse the world, you curse your coach, you curse your friends for putting you through so much torture and then realise that it was you yourself who got yourself into this in the first place. You want to quit and you want to give up.

You replace running with marriage. You ask yourself ‘why did I get married’? What was I thinking? Why did I have to do it? You curse your parents, you curse your spouse, you curse everyone who was involved, you berate yourself for being so stupid, you ask yourself what did you see in this? You tell yourself you could have done better or got better, you remind yourself about the various different things you could have done instead of getting married etc. You reach a point where you say you just cannot carry on.

But ultimately once you cross the finish line the joy and the euphoria of running makes you wear those shoes the next day gets you back on the track running despite everything you went through. It is the same as a lady giving birth to a child. No matter how hard and long the labour was and how painful, all is forgotten once she holds the baby in her arms. In that magical moment everything else is forgotten. The nine months of hell and torture and all the trials and tribulations are forgotten.

Similarly marriage is like the running where the road is ardours and full of surprises but ultimately the moments of joy and celebration is what makes it all worth it. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why do I run?

Why do I run? I have asked myself this question many a times. And the only answer I can give myself is that I don’t know why I run. I don’t know whether I am hooked onto running or have become an addict. I can only say that I enjoy running for many reasons.

The sense of freedom:

Running is one activity where I feel free. I am not bound by any rules and regulations. Sure there are things like running with the correct form etc. But once you are on the trial and running, you are pretty much on your own. And I love this part of running where I am on my own. I get lost in my thoughts. Sometimes I am so lost in thoughts that I slow down or start walking and sometimes I would have run faster than usual. By the time I get back my mind to the present, I realise that either I have covered a good distance or I realise that I am walking and have to get back to running.

I am not bothered what I am wearing or what others are wearing. I am not bothered how about how I am running or how others are running. Of course there are these aspects like running in rhythm, running at a certain pace etc, but once you are on the trail all pace is the same pace. Sometimes the body complies with my request and runs a little faster and sometimes the body just refuses and I have to coax it and cajole it or even bribe it. But after a certain point there is pretty much nothing else that I can do but just carry on at whatever speed or pace that I can carry on at that particular time and on that particular day.

Running is one place where I feel that there are no restrictions. I don’t have to behave in a certain way, I don’t have to watch out for what I say or what I do. I am totally free to be what I am. I can let myself loose and be exactly who I am. That is why I crave for long runs and I am not satisfied with short runs. I look forward to the weeks where our mileage is more than the days where our mileage is less. On long runs, the solitude, the peace and tranquillity is for a longer duration and even though I am passing by runners all the time and saying hi! or waving at them, yet, there is a deep sense of being all alone with myself and completely in control of myself. It is here that I truly realise the meaning of ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my ship’.

The Social Aspect of Running:

The other thing that I love about running is the socialising. Since I started running suddenly I have so many new friends whom I would not have met and befriended, but for running. After a certain number of years in life it becomes rather difficult to make new friends with the same temperament and tastes as you and it becomes even harder to maintain those friendships once they are formed due to various reasons. Unless we have a certain common platform, activity or occasions where we meet regularly, you cannot develop the depth of the friendship. But in running, friendships get formed instantaneously for no rhyme or reason. The beauty of running is that you are not tied down to running with the same person every day. Because once again I repeat the phrase, once you are out on the trial, whoever you come across becomes your friend. If you are running at the same pace, then it is inevitable that either you say ‘hi’ or the other person says ‘hey’ and then the conversation begins with ‘how much are you running today?’, ‘since when are you running?’. The panting and the puffing does not give much of a scope for a prolonged conversation, but even a nod of the head or a wave of the hand, if we have the energy left to wave, is enough to develop a ‘runner’s-bond’. Runners are the most sorted-out people. They have no hang ups and are easy on each other.

Runners, I have come to realise, are a different breed altogether. When you are a runner there is no room for pretences, falseness or deceptions. Because hey! you cannot lie about your running. It is out there for all to see. And each person’s running is their own that no one can take that away from you. You are as fast as your body allows you to be. You cannot put some artificial fertiliser to speed yourself up or some catalyst to get better time. Even that will not help you much. So, at the end of the day, because you are your true self the friendships are also easy. It becomes easy to work together.

The Fabled Runner’s High:

What is Runner’s High? Is there really something called Runner’s High? I don’t know what it is. But what I do know is that at the end of the run I experience a deep sense of having done something. I have accomplished something. I have worked for something to the best of my abilities and have earned what I worked for and what I deserved. This sense of fulfilment and achievement leaves me with a deep sense of good feeling and well being and for those few hours I am with a sense of peace with myself and peace with all those around me and at peace with the world at large. This must be the runner’s high because I have not experienced anything like this when I am actually running. So I have come to the conclusion that maybe for me it happens after I complete the run. There is a lot of science jargon involved in this which I shall desist from using. Suffice to say that those few minutes of euphoria is enough to make anyone run.

I do not drink beer and hence cannot vouch for many runners who say that beer tastes better after a run. But I have noticed that the coffee or tea that we drink or the food that we eat tastes better after a long and tiring run. Your body is so exhausted and full of endorphins that all the sensations are heightened and all the experiences are more profound during those few minutes after the completion of a run. You feel elated and on top of the world. This is the reason why millions all across the world have taken to running and continue running despite all the pressures in their lives and despite injuries and many other reasons that there might be for not running.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A runner I befriended on the trial

Many crazy things happen on the trail and on a run. many are memorable events. The selflessness of a fellow runner or a volunteer, something someone said that inspired you to run further, someone cheering you on as you were trudging along slowly due to fatigue or pain, many such incidents help us to carry on running . But I have had the most wonderful and surprising experience or encounter that I am writing today.

My first run was the Bangalore Ultra 2012 last November and as I was running, nah... whom am i kidding, as I was walking, I chatted up with a runner from Vidyaranyapura who trains with the Nike Runner’s club and we talked about the usual, when did we start running, how many races have we run etc. I reached the finish line and forgot her name and everything about her. 

Then I met her in Auroville in a similar way. On the trial, running and walking, and we said hi! and we both expressed surprise for having met again in the similar fashion, again and I asked her name again and we chatted up. Once I crossed the finish line, again I forgot about her in the melee and mad frenzy of cheering the other runners. 

Wonder of wonders, after seven months, after I completed my KTM run, this September, I saw her running up to the finish of KTM said hi! to her as she finished. We spoke for a few seconds, expressed our surprise again and parted ways. This time she sent me a Facebook friend request after KTM. Finally, now I know her name after three chance meetings.

One of my friends met a friend of hers after 20 years on the KTM trial. 

Running never ceases to amaze me and there are many stories that I need to tell and that are coming very soon. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Kaveri Trial Marathon 10km RUN – 14th September 2013

THE TRAINING and THE MOCK RUN for heat training

Our KTM training started towards the end of June and the training program was a steady build up towards the 10km Time Goal target that I was aiming at. I had done my time trial and got a 1:26 as my targeted time to finish my 10km run.  

Our Runner’s High coach usually takes us to Srirangapatna for a mock run a fortnight prior to the actual run on the same course. The run is started a bit late during the day so that the sun is up in the sky and blazing at us as we trudge along the trial in heat that we are not used to being the snobbish Bangaloreans that we are. We curse the coaches, we curse our families, we curse our friends and we curse our fate and stupidity for having believed that we are runners.

The mock run was exactly the horror show that we all had been promised and we all came back exhilarated for having survived the run and being alive to talk about it. I was thrilled to be awarded as the most improved runner and which is a testimony to the fact that from walking I have improved to running a decent pace with all the huffing and puffing. More than anything, it was an award that my running community had given me which I had coveted and will always cherish.


I was very excited about the KTM run as it was the first time that I would be doing the KTM run and I was very curious about it and very excited. Everyone was talking about the horrors of the KTM and how it would be a nightmare due to the humidity and it is called the toughest trail run not without reason.

The start point is the Srirangapatna Bird Santuary and the end point is the Balmuri waterfalls. Since the trial is very narrow, to avoid crowding on the trial, the organisers have prudently made the start point and the end point different. It is an A to B race and we do not start from point A turn back at point B and return to point A. This is to the advantage to all the runners as we get to run on the trial that is the most
scenic, most pristine and the most untouched by human commercial activity trial in all of India. You do not find a single house, hut or concrete building or any construction for the entire 10km stretch.  

We arrived at the start point well before time and there were a lot of high fives, back slapping and hi, hello good morning etc. The start area was crowded with more than 800 to 1000 runners and we were wished good luck by the Runner’s High full and half marathoners who had come a day prior to their runs just to cheer us.

The speech was long but it was very interesting to me as it was the first time that I was hearing the young race director talk about the route, aid stations, history of the race and the course records etc. He mentioned Santhosh and Runner’s High to loud cheering and applause by the huge RH community present at the venue. I am sure that there were at the very least 100 participants in the 10K category from RH itself.

Usually I quieten down at the very beginning of the race. My mind calms down and usually the thoughts I have are always the same. I contemplate on the last few days of training, what I have gone through to get to the race line and the wonder that running is and how it has changed my life irrevocably. It is very interesting that it is usually the same sequence of thoughts with just the chronology changing a bit here and there. At that time, I remember very well, I thought that just the fact that a couch-potato like me who always made excuses for any kind of physical activity or exercise and who led a sedentary life style, is at this start line waiting for the flag to be waved, ready to run,  is a very big achievement in itself.

The training we have been through is something that I marvel at each and every week that I receive the mail with the training plan of that week. Each time I read about the ladder workout or the Fartlek or the speed workouts, I feel like an athlete training for the Olympics. Santhosh always mentions in his last pep talk mail that we must call ourselves athletes and I had not believed it in the first 2 or 3 seasons. But at that point in time I completely believed it because at that time I felt that I am already a winner as I am standing there waiting for the start gun in my head, waiting to run.

The start was three minutes late according to my watch. But when the chequered flag was waved, we all set out to a whoop from here and a hoot from there. The first few minutes was a walk due to the crowd as each of us tried to make way through the hundreds of people slowly plodding or jogging their way about. The Cauvery River to our left and the fields to the right with the trial in between is a sight to behold. There were stacks of sugarcane at several points waiting for the tractor to come and pick them up and take them to the market or the sugar factory as their destination.

There were many goats for company and they were unusually quite. Several villagers passed us by in scooters or two wheelers. Some were walking by us and some were standing and staring at us. Some village children cheered us on or joined us for a short distance running with glee and sniggering at the old city folks who have lost their minds and are running. A village woman who was riding pillion on a motor bike was telling the rider of the bike that these village folk must have paid an amout to come and run here and she was wondering how much we might have paid.

Some conversations my other friends had with the villagers:

When one of the runners overheard a conversation and replied in Kannada
Villager: Oh! You know Kannada, so you are from here
Runner: Yes we are from Bangalore and many of us know Kannada
Villager: Why do you folks run?
Runner: Because we do not do the household work and the field work that you people do. So we run to keep healthy
Villager: OOOOhhh!!! Heegooo unte (Translation: Oh my! Is there something as ridiculous as this)
Villager: Do they give you food or do you just keep running
Runner: They don’t give us food if we do not run
Villager: Bewildered look Come and pull out the weeds with us

Villager: Do you pay to come and run here
Runner: Yes
Villager: Did you also pay?
Runner: Yes
Villager: How much did you pay?
Runner: We all paid Rs.1000.
Village: Oh My! In our village no one will pay Rs.1000 to run.

Coming back to my run, as I started along I had it in my mind that I need to do a good time. I know Santhosh says that timing is not important and we need to enjoy the run and the beauty around us. But, in some unfathomable way, I had this notion that I must run fast and get a PB. So out went the tortoise and the hare story of Santhosh and in came my own theory that I must run fast in the first half of the race as I usually tire out during the second half and start walking. Added to this was the memory of the mock run where I had walked the entire distance from 6km to 10km. So, despite being reassures that the actual run will be better than the mock run as we have started one and a half hour early, I started running fast at the first instance. I maintained an 8min pace up to 4 km. I reached the 5km aid station well within my set target time.

I had worn the new fuel belt that my sister had sent me and I got a few admiring comments from many runners who were running behind. After the 5 km mark I slowed down to a walk and saw many runners run past me. I was disheartened that I was being overtaken by so many. I met Chandana and Ashutosh on the way and decided to stick with them. Ashutosh heard my loud breathing and huffing and puffing and advised me to take it easy and enjoy the scenery and the beautiful surroundings. But I had my own agenda. I had decided to race against time.

My fuel belt was my accomplice in my strategy to get a good time. I did not stop at any of the aid stations to save on those few minutes and walked past them sipping water from my fuel belt. Each time I over took Chandana and Ashutosh and they over took me during my walk breaks. This continued on and on till finally I lost them completely when I took a longer walk break. I have noticed that when I am lost in thought and forget myself and forget the fact that I am running, thats when I would have covered a considerable distance and suddenly I come back to the present and lo and behold! I am farther than I thought that I could have been. 

I reached the 9 km mark and decided to run as much as I could. But my body was refusing to run and  I had to really coax it, cajole it and threaten it into running. I came up to the bridge which is 600mts away from the finish line where we had to cross the bridge and take a detour of 150mts and come back. It was a very narrow bridge with a two way path and runners running out and runners running back in.

Alas! When I reached the end of the detour and turned back a bullock cart came by and we all had to stop to give it the right of way. After all we are the trespassers and are using the trial and the bridge that belongs to them. We have borrowed it from them for those few hours. We had to walk behind the bullock cart and the runners who had to enter the path had to wait for the bullock cart to pass and give them the way. It is a real compliment to the running community that not one runner complained about this or cursed about this reducing their time or spoiling their run.

Finally I got back on course having successfully completed the detour and not getting lost! At the 300mts mark I was struggling and walking to the finish. I saw Santhosh and he yelled “come on Asha, no walking, the finish is just around the corner and you have to finish strong”. There was a very steep incline looming large ahead of me. I told Santhosh “no santhosh, I cannot run”. He said “after the up you have to run”. I saw a very reasonable possibility in this option her had given me. I said “yes”. I walked with renewed purpose and strides up the incline and ran with new vigor and determination.

I blazed to the finish completely exhausted but feeling right on top of the world at having finished a tough race but came out with flying colours. I was breathless and trying to catch my breath as a volunteer came and asked me if I wanted water or Enerzal. I said I just want to catch my breath. After that I asked someone for water and someone else went running and got me water. Felt like a superstar to be pampered like this. I realised I had not collected my medal and went and asked the volunteer for one. He put it around my neck and I felt like an Olympian receiving her medal with the national anthem playing in the background. Must say that by these small attention to details the organisers manage to make us feel like champions which makes us come back to KTM year after year.

My phone beeped and I got my timing and was thrilled that despite everything I had got my PB. I might not be the fastest runner around, but with each run I am improving and with each run I am learning something new. Each run has become something important and an irreparable part of my life.

 When people say running is a metaphor for life I have not understood what it means. But running for me is something that I have found all of a sudden. I had not known that all my life I was looking for something to giev meaning to my life without even realising that I was searching for something and suddenly I find that running is fulfilling that need. Running has completed my search. Now a new quest has begun on the roads or on the trials during each run where I get newer answers and more questions.


Why did this post take so long in coming? Almost a month?

First of all I was not very sure about my writing capabilities, my command over the English language, my grammer, my creativity and skills in writing. I used to just write to compose my thoughts and give vent to all teh buzz going on in my head. But I felt that I should not torture people into reading my poor attempts at blogging, not that I was much of a blogger and waste other people's time in reading my ramblings and mumblings.

Also, I was not getting the words to express and write about my KTM run. All I could remember was the next day's cheering session and the fun that we had on our return journey.

But all of a sudden my friend asked me why I was not writing anymore and I thought why not!? I opened a new blog page and out came the words pouring all oevr the screen. I have not editied them and they are raq and direct. I apologise for any mistakes and errors and am open to any teasing and welcome any ribbing that I might get from everyone.



I will post a few pics very soon! Promise!!