Running as medicine

I’ve only been running for 4 years, but there are days when I wonder how on earth I ever lived without it.

Truly I do.

Take this morning, for example.

Woke up with a headache, and whereas 4 years ago I’d’ve reached for a paracetamol, now I know better.  Laced up my running shoes and headed out into the cold, stiff breeze whipping off the Thames.

In less than 5 minutes, headache gone and I felt energised and ready to tackle the day.

I mean, how cheap was that “medical” treatment?!

And NO comments about the disastrous hair, thank you very much…I did specifically say there was a stiff breeze whipping off the Thames…

Last week in Paris, at the end of a long lovely day of sightseeing, and prior to meeting friends for dinner, I had a sudden dip in energy. The temptation was to flop on the sofa, have that kindly proffered cup of tea (& then, no doubt, a biscuit or 2 or 3 to accompany it).

Instead, out I headed for a short run, and came back full of beans, to find everyone else slumped in the same position I’d left them in.

It is amazing how good one feels after even the shortest of runs.  The exercise, the fresh air, the endorphins, whatever it is, it all works a treat.

And in such short time.

This morning, for example, I ran for less than half an hour. And to think that it would probably have taken that long for the paracetamol or aspirin to take effect…

Question is – why doesn’t the whole world run?

When women runners take over Paris

Late Sunday morning & we get on the metro in Paris.

On the platform is a young woman in running gear, pink T-shirt & a garland of (artificial) flowers round her neck – like one of those Hawaiian “leis”.

Then another girl.

Then another woman.

Then another.

And another.

Then a whole group in turquoise Ts and garlands.

And when we got on the train, we couldn’t move for women in running gear.

And so I asked.

Obviously.

Sunday was, we learned, the day of La Parisienne – a 5km race for women, around some of the most iconic monuments in Paris.

One young girl told me there were 40,000 women running.

What fun! Most of th women had garlands, most had a rose as well, plus their medals.

Another runner tod me that it wasnt specifically a breast-cancer awareness event, like the Pinkathon in India, but was more aimed at getting women to exercise and start running.

All I can say is, the metro was a sea of colour and flowers 🙂

 

 

“Christine! There are no Himalayas in Delhi!”

Ouch, Coach.

Ouch.

There was I, thinking I was doing those (hated) planks SO perfectly, but apparently not…my bottom was sticking clearly up 😛

But at least we were lying down for the planks, after a crazy hectic session of interval training in killer humidity.  Having never trained and drilled before during a Delhi summer, since I always used to run alone, it seems as though it has been hot and humid forever, but anyway, it’s all good for the soul.

I hope.

We were a nice big group this morning, even before we knew there was cake for Abhay’s birthday!

We ran our warm-up lap outside the sports complex for a change, because the track was wet after all the rain yesterday, then moved inside for drills:

 

Today’s main bill of fare was interval training and it was a funny old session for me.

I ran one lap without my glasses, because they kept steaming up with the humidity, but felt too insecure without them, so put them back on & kept trying to wipe them with an increasingly sweaty T shirt.

As one does.

I also have a slight hamstring strain in one leg, so that slowed me down.

Yeah, you’re right #excuses.

After about 4 or 5 rounds I was ready to give up, just too damn knackered to continue.

Then Coach came up with yet another of his sayings 🙂

One of the girls had slowed down to a walk, and he was explaining why that’s not a good idea – better to run even slower than walk, but definitely keep running, since otherwise one gets into the habit of walking.

Guilty as charged.

I then said something to the effect of “Even though you know it’s wrong, sometimes you’re so exhausted that your brain just tells you to walk”.

Quick as a flash, Coach retorted “Then switch off your brain and your GPS.”

I continued on my laps, thinking about this, and for once disagreed with Coach Vijay.  It was actually my brain that kept me going today, telling me “you’ve done 6…over half way there…now 7…only 3 to go…”

And once I knew I could do my 10 laps, without once slowing down to a walk, it was relatively easy to keep going.

I wasn’t very fast, but I’m quite pleased, given the hamstring ache.

My lap timings equated to the following speeds:

5.59 min per km (minus my glasses, remember)

5.52

5.34

5.33

5.11

5.33

5.33

5.33

5.54 (hmm…what happened here?)

5.32

So, all in all, quite chuffed.

After this we planked – and I tried to imitate a Himalayan peak instead of a flat profile 😛

Then we did some new stretches:

Coach showing how it’s done.

While the others were doing yoga asanas, Navi & I were clowning around for the camera. We called this our Facebook asana!

More yoga asanas, some done to perfection by my fellow runners, like young Megha here:

And Coach:

And then there was yours truly, making a dog’s breakfast of it all.

You can see Narain looking askance at me, bless him…

…and then he kindly corrected my terrible position.  That bottom again 😛

Joking aside, another great session with – as ever – great learnings.

Clearly, I can no longer ignore the siren call of yoga.

Just gotta start.

Hopefully it will loosen up my ageing joints and make me able to touch my toes, the way I could years ago…

New challenge, then.  To get supple.

And here’s my lovely tribe.

Smiling away, even without cake!

Guilt & running. Running & guilt. And repeat.

A little under 4 years ago I started running.

To be honest, those first few weeks could hardly be called “running”, as I huffed and puffed my way through an agonisingly slow 100 metre trot : 200m walk, 100m trot : 200m walk, and so on.

Almost 4 years on, I marvel at how an activity can take over your life.

And your spirit, and mind, too, if that doesn’t sound too pompous.

I mean, just look at me, not-yet-4-years old, and feeling totally guilty if I don’t run.

Feeling low and dejected until I lace up those running shoes.

When did that happen?

Yesterday morning, for example, I’d planned to get up early and run, but didn’t, so then spent the rest of the day:

a) feeling guilty and vaguely irritable

b) planning how I could fit my work into a timetable that would allow me to head out before it got too dark to run

And, for the record, when I did beat the work demons, and the light, and the infernal heat & humidity here in Delhi, I ran a super slow 6km and came home feeling fantastic.

When did my body and my mind change so radically, that something I’d never ever done 4 years ago can now determine my mood?

Let me get the unscientific bit out of the way first.

I think peer pressure certainly accounts for much of the guilt feeling.

Before joining my current ASICS running group some months ago, I ran on my own.

My original all women’s running group, with whom I learned how to run, petered out a long time ago, so for at least 2 years I ran on my own.

No idea how to train, no idea what anyone else was doing, no-one to compare myself to.

I loved the solitude, I have to say, but the group energy, once I started running with ASICS was/is totally infectious.  But it also can have pernicious side-effects if you are an insecure runner, like yours truly.

Our super active Whatsapp group erupts into life and chatter in the predawn darkness as everyone wakes up, says a cyber-hello and heads out to run.  An hour or so later, everyone is back online chatting, sharing their run stats, photos, news.

And on days when I am not part of these morning runs, I feel strangely anxious, looking at their happy photos & run timings & – yes – feeling miserably guilty for not running.  And worried that they are making progress and I’m not and…and…and…

This morning is an identical repeat of yesterday.

Alarm goes off at 4.45am and even though I was all primed to go for a 15km with my ASICS buddies, I simply could not summon the energy to get up, and now here I am feeling guilty and trying to assuage that guilt by writing about it… 😛

I shall run this evening, despite not being “an evening runner” and then I’ll feel better.  I know it.

Which gets me back to the starting point.

Why do we feel guilty for not running?

I wondered if it was just me, but a quick Google search reassures me that I am not alone in feeling bad when I don’t run.

Not running on a mandated rest day is one thing.

I never felt guilty about those days (Monday for me), since that’s the day I take my dogs for a super long walk in the forest.

So it’s not rest-day-guilt here, it’s not-running-on-a-day-when-you’d-planned-to-guilt.

I found an excellent article on the outsideonline.com website, which I’m sharing here with this link.  This resonated wth me on so many levels.

And, as if on cue, and I am telling the Gospel truth here, as I’m writing, my Whatsapp group chat is pinging away with photos of the 14km run I missed this morning, and the happy group photos and the post-run breakfast…

Roll on 5.30 this evening when I will head out to battle my own guilty demons.

#guiltyascharged

“You’re never to old to start a new life”

Since getting old, many things in my life have changed….HEY, don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with ’em all 😛

But one big change is the fact that I now officially love websites and social media feeds that glorify fellow wrinklies.

The idea that we old fogeys are still capable of doing, achieving, creating – well, it fills me with joy and hope.

Like this AMAZING story from the BBC.

Charles Eugster started running at 95.  Yup.  You read that correctly. 95.

Now that knocks my own little USP of “Oooh look at me, starting running at 60” into a cocked hat!

95, damn it.  Makes me feel (almost) young.

I had blogged about this amazing man 2 years ago, about how he took up body building at 87 🙂  Here’s the link to a truly feel-good story that I’d shared earlier.

And now here’s a truly fab story from the BBC.  The sad fact that Mr. Eugster died a couple of months ago, age 97, in love, a world record holder…well, of course that’s sad.

I’d hoped he would go on for years more.

But it does not in any way detract from the feats of one super inspirational man.

Here you go.

Watch.

Enjoy.

Be inspired.

I give you the World 95-100 year sprint champion!

Charles, a world athletics champion at 97.

“You’re never too old to start a new life.” Be inspired – Charles took up sprinting at 95!(From BBC Stories)

Posted by BBC Family & Education News on Thursday, August 24, 2017

And just like that, it all began…

4 years ago today, it all began.

My love affair with running.

Facebook tells me that 4 years ago today, my friend & mentor Rajat Chauhan, a man whom I will always consider to be my running guru, tagged me in this post on Facebook.

At this stage, 23 August 2013, 1 was about 10 days away from turning 60, and trying to handle the whole ghastly getting-so-bloody-old thing with dignity.

So I started a bucket list.

The idea was that this bucket list would somehow console me for being so old, or so I thought.

And for some reason, “learn to run” was on the list.

I’d just climbed my first ever technical peak – Mentok Kangri – a week before, so there was actually already one tick on the list.

I would later be in a Bollywood movie, and on the BBC, all future ticks to come.

But running…

When Doc tagged me in this, I thought, “You know what, Christine, why ever not?  It’s just 2 months.  That’s all it is, and at the end of it, you can take part in a race.”  That was also to be a tick on that bucket list, since – as a total sporting duffer all my life – I’d never played sport, never run in a race, never…

I never made it to that first meeting on 31 August 2013, because I was on holiday in Hong Kong with my family, “celebrating” turning 60.

Back in Delhi, officially old, I rocked up to the first running meeting in Nehru Park.

And that was that.

Hooked.

For life.

Wear a sari. Run a marathon.

There are times when India amazes me.

Well, let’s be more precise & say that the people of this great country amaze me.

Like Jayanthi Sampath Kumar.

We haven’t met, but through the joys of social media, I read how Ms Kumar ran the Hyderabad marathon on Sunday.

In a sari.  As one does.

So I contacted her through Facebook, and she said, yes, sure, please go ahead and use my photo.

So here is the lady herself, crossing the finish line.

Quite amazing!

Not only did Ms Kumar run a full marathon.

She did it in a sari.

And “chappals” – traditional Indian slippers.

And, on a totally personal note, she ran faster than I have ever done 😛

See what I mean about amazing people?

And now just listen to what she said about her exploit:

“I want to promote handloom and encourage women. This is a statement of my support. I am a cyclist and ride very often, and notice a lot of plastic pollution happening around us. I am keen to curb that and want to use this platform to oppose it. For that, maybe I should run in a sari made of plastic wrappers people throw.”

Thanks www.indiatimes.com

I love this lady already – “maybe I should run in a sari made of plastic wrappers people throw…”

Now if that isn’t a challenge, what is?

Any designers out there listening?

Intervals. And repeat. And again. And again.

Delhi was super, super humid this morning, as I met up with my ASICS tribe.

“What’s super super humid?” do I hear you ask?

Try 91% humidity at 4.45 in the morning.

Will that do you?

Anyway, humidity or no humidity, we were a large group this morning, for a killer interval session.

Let me remind you what interval training involves, and I quote:

“Interval training, also known as interval workouts or interval runs, are short, intense efforts followed by equal or slightly longer recovery time. For example, after a warmup, run two minutes at a hard effort, followed by two to three minutes of easy jogging or walking to catch your breath.”

Thanks Runners World 🙂

For me, the quantum leap this morning was the length of each session of intervals – 1200m.

For me, definitely, that’s the longest interval I’ve done.

Our group did 1200m x  3 with a break after each set.

I was the laggard in our group – ran too much/too fast last night, apparently, which Coach kindly pointed out was not the most sensible thing to have done, when I knew there would be speed work today…he’s right, of course.

Didn’t plan my run.

#somuchto learn

So, yes, I was always the last in our group, and my timings were WAY slower than what Coach had suggested.

But here goes:

1.21km in 6:45

1.25km in 7:45

1.23km in 7:40

Hardly a stellar performance, and I slowed down to a walk a couple of times, but the main thing is, I didn’t quit, despite being sorely tempted to do so, I might add 😛

Humidity and hydration were the leitmotiv of our workout this morning:

Drenched in sweat, but both Deepti (above) & Kanwal (below) ran super strong.

What never ceases to amaze me about my fellow runners is their sheer joy & happiness, exhaustion/heat/humidity notwithstanding.

Always smiles:

As I battled my own exhaustion demons this morning, wanting to stop but not allowing myself to do so, I reflected on what was still to come in our session – planks.

And I remembered that I had never so much as even attempted a plank before joining this ASICS Running Club.

And now I can hold for one whole long agonising minute.

Or not.  As the case may be.

The camera doesn’t lie, right, so here I am quite clearly not planking 😛

Compromising photos apart, the fact is that I can now do a one-minute plank -> progress -> means that persistence pays.

Perhaps one day I won’t be the tortoise of intervals!

And here we all are, sweaty, exhausted, but still smiling.

The half marathon that sort-of-kind-of-wasn’t..

Now if you want to read a tale of courage in the face of adversity, a story that explains why runners are the way they are, then let me point you in the direction of young Ripu Daman’s account of his very first half marathon last Sunday.

Except…er…well…umm…sort of…it wasn’t…

When Ripu went to collect his bib on Saturday for his first HM, he found – to his consternation – that he had mistakenly registered for the 10km.

So, what did he do?

Here, let Ripu tell his own story, which he has done in his blog.  Here’s the link.

This is an impressive tale of a young man who ran the 10km x 2 + an extra km.  In the pouring rain.

As in seriously Mumbai-style monsoon downpours.

As in ankle deep water.

It’s a great read, I promise 🙂

 

Shabash, my young friend, and WHAT an impressive time for your first ever half marathon, and that, too, in slightly bonkers circumstances!

“You run so much so how come you are not thin?”

In the early days of my running “career” (which only started about 4 years ago) I was told by a member of my Indian husband’s family that, “We all agree you are completely ridiculous for running at your age.”

Ouch.

Subsequently the same person (no names, no pack drill) said, and I quote, “You really are making a fool of yourself, you know, with all this stupid running.”

There was more, but it makes me irritated to think about it.

Perhaps had I been younger, or more assertive, I’d have told said people where to get off, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.

I just listened to the petty words and inwardly fretted that, yes, actually, perhaps at 60 I was “completely ridiculous” and making a fool of myself.

4 years on, even though I still sometimes have my doubts, I just can’t be doing with such nasty comments.

Cannot.  Be.  Bothered.

I thought it was just me, until I read a post on Facebook this morning from the young and lovely Beejal Dhawan.

And I quote the lady herself:

“While I was running my LSD this morning….one thing kept drawing my attention … which was….One relative who visited us yesterday… asked me,”You visit remote places….cities … countries… pay so much money for registrations….flight tickets…hotel stays…does someone reimburse it to you …to which my obvious answer was No… to which she said … then why the hell do you do it …so much running… you are already fit … gayab hona hai kya…look at your face… it’s lost its charm….ab apne saath saath Ramon ko bhi laga diya hai ismein….what do you derive out of it … To which my answer was HAPPINESS & HEALTH…..!!” This is not the first time someone has asked me this … especially family… am sure most of my running buddies must have faced this situation with family & friends…. So what is your take to a similar situation guys ?”

Er.  Hello?  “Your face…it’s lost its charm…”

What??

For anyone who doesn’t know Beejal, she’s a knockout.  Absolutely gorgeous.  And a damn fine runner as well.

Almost as revealing as her original posting, were follow-up comments her friends made:

From Ashita Ajmera Shah: ” Oh Beejell .. I have faced this many a times and my reply is “I love what I am doing” and end the conversation there itself. It’s a task to let people understand what you have achieved unless they start doing the same.”

And then this one from one of our mutual running friends, the equally lovely Priti Thakkar Zaveri :

“I face a very funny one- I get to hear many a times- you run so much – even then how come you are not thin- I mean you still are not thin you know- ?!! I always reply- so the glow you see on my face (best one is after a run!) is cause I love running and doing what I am doing!! I know I don’t fall into “customary thin-athlete body” but I am doing what makes me happy and that’s what matters at the end of the day!”

My goodness me, Priti, but you are SUPER well-mannered.

Unless the person telling you that you’re not thin is a stick insect, you should tell them to mind their manners!

Men apparently get asked those questions, too:

Dharmendra Kumar replied: ‘We can all pray at home. Why do we spend time, money and travel far corners of the world for that holy site and pray? You have a reason for that, I have reason for running. This is the best analogy I give…especially to elders who question my running. Can’t say this to an atheist though 😊

For youngsters, give them the analogy about drinking…going to pubs/bars instead of having it at home 😎”

And the charming Alfredo Miranda also weighed in:

“Someone said “The heart has reasons that… the mind will never understand”. If my own mind can’t understand it… why to waste time trying to explain other’s mind… I gave up long time back.”

Very philosophical, Alfie.

Gosh.

What is it with people trying to rain on our parade?  Do we runners make remarks about couch potatoes?  Or about other people’s lack of exercise or fitness?

No.

We don’t.

So people should stop passing comments about the passion and the drive and the months of hard work every runner puts in.

And, before I sign off, let’s go back to the lovely Beejal, shall we?  Just watch her starring in her own TV ad, and then remember “look at your face… it’s lost its charm…”

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