Smiling through pain

It’s a thing.

If you smile while running a marathon, you will feel better.

No, no, I’m not talking about the finish line photos, even though obviously they’re nicer with a “YESSS!!! I did it” smile, rather than a grimace of pain.

My 2017 Mumbai photos, as I tottered across the finish line, are a picture of misery.  It was either grimace or throw up, not to put too fine a point on it.

This year, however, I smiled and was happy and hugged the lovely man who chivvied me across the finish line.

But the psychology of smiling is more than just a photo op, of course.

There is a science behind it, as a fascinating article in today’s Times explains.

Here are the salient bit from the article, sent to me by sister dearest.

The underlining is mine:

“Last year Eliud Kipchoge, the fastest marathon runner on the planet, came within 26 seconds of covering the distance in two hours.

With each passing mile, something uncanny would happen to Kipchoge’s face: a broad grin, conceived in a deliberate effort to smile away the pain.

A study by British sport psychologists suggests that this tactic makes physical exertion measurably more efficient, boosting a runner’s economy by at least 2 per cent. The effect appears to be down to the way that acting out an emotion — even by simply rearranging your expression — can change your mood and even your physiology…

…For the study, published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, they asked 24 club-level distance runners to run for four six-minute stretches at 80 to 85 per cent of their maximum heart rate, about the intensity at which they would compete in a marathon.

In some of the bursts the runners were asked to form a “real” smile; in others they were instructed to frown, to try to relax their upper bodies by imagining that they were carrying crisps between their fingers, or to think about what they would normally contemplate during a training session.

The scientists calculated the economy of each participant’s running by measuring the volume of oxygen they breathed out, which closely tracks the amount of energy expended. They were surprised to find that merely asking people to relax had no effect on their efficiency, but smiling did.

Now how fascinating is this?
A 2% boost to one’s running economy, just because you smile.  Sounds like a total win-win situation to me.
And so, as I count down the days to my next marathon on the 25th February (2 marathons in 5 weeks is a bit crazy, agreed) I’m going to practise that 2%-economy-winning-smile 🙂

The kindness of running strangers

You know Blanche Dubois’s classic line from “A Streetcar named desire” – “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”?

Well, paraphrasing it a little, I have often depended on the kindness of running strangers, and it is one of the aspects of running that impresses me no end.

Never, in my short running career, have I encountered meanness or hostility from another runner.

By and large, people are kind and courteous and, in the big showpiece Indian races, such as last week’s Tata Mumbai Marathon, fellow runners are amazingly supportive.

Take my new friend – now no longer a stranger – Sujit Kurup.

In the final stretch of that long, hot, gruelling 42.195km I did my usual thing.  Ran out of steam agonisingly close to the finish line.  Just could not force those legs to run any faster, felt like throwing up, and then a kind voice at my side started talking to me.

Come on, you can do this, we’re going to finish this together.

A young man I had never met before.

He stuck with me and when I slowed down to a walk, too knackered to run, he slowed down too.

I urged him to go on since I was slowing him down, but he was having none of it.

“I need to walk,” I gasped.

“So we’ll walk,” came the calm reply.

“I feel nauseous,” I whimpered, a few hundred metres further on.

“No worries, slow down, breathe,” came the reply.

Sujit knew the route – which had been slightly altered at the end – and said at one point, “Right, Christine, when we turn this corner, there are less than 300m to go and we are going to run them together.”

But even then, I needed to slow down at around 200m.

So he slowed down, too.

THIS is what I mean by the kindness of strangers.

This delightful young man compromised his own finish time, slowing down in order to steer a wobbly old lady across the finish line – and I rewarded him by sprinting the last couple of metres.

I have NO idea where that last gasp of energy came from, but it was along the lines of “Oh, what the heck, let’s just go for broke,” and so leaving the side of my gallant escort I dashed ahead.

Such is the nature of the man that – as you can see in the photo below – he has a happy grin on his face at my antics.


Happy birthday to a kind no-longer-stranger 🙂

Sujit, you made the end of my marathon memorable.

Thank you.

1000 days of running !!

I told you in a blog post earlier today, that my friend Harminder would complete his 1000th consecutive day of running today.

He did, in his trademark low-key, un-flashy way, managing to fit in a run on his office treadmill (and at a fast pace, too).

Asked for a caption for this milestone photo, Harminder replied “For Running, A Thousand Times Over!!!”

Shabash my friend!  This is one heck of an achievement.

1000 days of running, no matter what.

Super impressed.

I’d like to say something like “Now you must sit back and relax” but I suspect that isn’t going to happen, right?

In which case, onwards & upwards!

999 days of daily running

Over the past 999 days, I have shared with you on many occasions the daily running photo taken by my friend, the unstoppable, super low-key, super unassuming Harminder Singh.

Harminder & I both did the first edition of the #100daysofrunning challenge.  The only difference is that Harminder did not stop at the end of those 100 days.

Yesterday was his 999th day of daily running.

Day 999 of running every day, come sun, come cold, come rain, come the birth of his son, come travel, come running marathons…unbelievable!

Yesterday was a miserably cold, rainy, windy day here in Delhi and yet the dedicated Mr. Singh (who OF COURSE ran the full marathon in Mumbai just 2 days earlier) put in his daily miles.

Harminder, my dear friend, you are beyond an inspiration!

Fabulous achievement, and I can’t wait to share your 1000th photo, later on today 🙂 🙂 🙂

Post marathon blues. It’s a thing

Back home in Delhi (where I live) after running the Tata Mumbai Marathon, and I feel almost jet lagged.

2 days in a row, I’ve woken up at 5am, even though an early morning run isn’t/wasn’t on the cards.

I love running, but am definitely not running in the dark and in the cold and in the fog, when it’s not strictly necessary.

Here’s the weather, right now, at 6.00 as I sit and write.  See what I mean?

But it weird, this “jet-lagged” feeling.

I decided to Google it, as one does, and I’m clearly not alone in feeling a tad off-kilter, after running 42.195km.

There are any number of articles about feeling depressed and restless after a marathon.  That I don’t feel, not at all, but that’s probably because my next full is in exactly a month.

OK, OK, I exaggerate.

My next full marathon is in a month and a day.

Today is Jan 24th.

The New Delhi Marathon is Feb 25th.

So a month and a day it is!

There was an interesting analysis of why people feel depressed after completing a marathon in

Actually, rather than feeling any post-marathon blues, I’m already busy strategising for the next race, imagining how I can shave off those extra minutes, to try and improve upon last year’s timing.

Perhaps that’s why I’m waking up so early, since mentally I’m in training.  Might explain it.

If the Delhi weather behaves itself today, I’m planning on a first slow run after Bombay, to get the old bones working towards their next target.

Nothing like having a new plan.

February 25th.

Bring. It. On.


Well done to Indian women marathoners

The morning paper here in sunny (read HOT) Mumbai has some interesting facts and figures about marathons the world over, and how India fits in to it all.

Here you go:

What I find super interesting is that more women take part in marathons here in India than in 3 “developed”, European countries.

And even more interesting, though it doesn’t directly concern India, is that Spain, which records the fastest average finish time, has the lowest proportion of women runners.  Now how does that work?

Also, Europe has a lower female participation than Asia.  Unexpected.

BUT, here is the $64,000 question – where are the African statistics in all this?

Why are there relatively fewer women running in Europe than in Asia?

But you know what, India?

Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Repeat after me: ”Do not panic, do not panic, do not…”

I sat down at my iPad, with the camera somehow left on, and will you just take a look at my view.


The Mumbai Marathon route in the morning paper, where obviously I left it, tossed aside in a bout of panicky “Oh my goodness me, what have I let myself in for?”

But panic will get me nowhere I fully realise, so let’s take a deep breath and see what’s changed since last year in this, India’s most iconic marathon.

Not too much for we full marathoners, it would appear.

Even the organisers describe the changes as “fag-end route” changes.

Quite frankly, for a rank amateur like yours very truly, the logistics of the last 700 metres are not my concern right now.  Covering the preceding 41.5km will be the challenge 😛

Glad there are loads of loos and water stations, and since I know that so many lovely Mumbaikers will be out in strength, cheering us on, I guess I’m as set as I’m ever going to be.

Now what I need is lots of positive vibes, from all you lovely people.


Your marathon thought of the day

This time next week, it will all be over.
The 42.2km.
The nerves.
The exhaustion.
The tears – I always cry when I cross the finish line. Makes for hideous photos 😛

And there will no doubt be moments of anguish, along with those moments of triumph…

So yes – for anyone who is losing faith, just turn out on Sunday and watch us, as we totter and stagger, or sprint with joy across that finish line…

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