Proof that God loves runners

As just about all the world knows, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon has been under a cloud for the past 2 weeks.

A literal cloud of vile toxic smog.

The Delhi AQI was so bad that the Indian Medical Association demanded the cancellation of the race, and (exceptionally, I think for a big event such as this) people who decided not to run because of the smog were reimbursed.

I was in a quandary, obviously wanting to run, yet worried about the pollution, and so I told myself that if the air was disgusting when I woke up at 4 am today, I wouldn’t run.

On Friday night we had a little overnight rain, which meant that our pre-race walk early yesterday morning in Sanjay Van was delightful.  Cool, clean air (though we were in a dense forest, which definitely helps) and altogether fabulous.

This morning, then, when I emerged and went out to sniff the air (I kid you not.  Out I toddled onto my terrace to sniff the air like some demented old bloodhound 😛 ) it smelled OK.

And you know what?

The air quality felt fine for the whole of the race, & I didn’t experience any breathing problems at all, so in all fairness I can’t blame the weather for not meeting my self-appointed goal…

It was also borderline chilly, which was w-a-y better than the sun beating down.

As promised by the organisers, the route had been watered to help keep down the dust and pollutants.

A great day to race, in fact.

So, all in all, I would posit that this is proof positive that God definitely loves runners 🙂

Our ASICS Running group had planned to run together, but in the inevitable male/female lines for security and then the loos, Sonali & I ended up pretty much running together, unable to locate the blokes in the huge crowd in our start zone.

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We started together, ran most of the way together, though I dropped behind due to pit stops.  I caught up with Sonali at India Gate, and we finished the race together, hugging and getting a little teary & emotional at the finish line.

SUPER SPECIAL.

When we collected our medals, we each presented it to the other.  And why not?

This is what special running memories are made of.

I still have so much to learn and achieve in running – how to pace myself, how not to feel nauseous around 15km and then again at 21km.  21km, for crying out loud.  So close and yet so far…

But all that is for another day.

For today, it is a day for constant Whatsapp messages in my running group as we share the gazillions of photos.  It’s time to relax and enjoy the moment.

And, you know what?

I think it’s also a day to give thanks to whatever God one believes in, for the amazing, unexpected weather today.

Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2017 you were wonderful.  You worried us all sick in the run-up, but in the end, it was all too brilliant.

What did you see on your run today? #324 comes from Wales & is amazing!

Almost telepathically, the evening before I run the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon tomorrow, the girl who got me into running 4 years ago, the lovely Kathakoli Dasgupta, sent me some photos she took on her run today in Wales.

Katha now lives in England, but this post comes from the Welsh town of Machynlleth (NO idea how to pronounce this!).

As Katha ran in the rain – ah yes, British weather – she saw an amazing sight.  To wit:

She takes up the story.

“As I was running back to our hotel by the clock tower, I noticed a funny mannequin.  A closer look revealed these gems.

Reminded me of a scene from Great Expectations!

It’s apparently done as a community charity project.  Lovely, isn’t it?”

Quite amazing, and possibly, if you were leaving the pub late at night – borderline scary!

“Why I’m not running the Delhi half marathon”

Today, Tuesday, the week of the biggest running event in Delhi’s calendar, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, and I’m still conflicted.

Of course I want to run this flagship event.

Hell’s bells, this is what we have been working towards, all through the long, brutal summer.

But, like so many of my felllow runners, I’m worried about the pollution which, though decreasing a little, is still in the hazardous zone.

One of the most dazzling runners on the Delhi NCR circuit is the tall, leggy, elegant Reeti Sahai.  Whip smart, passionate, bubbly, Reeti is a young woman who lives to run and runs to live.

She’s also damn fast and a regular podium winner.

But Reeti is not running ADHM.

She tells us why here.

And since this comes from such a fit, experienced young woman, I take her counsel very seriously.

Reeti, in her own words:

”I’ve trained pretty hard for the upcoming Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.  Alarms at unearthly hours. Discipline everywhere – food, sleep, what to eat and drink, stretches, massages, you name it.

But I have missed my training for a week now.

I’ve just not been able to run outdoors.

I ended up buying a Vogmask and tried running with it, but couldn’t run beyond 200 metres.

The AQI index is still at an all time high.

The smog is unbearable.  My eyes are watering, throat itching and I feel drained of energy.

Its a horrible feeling.

To have to live in these conditions and not be able to do what I love doing – run!

Im feeling miserable.

And nothing seems too be happening to the pollution levels either.  No actions seem to be taken.  The ministers are missing in action.  Passing the buck.  No accountability.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

And yes, I’ve been running for a few years now – and it’s only getting worse at this time of the year.

I have consciously ignored it all this while.

However, I do realise I’m harming my health in the long run.  And therefore, I’m choosing not to run in these conditions.

The last I can do for myself.

I choose long term gains vs short term.

It’s absolutely crazy to be breathing heavily in the current situation.

It’s a state of chemical warfare not just air pollution.

And yes, the choice is personal.

Runners, friends, people, please make an informed choice for yourself.

There are many races.  They come and go.  Your lungs wont!

Were old enough to make wise choices for ourselves.

Good luck and healthy living, people!”

A powerful statement by a strong and powerful young woman, and someone I respect & like enormously.

Pause for thought.

Reeti, IF I run (& it’s still a big “if”) I’ll miss your excited whoop when you see friends at the finish line, and your big generous bear hug.

Running away from pollution. Literally

That’s what a group of us did this Sunday morning.

We decided to escape the filthy toxic air enveloping Delhi, for at least the time of one nice long run.

So, wake up at 4.30 (well, I did)

Rendezvous in the chilly dark smog of Delhi at 5.30.

Gather the troops, and off we drove for an hour to Bhondsi in search of clean air.

To put this quest for clean air in perspective, this was the PM2.5 reading when I was getting ready in the dark this morning:

 

(And it got progressively worse during the day, maxing out at a terrifying 999)

As we drove from Delhi to Gurgaon, the satellite city next door, the smog got worse, and we all sat in slightly shocked silence, wondering what on earth we were doing to ourselves.

But as we drove further and further away, and into the Aravali Hills, the air cleared and by the time we arrived in Bhondsi, the air felt clear.  They sky was still quite grey and the sun never really broke through, but it felt way cleaner than Delhi, and since we were running through a forest, it has to have been healthier.

It certainly felt it.

We were a small group – 10 of us from our ASICS running group + our hostess for the morning, the super dynamic Mamta Singh, who ran with us, showed us all the sights along the way, and then gave us a fab breakfast afterwards.

Total win-win.

This was one of the sights, an old temple, with a supposedly fierce looking lion outside, his fierceness kind of ruined by the Barbie Doll pink paint.

We climbed up to a look-out point, with a lovely view of the Aravalis:

With Vaibhav (above).

Without Vaibhav (below).

And here is a lovely slo-mo clip of us in action:

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This was just part of a slap up breakfast that was waiting for us after our run:

And this is my Garmin track log of where we ran, to justify all the food!

We did 2 full loops, climbing up the hill to the jolly pink temple twice, and a slightly truncated last loop.

Bhondsi jail is the large square compound in the bottom left corner, by the way.

Total distance was 13.89 km.  Which is the same as 14km, right? 😛

When we reluctantly left Mamta to head back to Delhi, about 4km from her home we drove back into a shocking wall of smog that saw us all the way back to Delhi.

And, happy after a brilliant run, we all agreed that (a) it was totally worth getting up for and (b) we have to do this trip again.

And the Delhi half marathon is on!

I suppose we all knew, deep down, that an event as high profile as the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, scheduled for next Sunday – the 19th November – would always take place.

Guess there is just too much money tied up in such an event, to cancel it at such short notice, despite the terrible air pollution here.

Sure, I’m relieved that ADHM (Airtel Delhi Half Marathon) is taking place, because I love running this race.

BUT – I’m also terrified, because I am so under-trained it’s not funny.  I feel like a student panicking before exams.

The long hot summer of regular training, diligently turning up in what always seemed to be 150% humidity, gosh, those days seem like a lifetime ago.  In the important lead-up to the race, I travelled almost all of September, & therefore broke my training routine and then – wham – we all got sideswiped by the vile pollution smothering Delhi.

I haven’t run once since a rather ill-advised training session on Tuesday and there is only a week to go, and the pollution is still foul.

This is my ‘hood, updated an hour ago.  Down from a sickening 999 a couple of days ago, but still hazardous.

So, yes, whether it is foolish to run the half next Sunday is a moot point, but what is sure is that I haven’t run once since I cut short my training on Tuesday.

Obviously I’m breathing this foul air, just by dint of living here.

But I guess I haven’t specifically damaged my lungs any further by running.

The mere fact of living in Delhi is damage enough.

I can’t even bear to contemplate the word “tapering” (that thing we are all supposed to do in a structured manner, pre-race) because effectively I’ve been tapering since Tuesday, and I’m sure that is not how it is supposed to happen.

One day I’m doing a fab long run in the forest, feeling vaguely in control of my training.

The next day, felled by toxic air.

That’s not how tapering works.

Trying not to stress and panic here…

What’s on your running playlist? “SWEET DREAMS” by Eurythmics

Good Lord, how on earth did I not already have this on my playlist?

Seriously 😛

Thank God for friends like Preeti Sethi Chima who, as a fitness instructor, knows her way round motivating music.

Like “Sweet dreams”.

bpm?

See, I knew you’d ask!

bpm=125 & so I’ve put this song towards the start of my playlist, when I need to be energised and run but perhaps not that fast, as we all jostle our way out of the stadium, and I try to control my pace, which I am hopeless at.

So this good, steady but not-too-fast rhythm is perfect.

And if you, too, are wondering why on earth this isn’t already on your playlist – here you go.  The link to buy it.

You’re welcome.

Your running thought of the day

This is me under normal circumstances, huffing and puffing behind all the lithe youngsters I run with.

Like a herd of gazelles they all are, bounding effortlessly ahead while I gasp my way to the finish line 😛

But, sadly, in our current toxic-air-in-Delhi scenario, this is now true for so many of us 🙁

But it’s meant to make y’all smile.

My tribe

Meet my tribe.

My Delhi running group.

In some ways, today was like every other training session.

Effort.  Sweat.  Laughs.  Encouragement.  Learning.  Practice.  Progress.

And in some ways, today was also very different.

Fog.  Smog.  Pollution.  Worries.  Fear.  Concern.  Determination.  Tears.  Injuries.  Aches.  Pain.  Nerves.  Frustration.

Through the pall of pollution, meet my tribe.

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