The 10km that wasn’t…

Talk about India being the land of lastminute.com…

I was supposed to be running a 10 km race in NOIDA tomorrow –  just across the river from Delhi –  with some of my dear running girls.  My clothes and running shoes were already out.  A friend had kindly collected my bib for me today.  Alarm already set.  Early night planned for a 4.30am start…and then we get an email just now, telling us the race is cancelled because the NOIDA cops won’t give permission.

Apparently the President and the PM will be visiting NOIDA soon…

Ah well, trying to put a positive spin on things, this just means that we have a few more weeks to train.

Nevertheless, I have been up and about early most of the last week, putting myself through so-called “training” for Tomorrow’s Race That Isn’t, but a combo of post-climb fatigue + not too much running these last few weeks + + + any other excuse I care to throw into the mix, means that my times have been shocking, so I am going to take this irritating delay as proof positive that I am meant to train more.

But.

That doesn’t stop me feeling irritated on behalf of the sponsors and organisers, who are informed 12 hours before kick-off that their event is cancelled.

All that money and sponsorship and work and organisation for nothing.

 

But, moving right along –  I have had a brilliant week, pounding the hot and humid and rainy pavements of Lutyens Delhi in that elusive attempt to get back into pukka 10k running shape…

I have avoided banana skins.  Literally :

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I have negotiated the ups and downs (and clashing colours) of the pavements of Lutyens Delhi, where no expense is spared for our VIPs :

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I have puzzled as to what on earth was going on:

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And every day I met lots of critters, above and beyond the inevitable stray dogs and the cows…

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These fellows cut short my budding career as a film director, as I took to my heels and ran!

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No run in posh Delhi is complete without the “bunderlog”:

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And this man restored my zen one morning :

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Never a dull moment…

The ultimate Shanghai run

I ran on The Bund this morning, and if that isn’t the Shanghai absolute-totally-amazing-ultimate run location –  then I honestly don’t know what is…

I have been on a high ever since we arrived in Shanghai, so fab and beautiful is this amazing city.

First seen 31 years ago, and last seen over 20 years ago, I was apprehensive about returning to a city I feared might have been ravaged by “modernisation” (say the way Macau has been) but the historic heart of the city is dazzling.  Beautifully restored, spotlessly clean, safe, un-encroached upon – basically The Bund is fabulous.

The weather this morning was perfect.  Oh-so-deep blue sky.  Slight breeze.  And even though I set off to run at about 8.30am there was virtually no-one on The Bund, so, yes, a dream run.

Not dream timing, however.  Very slow, but I blame Shanghai.  What can you expect a poor gawping visitor like me to do, except stop every few moments to take photos, so stunning are the views.  Not my fault…

I walked (briskly) from our hotel, which is about 1.5 km away, then ran along The Bund, crossed over the bridge, ran past Broadway Mansions, back across the river, past the former Rowing Club, and back down The Bund.  I then walked back to the hotel, picking up my take-away coffee on the way.

As I said, slow, slow timing, but the views…oh the views…

It was clean and safe.  The roads and pavements are perfect.  Very little traffic.

All I want to know is, why was I the only person out running this glorious morning ?

So, here goes.

Brisk walk from hotel…

IMG_6913 Arrival on The Bund (and you see what I mean about that blue sky?)

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And do you also see what I mean about having this fabulous place virtually to myself…

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These were the kind of views that delayed me, guv’nor…honest…

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Broadway Mansions (above) and the former swimming pool of the former Rowing Club (below)

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This used to be the British Consulate…glory days etc etc…

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Back onto The Bund

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“My” local take-away coffee place, complete with lovely phonetic spelling.

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IMG_6955Totally brilliant run.

My take home moment?

Oh, other than the whole thing, it has to be that first moment on the elevated section of The Bund, with the view of the river and all the old buildings bathed in sunlight…too too fabulous.

Running around a Formula 1 track? Yes, please, thank you very much

Advance warning.

This post will be full of gushing enthusiasm.  100% guaranteed.  You have been warned.

So let’s start gushing and enthusing, shall we?

Yesterday, along with some of my gang of running girls, we took part in a timed race out at the amazing Formula 1 circuit in Noida, across the river from Delhi in UP state.

2 of our girls, Kathakoli Dasgupta and Sonam Taneja ran the half marathon, with our indomitable coach and guru, Dr. Rajat Chauhan pacing Sonam for her first ever 21km, and the look of joy on that girl’s face when she crossed the finishing line, with all of us cheering for her, spoke volumes.
One of our newer members ran the 5.14km, which took some doing in the heat – they started the last, at 9 o’clock I think, by which time it was seriously hot.

And the bulk of us ran the 10.28km and it was all brilliant and huge fun and, yes, after just 5 months of running, all hugely encouraging.
Before you ask.  The slightly odd distances (5.14km and 10.28km) are because they correspond to one and two laps respectively of the Formula 1 circuit.  Which leads me nicely to the venue.  Far from Delhi, which meant an extremely early start – think 4am –  and STILL there was a traffic jam at the exit road leading to the venue.  A Rs 20 toll –  really?  Given that we didn’t get a receipt, I wonder if it wasn’t simply a bit of private enterprise, someone sensing a quick business opportunity, with hundreds of cars full of eager beaver runners, with race deadlines to meet and so ready to cough up without a protest.

Be that as it may, there was a ridiculous jam.

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Running on a Formula 1 track was the hugest fun.  As in the hugest fun ever.

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Having been there twice for F1, it was brilliant to be in the pits and as we ran round the track, I recognised where we had sat in previous years, and discovered things I hadn’t seen on race days, such as a water feature.  The track is also far more up-and-down than I had realised, and running up those slopes in the increasing heat as the dawn mist burned off was –  well –  challenging.

Downside of the track? Absolutely no shade whatsoever, which is why I pitied the 9am starters.  Also, clearly, there were no spectators, other than some loyal family members who had come to cheer on runners, but that didn’t bother me at all, and what I liked was the relaxed feel to the race, with many of said family members standing all over the route to get good photos  –  a far cry from the uber-security of F1.

The race was organised by a company called Running and Living, and if a total newbie to this kind of thing is allowed her two pennyworth of critical feedback, it would be that there were not enough water stations on the track –  just 2, though Katha told me there were more for the half-marathon, after they left the track.

I always have a water bottle with which I run, so I was fine, but when my running partner, darling 13 year old Shaivi, started having shin pain (a) there was no medical station and (b) there was nothing for her to drink, other than my water.  As a rank amateur, I feel that something like Gatorade would have helped her cramps, and those of another little girl who ran with us, who was in quite some pain.  Gatorade was only available at the finishing line, which was great, but it might have been a good idea to have it at the 2 water stations as well.  And have more stations.

At one point, as Shaivi was stretching and trying to work out the pain, Old Mother Hen here spotted a tiny little thing also clearly in pain.  Sanskriti, part of a Gurgaon running club who were there in huge, cheery, enthusiastic numbers, is an amazing little 11 year old who has already run a half marathon and was trying to run 10.28km in an hour to win a bet, bless her.  She was struggling and asked if she could run with us, so there I was with these two young things, and we chatted and walked and ran and encouraged each other.

Shaivi and I finished, together, as we did for our first race in December.  Our time was 1 hour 8 minutes and the encouraging thing is that we both know we can do better, and that’s pretty amazing.  Well, naturally, it’s not that amazing for a fit 13 year old, but for old Auntie-ji here, it certainly is.

And so here are a few of my most memorable moments for you.

This slope might not look much, but you certainly feel it.  Mind’s you, the down slopes more than compensate :

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 This was the amazing view as we approached the finishing line –  it really doesn’t get much better, let me tell you.

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Constantly aware of my age, in a sea of young people, I was thrilled to see this gentleman.  What I failed to see was the front of his T shirt which said he had run over 100 marathons, or some such crazy figure.  Almost made me feel young…

India_NOIDA 10km_5961The medal station.

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My 2 young co-runners, with their medals.

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And the 2 of us.

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And here is Sonam crossing the finishing line of her first ever half-marathon with Doc.

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Team photos.

And yes they are big, as befits our group achievement yesterday.

 

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My take home moment ?

Oh, the whole wonderful thing, from misty chilly start to sunny finish.

Running.  New friends.  Mutual encouragement and support.  Aspirations…

…hey, I warned you this would be gushing.

And here’s my track log.  The little jink is when Shaivi and I left the track to find support for her to stretch.

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Running through the heart of Lutyens Delhi

As some of you may know, I am a recent – but super enthusiastic –  convert to running, and so if this all gets a tad too gushing, well…tough.  I have discovered a love somewhat late in life, and fully intend to enjoy it to the full, and share this enjoyment as much as I can.

Our running group has moved on from our first challenge, our 6km in mid-December, and many of us are now training for our first 10km next Sunday.  Actually it’s 10.28km, and that .28 is very important, since we will then be able to claim, with complete honesty, that we ran “more than 10km.”

We meet on Saturday mornings, and this morning, just like last Saturday, we ran from Nehru Park to India Gate and back, but the huge difference was the weather.  Last week it was grey and gloomy.  Today was perfect.  Unbelievably gorgeous –  chilly enough to require a light fleece all the time, mist burning off with the sun, and an impossibly deep blue sky.

Since I hope that there may be some non-dilli-walas who read this post, looking for advice about where to run in Delhi, let me talk you through the route, which takes you through some of the best of New Delhi’s colonial architecture.

As you can see from the Google Earth image below, it’s a fabulously “green” run :

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 We meet at Nehru Park (extreme bottom left of the track log) because it’s central and there is loads of parking.  From there we cross the road to Shantipath, where we do our stretches and off we go.

We left a little late this morning –  just after 7 am – and ran to Teen Murti through empty streets, and this, let me tell you, is one of the joys of early morning running in Delhi, especially at the weekend.   Precious little traffic, compared to the usual daytime nightmare-ish traffic.

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 Past Teen Murti (below)

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 Past the 3 wise monkeys (below)

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 Past the brooding Rahul Gandhi –  we have elections looming, hence this man’s face plastered everywhere.

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 Down South Avenue towards a just-peeping-through-the-mist Rashtrapati Bhavan (the residence of the President of India) – and you take my point about empty, empty roads?

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 Right along Thyagaraj Avenue, with only a pair of road sweepers (and some monkeys) for company.

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Out into Vijay Chowk, where the sweeping, dramatic vistas really start, and with the flowers and the reflections, it all looked amazing.  I didn’t stop my Garmin while taking all these photos, by the way, which (sort of) explains the slow pace…

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 Up the slope towards Rashtrapti Bhavan, with a silhouetted monkey for company.

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I sneaked this photo in, before a guard issued that immortal phrase in India – “Allowed nahi hai” (It’s not allowed).  I love the use of “allowed” as an almost pukka Hindi word.

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Back across Vijay Chowk, and down Raj Path towards India Gate which I could still scarcely see through the mist.

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And now for the gushing bit.

To run towards and then around India Gate –  especially on such a brilliant morning – is actually very emotional.  It is a beautifully dramatic monument, and when it is relatively quiet, and bathed in bright morning sunshine, with the flags fluttering –  well, it is a truly special moment, and it was with some reluctance that I turned away and headed back, leaving India Gate behind.

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My pace on the return trip was even slower, since I kept meeting people:

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Let sleeping dogs lie, they say, and this one, below, was really king of the road.  At least until the day time lunatic traffic starts, bless him.

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By now the fountains had been switched on, and the traffic was very slowly beginning to build up.  But nothing at all, compared to during the week.  Still a delight to run on these wide empty streets.

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 The return was along the same route –  Vijay Chowk, South Avenue, Teen Murti, Shanti Path and Nehru Park.

Conditions along the route

If you do this route early in the morning, and I cannot stress enough that this is the best time to run in Delhi, traffic is extremely light and unaggressive, the roads are nice and wide, and there are very few pedestrians around.  Because you are running through the heart of VIP Delhi there are policemen everywhere, so no need to feel insecure.

No loos.

No shops open, so take water.

Scenic score

Oh, 10/10 for absolutely outstanding views.  To run through such iconic streets and past historic buildings like these gives you a spring in your step.

Take home moment?

Other than the buzz from running round India Gate, it was seeing the President’s Bodyguard out bright and early :

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What?

Trophy photos at India Gate?

Oh well, if you insist…

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As I have noted previously, there is always a slight discrepancy between by Garmin (which gave me 13,25 km) and Mapmywalk on my iPhone, which said 13.80km.  I would love it to be the latter, since that is almost 14km, but I will opt for prudence and go with 13.25 km, which is still the furthest I have ever run.

Such a great feeling.

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A round trip to India Gate, please. Because now we can!

For (shockingly) only the 2nd time in 2014, I met up with my gang of girls to go running this morning.

It was damp and grey and a little chilly, but utterly brilliant to meet up (after far too long) with these inspirational ladies + our mentor Dr Chauhan + Vish, the physio who saves my bacon over and over again + Neha’s devoted husband who ran with us today.

From our usual 6.45am meeting place in Chanakyapuri, we set out for what is our longest run so far (excluding our star runner, Kathakoli, of course, who eats up half marathons as though they were going out of fashion…)  – a 12 km run to India Gate and back.  Actually, many of the girls have run to India Gate before, so let me re-phrase that –  for me it was a first and my longest run ever.

If you have to pound city pavements, the manicured streets of Lutyens Delhi when they are virtually traffic free are pretty special.  To run past Rashtrapati Bhavan and down Raj Path to India Gate is as brilliant as it gets.

And despite grey skies, the vistas were fabulous.

We ran through empty streets.  As in empty streets :

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On past iconic monuments :

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That’s Rashtrapti Bhavan (above), the residence of the President, glimpsed behind the inevitable barriers.

The spring flowers are in bloom, warming up an otherwise gloomy morning.

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We met people out for a segway ride down Raj Path.  As one does.

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Our fearless leader, Doc Chauhan, made 3 of us sprint up a bit of Raisina Hill, and it will come as no surprise to anyone that I huffed and puffed in last, with darling Chaivi shooting ahead, leaving even Doc a tad speechless, followed closely by Sonam.  I could unsportingly mutter, “well, they do have youth on their side” but the truth of the matter is these kids are all in excellent shape, and I have (as we say over here) been absconding.

And it shows.

I ran part of the return on my own, and it is all part of the specialness of running that it seems the most normal thing in the world to run alone across empty roundabouts in the heart of an otherwise hectically busy city.

Here are some of the things I saw…

Never noticed this before.

It’s on the roundabout where Mother Theresa Crescent starts.  Can anyone translate the Urdu for me, please?

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God is everywhere in India (above).

More colour to lighten up the greyness.

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I have to admit to a weakness for the architecture of the Pakistani High Comm…

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One happy chappy in a rubbish bin.

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Here’s our route below, with  – proof, proof –  of that little side trip up Raisina Hill.
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Oh yes.

I do have my “trophy” photos of India Gate, now that you mention it…

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My take-home moment?  

Oh, running round India Gate, without a doubt.  Too, too fabulous.  Plus breaking another personal milestone – 12km…

So, yes, March 16th and our first official 10km race…bring it on.

 

Running (& dispensing advice)

On a nice but chilly-although-vaguely-spring-like Sunday afternoon, after a big family lunch, the only thing to do is to go and run.  Well, at least that’s what I decided to do yesterday, and so I headed off to the Aravali Bio-Diversity Park in my neighbourhood.

Very few people walking in the park, but as I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I feel safe there, by and large.

I ran past the office that I mentioned in an earlier post, thinking I could perhaps tackle the rubbish issue (I looked as I ran past the offending track, and it was still as filthy as ever) but there was no-one there in the “office” (below).

Well, it was a Sunday afternoon, to be fair.

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I did my usual quick stop at the 2 pretty, well-tended Hindu shrines that face each other, and here, at least, cleanliness is not an issue, as evidenced by the lack of litter and 2 brooms propped against a tree :

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After all my religious pit stops, there I was running along muddy tracks (proof below) when I met 2 ladies who were walking towards me from the direction of one of the slums that surround the park.  One was –  er, let’s be honest –  fat, as in fat, and wearing a shiny sari, a rather glittery shawl and rubber flip-flops.

She cheerfully accosted me (in Hindi) saying “If I run will I get a thin as you?”

Gales of laugher from her equally tubby friend.

Now, since I was wearing a cast off track-suit from Hari, so therefore large and voluminous, I have no idea how she decided I was thin, bless her, but I said “Yes, of course” and to her credit she tried running next to me for a few steps.  I stopped while she caught her breath and her friend laughed some more.

“Well,” she said, “I am too fat to run, but we are walking.”

In for a penny in for a pound, I decided, and told her how they had to walk speedily rather than the slow lazy amble they were doing.  For good measure, I threw in the need to be out of breath and to break a sweat in order to increase aerobic activity -> eventual weight loss.

How long have you been running?

5 months.

But you were thin to start with.

Well, I answered, trying to be diplomatic, I have lost 4 kg since I started.

“If you keep on running you will be so thin you will disappear” concluded my jolly NBF as I took my leave and ran off through the puddles, leaving these 2 women laughing their heads off.

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Having been dropped at the park in the car, I decided to run all the way back home rather than ask to be collected, and took this as a sign that the envisaged 10km run in March with my dear running group might – just, perhaps, possibly, who knows – be feasible…

Slow.  But feasible.

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My take home moment from this run?

Oh my NBF, without a doubt.

Running through hectic country traffic jams

Last week a group of 6 of us went to Tadoba National Park in Maharashtra, and it was totally brilliant. Unbelievable tiger sightings.  I will put up specific blog posts on the park anon.

The park is closed on Tuesdays, which is the day we arrived, so after flying Delhi -> Nagpur + 2 hour drive + a catch up sleep (we had to get up at 3.45 which is a bit much by any standards) I decided to go for a run. To wake myself up from travelling lethargy and also to run.  Because now I can!

I first ran a little round the periphery of our lovely hotel, which was situated about 200 metres from the park gates, and then off I set down the one and only country lane, in the warm evening sun.

There was precious little vehicular traffic, but I think I hit the evening rush hour.  If I wish to excuse away my poor time –  and boy, have I lost form since our wonderful Great Delhi Run, exactly 2 months ago today (ouch)  –  I proffer this video clip as proof why I had to run slowly.  Excuses, excuses I know…

It was all delightful, with a few curious stares and lots of giggles from schoolchildren who tried to talk to me, and lots happening in the fields :

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How sensible to have solar powered lights (below).  The rest of India, are you listening ?

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At some point I will get bored by the panoramic feature on my iPhone, I promise you, but for the moment shadow selfies & panoramic shots are my thing !

 

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There were a lot of cattle wandering up and down the road –  hence taking 50 minutes to run/walk/photograph/talk/chat 7 kilometres, but by the time I met this last traffic hazard I gave up running and walked :

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Shortly after this, a young boy in a fetching shiny purple shirt slowly cycled past me and said in a rather mincing, lisping way “Hi, exthcuse me,” which turned out to be the extent of his English.  He asked me if I could speak Hindi, and then engaged me in the traditional where are you from conversation.  Then he asked me “Kya tum akeli ayi or aur boyth and girlth hai?” (Did you come alone or are you with other boyth and girlth?)  I replied, as befits a woman of my age that I had come with my husband and other friends, but the dear lad would so persist. Could he come and meet these boyth and girlth, (these 2 words he knew in English, to be fair). No, I said.  Oh, well can I come and see your house ?  No.  Can I cycle next to you?  To which, heartless old lady that I am, I simply sprinted off ahead of him (yes, absolutely, because now I can !).

No such thing as a dull run in India.

Tadoba national park is to the bottom left, on the map, by the way.

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Running through rubbish. And official apathy

I went for a run a few days ago in my local Biodiversity Park, in what passes for an upmarket part of Delhi.

I have recently discovered this park and have blogged about it earlier, but my latest run was a mixed bag of emotions.

Delight to be running, as ever, after feeling below par for a few days + pleasure at seeing gardeners busy at work in the park + utter revulsion at the rubbish encountered along I new path I decided to explore.

This path was (if memory serves me) the first track to the right off the main path, and therefore very close to the entrance, with its guards sitting in the sun and its signs forbidding dogs and (if I’m being honest) running.  I decided to explore it, but within moments, this is what I saw.  I filmed this walking slowly, and I reckon I covered about 100 metres, but it all went on as far as the saddened eye could see :

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Never again will I venture off the main track.

Never, ever again.

I was so appalled, I went and questioned the gardeners, who were polite to a tee, and I asked them whose job it is to clean the park. Ours, they replied without any hesitation. So, have you seen that track over there, and all the rubbish?  Yes, they immediately answered, and they said it was because people from the neighbouring slum walk into the park and use it for drinking.  Have you told the authorities ?  Yes, but nothing happens.  These people come in every night and drink.  To whom should I report this, I asked them.  The office, I was told, and they waved up the path to where there is, indeed, a building.  But of course no-one was there when I went in, all fired up.

I’m going to pursue this, because otherwise the park will just get more and more encroached and filthier and filthier.

Or, they give up the battle against rubbish and encroachment and designate the whole area as a religious structure, and then we will get some degree of cleanliness…like this structure (below)…

 

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…which is, puzzlingly, bang opposite yet another religious structure…

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Take a look, just one piece of paper – which had probably blown there – compared to the acres of plastic down the path, in my video clip.

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What is it about this country and rubbish? Wherever you go, there is filth and rubbish.
Oh, don’t get me started…

Anyway, once I had moved on, literally, from the filthy rubbish, I ran past a school party, out bright and early with their teachers and –  I imagine –  a naturalist who was talking about the trees.  As I ran through the group (no-one making an attempt to move to let me through…teachers, you need to control your children…) one boy, aged about 10 or 11, pointed at me and shouted “Dekh dekh, foreigner” and because I had just dealt with the rubbish scenario and because the previous evening I had been to a protest at Jantar Mantar against the racist killing of a young man from India’s tribal NE, I’m afraid I responded in kind.

I pointed back and said “Dekh dekh, Indians”

Not my finest hour, but there you go.

 

Apart from all this…I saw peacocks and coucal, and it felt wonderful to be running, though my time has taken a decided turn for the worse.  The effect of not running and training enough certainly shows.

 

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When I reveiwed the track log for this run, I enlarged the area where I had filmed, and you can actually see a track leading down from the slum :

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Running for your life. Literally

The annual Walk for Life, organised by the admirable CanSupport here in Delhi is a fixture of the winter calendar, and I don’t know how they do it, but they almost always have lovely weather for it.  After a week of miserable fog, today dawned bright and sunny, and we were thousands of people out there in a good natured festive feeling crowd on Rajpath early this morning, and all with one aim –  to raise funds for the wonderful work done to provide care to very sick (and often very poor) people.

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Last year I walked the route, but to my great joy, this year I ran it, with a group of the wonderful women in my Couch to 6K group.

The event is opened by a victory lap of cancer survivors, which is always an emotional moment.  The little children always get to me. I noticed a young woman waiting in our running holding area with tears streaming down her face…I wonder who she was thinking about…

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Then we runners were off first, before all the thousands of walkers.

And yes, indeed, I say with pride  “we” runners, because a year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of being able to use that term. We weren’t too many runners, but it felt amazing to run down an empty Rajpath towards Rashtrapati Bhavan, in the lovely winter sun, with a band playing to encourage us all.  As one does.

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I wasn’t too fussed re time on this run, which is just as well because I kept stopping to film all the great moments that happened :

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Impromptu dancing

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A group of American wrestlers.  And how do I know they were wrestlers?  Well, because I ran the course with them –  by accident, not design – and they had one of those American military-type chants “What do we do? Wrestle. When do we do it etc etc “and then they would end the chant  with “pehelvan zindabad” which I though a brilliant touch.  Pehelvan is Hindi for wrestler, so good on them.

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Admittedly today was a super special day for running up and down Rajpath, since there was no traffic, but even on normal days, if you were to do this early in the morning when traffic is less hectic, you would be doing yourself a great favour –  to run down such an iconic road with amazing views…trust me, it is a pretty fabulous feeling.

 

My take home moment?

Oh no question about this.

Waiting to start running, one of my gang of girls, Sonea, asked me how long the course was, and I said I thought it was 4 or 5 km to which she shrugged nonchalently and said “OK, great.”  And this from a woman who had never ever run 4 months ago.  And now “only” 5 km was no big deal.

Fabulous feeling.

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Whoops, it’s nearly January 24th…

…which is, so I gather, the day by which most of us will have broken our New Year resolutions.
Now since I didn’t really make a resolution to run every day in 2014…’xcept I did, sort of, deep down inside…but anyway, since I didn’t formally make this resolution, then I can hardly be accused of being a 24th January victim, now, can I?

But just in case, I went for a run this evening.

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I went to my local Bio Diversity Park in Vasant Vihar, around 5 pm-ish, and the first hint of diversity was the whole philosophical issue of whether or not I could actually run or not…

The sign outside says NO

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Whereas the sign inside says…well, it doesn’t say no legibly any more, let’s put it that way :

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This being India, and our esteemed Chief Minister having declared himself to be an anarchist only 3 days ago, I of course went for a run.

Hey, by the same logic dogs are not allowed.  Tell that to the +/- 15 stray dogs I encountered (and don’t forget the big fat snort-y pig)

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I have run in the park a couple of times, but always in the mornings or even mid-day-ish, so I can report that although I felt safe, I definitely didn’t feel as safe as on previous occasions.  The lone guard is at the entrance, presumably to stop all those dogs from coming in, and although there were a number of people, they were not fellow walkers and joggers, but more the residents of the smelly slum that I discovered this evening.  Which leads me to that, exactly.  I think there is a new rough kind of track since last I ran here, so naturally I went to explore it.  It got filthier and filthier and ever more litter strewn, and smellier and smellier until it was quite clear that I was running through the bit of the jungle that is used for open defecation.

I remember being warned off a section of the forest on perhaps the first time I ran there.  A kindly man told me that “Vo log toilet karte he” (“those people go to the loo there”) and yes, they clearly do.

So I rapidly backtracked and instead went and checked out the profusion of religious structures that dot the park.  I am convinced there are 2 new ones since last I ran here…

IMG_1995Don’t remember this one, for example…

Nor this one, pretty as it is…
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By the time I ran past this shrine on the way back a diya had been lit.

The 2 shrines below I remember, both of them advertising the cleanliness is next to godliness mantra…actually, other than the open toilet area, by and large the park is clean (for India) so why there is a pile of rubbish right next to God baffles me.

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Still, rubbish & smells aside, it is a great space – to have views like these (below) just a few hundred yards from apartment blocks is pretty amazing.

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There was concrete evidence of TLC since my last visit, with scores of saplings having their winter warmies on :

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Saw loads of pea-fowl, parakeets, a lovely tree pie, a pig, loads of dogs.

So, by and large, a park that should be slightly better protected from the sad reality of the nearby slums, with more visible patrolling, too, please.

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And my “take home” moment?  Sitting, all alone, by the Ram shrine taking the photo that is further up in this post, when the local mosque began the call to prayers.  It was a very peaceful, calming moment, and despite the evening chill and the growing gloom, I felt refreshed and, well, blessed.

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