The lovely story of a Born Again Runner

Before I share with you this lovely, happy come-back post, I owe our guest blogger, the lovely Kathakoli Dasgupta, a HUGE apology.

Katha sent me this from-the-heart account of returning to running from injury more than a week ago.  And I just sat on it.

Inexcusable.

Sorry, my dear, but the delay does not in any way reduce the impact of your blog for us.

So, apologies proffered, let’s listen to British-based Katha’s story 🙂

I did my first 10k/race today since I broke my foot in May.

But I had probably lost my love of running before that.

I thought the 4 month’s break from running (while I recovered from the fractures) would help. So I expected a runner’s high when I did my first post fracture run in Spain. I didn’t then. But I found my mojo back two weeks ago I went out without my Garmin expecting to do a short run before an abs session. Instead I ran and ran and ran. I finally got into that ‘mental running zone’ and boy it felt good—just like before. Since then I have enjoyed every run I have done, a couple of times with my triathlon group, but mostly on my own, mostly Garmin free.

I ran without a Garmin today too, because I just wanted to enjoy the run. And I did—every minute of it.

And seeing my support, my husband at the finish line (having finished his race probably 20 minutes prior) encourage me, I managed my usual sprint finish too.

These are the lessons I have learnt over the years, especially after the fractures. They have helped me rediscover the joys of running after what has been a year of false starts.

Don’t skip strength training. All those squats and lunges definitely help to power up those muscles you need to run. These, together with core training have helped me to keep the post run soreness at bay, which was putting me off running.

Dynamic stretches to warm up before a session and cool down stretches after also help with recovery.  I have learnt the hard way to stop skipping these.

Cross training helps too. I ran every day for 200 days (a feat I completed in 2015). While it helped then to discipline me into exercising daily, by the end of it, I knew the pitfall was boredom. Challenging myself with doing a triathlon and learning to play tennis help to break up the training for me.

Find the right shoe(s). I used to be kitted out by Nike. Besides when I took up running there weren’t too many running shoe brands most of us had access too. I remained a Nike loyal until a few weeks ago when my husband’s cousin suggested OnCloud (OC) to help cushion my feet. I have never felt happier running in any shoe like I do in these. In fact, I may just owe getting my running mojo back to these. There is probably a perfect match for your feet on a shelf somewhere, go find them.

Don’t be foolish. Don’t run if you don’t feel ready or if the conditions are treacherous. Even though I had set myself the Wesham 10k goal in order to get back to running, I had also told myself I wouldn’t run if the conditions were icy—like last year. I would have done a 10k sometime today, but not the race itself.

But saying that, also accept the crazy. Runners are a loony bunch.

So keep the streak of madness alive to enjoy your run in every condition. We were pelted by hailstones 10 minutes after the start of the race and then again half way. I found myself breaking into a laugh—even as I watched my feet.

Just got the results: 60 mins 36 seconds. Thrilled to bits. I really wasn’t expecting it. I thought I probably did it in 63 mins and would have been extremely happy with it. Dave did it in 43:36, just 36 seconds more than his PB.

(Above) This was around 8K when I got quite emotional.

Just to give you an idea of the conditions, below:

Katha, that is SUCH a lovely post, and well done on such a great time, after months of injury.

And, despite being English – you can keep that weather!!  Ugh!

“Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us…”

Our Delhi-based ASICS Running Club turned a year old this week, and so this chilly morning we celebrated.  By eating.

Oh, yeah, right, and by running as well.  Of course we ran 😛

No we did, truly, and we also did some super new strengthening drills – more anon – but today was more about saying a HUGE thank you to our young & devoted Coach, Vijay Shukla, who is the glue binding us all together.

Many of you reading this may not know the people involved, so I won’t go into too much personal detail, but will rather talk in generalities about what (I think) makes a good Coach.

The thing I have loved about this group from Day One has been the complete absence of ego.

We have no star runners.

Well, of course we do.

We have some fabulously talented runners, but there are no airs and graces, no special treatment, and Coach is as interested in and attentive of the weaker runners like yours truly, as he is of the faster, fitter runners.

The world of running in Delhi (where I live) is still relatively small, and it is also still quite a relatively new sport, but even so, there are egos and personalities out there.

But none of that in our running club.

It is NEVER about Coach.

lt is aways about us, and it is always about all of us.  Coach is equally encouraging/equally hard/equally strict with everyone, without any discrimination.  And it was clear from the lovely speeches runners made this morning, that this attitude is greatly appreciated.

Other than my “starter kit” (& sadly short-lived) running group of 16 women, where I learned to run, I’ve never really been in a running group before, so have no point of comparison.  But what I do know is that my current gang celebrates everyone’s success with equal joy.

Like today, when Coach presented a pair of shoes to Sushil Panna, one of the fastest and most low-key members of the group, and a loud cheer greeted the news:

And yes, that undoubtedly speaks to the nature of the women and men in the group, but it also because our Coach has not fostered an atmosphere of ego.  As I said, it’s all about us, the runners.

Every time we set out on our warm up run, Coach invariably says something like “stick together, and run as a team”.  It’s an attitude he fosters, and it’s one of the things that makes this group so nice to be with.

So, happy first birthday to us 🙂

And lucky us for having a coach who cares about us so much.

Fancy running the Antarctic Ice Marathon?

We all know the old joke about “running is a mental sport and we’re all mental,” but the amazing story (below) kinda does make you wonder…

As if running a marathon on city roads isn’t hard enough (cue for me to say “Ask me, I know, I’ve run 4”) try running a marathon at the Antarctic.

Runners brave the Antarctic Ice Marathon

The winner managed it in 3 hours and 37 minutes.

Posted by The Guardian on Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The winner romped home in 3:37:46.

Cue weeping and wailing from your editor – I would kill to run a marathon in 3:37:46 😛

The final 2 finishers – and everyone finished, how amazing is that? So, yes, the final 2 finishers crossed the finishing line together in 8:56:53.

My God, can you imagine running for nearly 9 hours in those conditions?

Serious respect to everyone of these runners.

Mental indeed.

And thanks to The Guardian, for the video.  It’s my favourite newspaper, by the way.

Now THIS is what the spirit of running is all about

Sunday last – 6 days ago – many of us in Delhi ran the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, a race that had been the subject of much anguish and controversy, almost, in the weeks preceding it.

The air pollution in Delhi was so bad that there were demands by the Indian Medical Association, inter alias, to cancel the race.  As it happened, the weather gods played ball, and though the AQI was far from perfect on the day, it was hugely better than in the lead up, and so the race took place, and a jolly good time was had by (almost) all.

Social media erupted in the hours and days after the race, most of us flaunting PBs and medals – in my case, sadly, I flaunted the latter but most definitely not the former 🙁

So, yes.  A huge, jolly, euphoric social media frenzy took place, all of us happy to have run, & even happier that the dreaded air pollution had not wrecked things for us.

And then there was this news from Beejal Dhawan, one of Delhi NCR’s most popular runners (& certainly the girl with the loveliest smile around, that’s for sure).

On Sunday evening, Beejal posted an update on Facebook and, with the permission of the people involved, I’m sharing this amazing & super-inspirational story here for all of us to enjoy.  And even get a little teary-eyed about…

Here is Beejal’s dramatic account of her half marathon.

It’s in her own words, because what earthly point is there in re-writing such a dramatic & well-written story?

Talk about high on nail-biting events and high on the amazing kindness of Beejal’s young man.  Now let’s hear the other side of the story, shall we?

Meet Angad Subarna, a young man with a huge heart and huge class.

Now how great is this young man?

What I especially loved in all this was that Beejal, amongst all the thanks for Angad’s decency, congratulated his parents for raising such a fine young man 🙂

See what I mean about a teary-eyed post?

Other than the fact that 2 people felt very unwell on Sunday, this is (if you get my drift) a total feel-good story.

A story of grit.

A story of compassion.

And a story that gives one hope.

Let’s salute the spirit of running!

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.

[jwplayer mediaid=”28652″]

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:

[jwplayer mediaid=”28576″]

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.

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