Fartleking around

Getting back into the saddle – as it were – after nearly a month away is not easy, but it has to be done.

Even though I run when I’m traveling, I don’t train.

I don’t do intervals or speed training or fartlek.  I simply run.

And there is a world of difference between the two.

The fun part is the running & exploring new places.

The hard part is the structured training & that is reserved for my Delhi running group.

So this morning’s fartlek session was a brutal and humbling reminder of how much work goes into becoming a better runner, and how much one needs a coach and, let’s never forget, the generous support of a running tribe.

My tribe was in great shape today, by the way.

Great turn out, too, which is always a heartening scene.

Despite the heat and humidity – just a precursor to what is yet to come as summer proper gets under way – we worked hard, under the steady, guiding hand of our ASICS Running Club coach, Vijay Shukla.

Coach never gets rattled, never loses his cool, and manages to handle a large group of differing abilities, and motivate every single one of us.

So, yes, today’s fartlek.

First of all, what is fartlek, do I hear you ask?

It’s a Swedish word (like plogging, by the way!):

This is what it looks like, in a simple diagrammatic form:

Today we did 8 x 2 minutes fast + 1 minute slow, and if that doesn’t sound much, believe me, it was a killer.

Half way through my 3rd rep, I felt nauseous and slowed down and was, I admit, ready to give up, so soon into the session.

Eagle-eyed Coach was having none of it, and shouted at me across the ground to get moving.

So I did.

And the “crisis” passed, I finished the whole series, admittedly getting slower on each rep, but also feeling stronger as I went along.

It’s weird, feeling so exhausted but not allowing yourself to give in to it.

When the mind is stronger than the body, and you keep going because of that voice saying stuff like this:

Damned if you’re stopping, old girl.

Only 5 more reps to go.

Now 4.

See, you’re half way through, & the whole group has turned round and is now running in the other direction so turn round quickly, you old idiot, and don’t make a fool of yourself.

3 to go.

Only 2 reps left, and there’s Coach alongside you, saying imagine you are at the 40km stage of your marathon, only 2 km left and just go!

No, you are not giving up now, so stop moaning and run.

Just 1 rep to go, and there’s Coach smiling and signalling to you to stop, and you feel fantastic!”

And I did indeed feel fantastic.

Knackered. Red faced. But fantastic.

One of our tribe, Sunil Punshi, has been sidelined with injury for months, yet he still comes to every session and photographs us all in action (like yours truly, above).

He’s a great photographer & I especially love the slo-mo below:

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Here are more moments from this morning:

Rachna (above) making a splendid re-entry into the group, after missing quite a few sessions due to her son’s accident, while Ripu (below) runs despite being injured.

After fartleking around, we did our cool down laps and stretched:

And then some of us plogged, rounding off an altogether rather Swedish session, including 2 new runners from the Swedish Embassy.

(By the way, won’t you please check out our plogging feed on Instagram? @ploggersofindia)

And here are our spits from this morning.

They’e not mine, sadly but Navi’s.

One day I’ll be as fast and as superbly consistent as he is. Until then, I’ll tag along in his wake.

And try and pass his splits off as my own 😛

What did you see on your run today? Lots and lots and then some!

As I do most Mondays, I took the dogs this morning to run in the forest at the Army Polo Club.

After last night’s crash-bang-wallop of a storm, the air was cooler and cleaner and fresher this morning, and it was an absolute joy to be out, running and walking.

The dogs rushed all over the place, excited by the cooler temperature, and I tried not to feel too sad at the sight of so many fallen branches.

We saw peacocks dancing and horses being exercised.

We saw cows, and lots of noisy lapwings trying to divebomb us if we approached their nests.

And, such a thrill, we also saw a nilgai.

I haven’t seen one here for a couple of years at least, so it was a real joy.

As you can see, he was pretty unfussed by me, letting me tip-toe quite close:

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Eventually he headed off, but super relaxed about the whole thing.

Such a treat 🙂

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Why the guilt?

I’ve discussed guilt and running here before, I know.

But since I’m going through a mega bout of runner’s guilt this morning, I thought I’d share my anguish with you.  Sort of vent all over you, and hope I’ll feel less guilty by the end of it all.

I was supposed to do a 10km trail run this morning.

There were many excellent reasons for signing up & paying for the Bhatti run:

a) I wanted to run

b) It would’ve been good practice for my upcoming climb to Banderpoonch next week

c) I’m training for a marathon so need every run I can get

d) I’d promised to help in a plogging initiative after the run with my co-PloggersofIndia friend Ripu Daman, at the specific invitation of the race organisers

e) Never been to Bhatti and very much wanted to see the area, especially in company, for safety

So, yes, lots of valid reasons for getting up and hitting the trail.


It was raining at 4.00 when I got up.

And so I went back to bed.


I didn’t want to risk slipping on a wet, muddy trail a week before leaving for my climb.

And, of course, when I woke up a couple of hours later, and of course it wasn’t raining, I felt awful and regretful and foolish and guilty and…



Why all the guilt?

As I remember asking in my last blog post on the subject, do swimmers feel guilty when they don’t swim?  Or footballers when they don’t play?

Just what is it about this running gig that makes us feel so bad if we skip a run?

Today’s guilt is admittedly largely because of the plogging initiative, which I could easily have gone for without running.  I only realised that when I woke up.  Wasn’t thinking that clearly at 4 o’clock in the morning.

There’s huge guilt at letting a friend down.

But in my case – and I am a tad obsessive about things I love and care about – it’s the endless calculation of how much time till my marathon vs the brutal Delhi summer weather + missed opportunity + + +

Why does missing a run through thorny, rocky countryside in the heat fill me with such regret?

Welcome to runner’s guilt.

That’s the one thing they don’t tell you about when you start running.


What did you see on your run today? #377 comes from the Lake District

Sitting here in sweltering Delhi, I’ve already forgotten the cold of the old home country, even though I was there just a couple of weeks ago.

So when my UK based girlfriend Kathakoli Dasgupta – the girl who set me off on my running journey – sent me photos from last weekend in the Lake District, I gazed at them in total envy.

Katha and Dave were in the Lake District for the Keswick half marathon, which Dave ran.

Much of the route for this run goes around Derwent water, so Katha ran around there and shared some of her beautiful photos.  Apparently it was, and I quote, “too misty for good photos”…sigh…

Just take a look at her photos:

That lovely cool mist…

Such beauty.

Thanks, as ever, Katha.

#keeprunning #keepinspiring

What did you see on your run today? Oh, a Mughal monument, that’s what

After weeks away from Delhi, I finally got back to pounding the home pavements yesterday, during the slowest 12km run EVER in the history of the universe.

Since Delhi is now hot hot hot, we started early – we, by the way, is yours truly & her partner in crime, the affable and long suffering Ripu Daman.  A much faster runner, this charming young man happily lets me dictate the pace and pretends not to notice when I regularly slow down, or suggest walk breaks.

Yesterday, however, my slowing down took on a whole new dimension, since we stopped by to visit Safdarjung’s Tomb, a magnificent mid-18th century mausoleum.

It’s this new concept I’m trying to launch – sightseeing while running 😛 – and judging by yesterday’s visit, it was a great success.

There were precisely 3 other people there, doing a fashion shoot, so we wandered around the mausoleum and the fabulous gardens alone.

Such a treat to have all that beauty for oneself.

Makes the dawn wake-up SO worth it.

And here’s a sneak peek of the fashion shoot.

Meet my new running squad

Here they are.

The gorgeous little girl in the red, grey & black sweater is Lakshmi & the beautiful, tall girl in blue is Pallavi.

They were sitting by the side of the road as I started the uphill slog back to Nagini village, a little after Deori, and after a fit of giggles, 3 of them started to run alongside me, and when I ran faster, they ran faster, and when I slowed down, so did they.

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2 others materialised and by then we were chatting and were friends, so I challenged them to a race.

Stupid move, Christine.

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Anyway, it’s all about taking part, right?

And last is better than DNF, right?

The 2 older girls practised their English on me, and at one point when young Lakshmi and I ran ahead, she took the time to invite me to a wedding that was happening in the village the next day.  And, since we were on the subject of weddings, had I had a big wedding?  And where was my husband? And where did I live? And, and and…what a chatty little doll she was.

When we ran through Sairopa village, a group of people sitting outside the village shop laughed and cheered us.  I was trailing an honourable last at that point, so I think there was a degree of sympathy 😛

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And to think, before setting out on this run, I’d wondered whether to go or not.

Having already run in the morning, wasn’t a 2nd run a tad overkill?

Thank goodness I ignored myself and ran.

Would never have met my new running group otherwise.

What did you see on your run today?

I am back in one of my all-time favourite places in India, the beautiful Tirthan Valley, in Himachal Pradesh state.

I went for a slow trot along the valley this morning, feeling distinctly winded by the altitude, which isn’t that high, if the truth be told – just 1477 metres.

But whew! Felt very out of puff, so I ran super slowly, enjoying village life as it happened.  Which is, of course, one of the many joys of running in India.

I saw cows and goats, and dogs a’plenty.  2 dogs lazily tried chasing me, but it was all very half-hearted.

I was greeted by villagers going about their village-y life.

I made a poor wee little boy cry.  He saw me, was so shocked by what he saw, that he promptly fell over & burst into tears 😛

But most of all, I enjoyed village life at its peaceful best.

Like so:

Does running help combat jet lag ?

Of course it does.

Running helps combat almost everything, she adds in a muttered aside.

That statement is a bit simplistic, agreed, and way too enthusiastic, agreed, but in my unscientific opinion, it is 100% true.

Running (in the 4 wonderful years since I discovered it) has proved to be the answer to just about every ill.  Headaches, cabin fever, jet lag…the answer is, go for a run.

To be honest, it beats me why the whole world isn’t out there, running away their aches and pains.

But anyway, yes, back to the matter in hand.

Jet lag.

On Sunday, I flew back over night from London to New Delhi where I live.  Didn’t sleep on the plane, nor did I sleep the first night back, so when my alarm went at 5 am on Tuesday, I wanted to weep from chronic exhaustion and headaches and mosquito bites and feeling so miserable and tired and ill-tempered.

But instead of dozing – which is all I’d managed to do for 2 consecutive nights – I got up, laced up my running shoes and headed out to my local park.  And felt immediately 100% better.  Immediately.  I kid you not.

10 slow happy kilometres later, feeeling fit as a fiddle, I trotted into the house to find everyone else still fast asleep.

While the others slept, I’d seen more peacocks than you could shake a stick at.

I’d seen adolescent peacocks dancing and mock fighting, their little stumpy tail feathers making them look more like turkeys.

I’d said hello to all the park regulars.

I’d explained to the sweet lady selling tea and biscuits outside the park where I’d been & why she hadn’t seen me.

I’d plogged.

And I felt alert and energised.

So. Yes, running definitely combats my jet lag for sure.

Now let’s check out the science a little, shall we?

This article from Runner’s World has some interesting points, though clearly there is still more study needed on exactly why erxercise helps combat jet lag.

This is also a very interesting article.

Ans before you go, do please read the article in this link.  I found it while researching if/why running helps with jet lag, and not only is this a beautifully written ode to running through jet lag, it is also about running in Delhi. It’s good to know that I am not alone in feeling that running is the answer…

So how this hell did this happen?

What on earth has happened to me?

In the 4 1/2 years since I started running, my life has changed in so many ways, 99% of them for the better.

I have changed, too.

And no, it’s not the obvious thing everyone assumes with running – weight loss.  In fact, with boring old-age, I am heavier now than I have ever been in my entire life, even heavier than when I was pregnant, for crying out loud.

So, no, actually, I haven’t really changed that much in physical ways – except being able to run for 42 km, of course!

I have, however, changed emotionally and mentally, and that’s why I am in a terrible, cranky mood this beautiful morning.

I’m in a filthy mood because I didn’t get up and run.

My day is potentially shot now, and all because I didn’t run.

So, as I asked in the title of this blog post – how this hell did this happen?

How does the fact of not going for a run, something I didn’t do for 60 years, suddenly get to define my day and my mood?

For those of you reading this who don’t know me, I started running when I turned 60, as part of a bucket list.

I also climbed a mountain, was on the BBC, was an extra in a Bollywood movie.  All bucket list ticks.

But the lack of those “ticks” in my every day life does not affect me in the way running does.

If I don’t run I feel bad.  End of story.

How is it possible that for decades I successfully negotiated life with just a cup of coffee to get me started and motivated and feeling happy and alert?

How did I get myself through Oxford, and working, and 2 more degrees, and motherhood, and living all over the world, on just a morning cuppa to get me kickstarted?

Why now must it be the fact of running/not running that governs my mood and my day?  Why is today feeling like a bad day, at 9am, just because I didn’t run?

When. Did. This. happen?

Take this morning, for example.

And let me quickly set the scene for people unfamiliar with New Delhi, where I live.

It’s hot here now – as in hot – so early morning running is about the only sensible way to beat the heat.

Delhi is also super-crowded and cursed with insane traffic, so on all logical counts, it makes sense to run in those relatively cool, relatively un-traffic-y dawn hours.

Add to this the fact that Delhi had a storm last night, with rain and strong winds which meant that this morning would have been cool and washed-clean-y, and the normally polluted air would’ve been…


But I didn’t get to experience any of this mood enhancing morning, did I, because I slept horribly badly, and when my alarm went off at 4.45, I could not get up.  Just couldn’t.

So, having tossed and turned, I got up at 6.40, still-tired and headachey, but by then it was already a little too hot to go for that scheduled long run, & so the day started with a feeling of loss, of wasted opportunity, of a moment I’d never get again…and of guilt.

Definite guilt.

Major guilt.

I’d planned to run this morning with a young friend, Ripu, who is coming back from injury.  We’d agreed to do an hour or so’s stretching and training in the Lodhi Gardens, and then run for 13km.

So added to all the above feelings of irritation at not running, is also the guilt at letting one’s friends down.

So, once again, I ask you: when did this happen?  And why does it happen?

How is it that not running can ruin my day, before it has even really got under way?

And…am I alone in feeling like this?

I suspect not, but why oh why oh why does running have this effect on us?

Do swimmers feel like this when they don’t swim?

Footballers when they don’t play?

Jockeys when they don’t race?

Or is this feeling of loss at not having exercised unique to we runners?

(The reason I suspect I’m not alone in the guilt stakes is this article, from which the above quote is taken

https://www.outsideonline.com/2156936/you-can-never-escape-runners-guilt )

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