“Why do you run at your age?”

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Ah yes.

The brutal honesty of India.

No pussy-footing around.  No gentle questions.  No polite remarks.

Nope.

“Madame, how old are you?” asked the young man who stopped me while I was out running in the Aravali Biodiversity Park this hot July morning.

“Er, why do you want to know my age?” I replied, though knowing it was a pointless delaying tactic.

“Because you look…(and he looked me up and down in an uncreepy way, appraising me, possibly trying to be polite)…you look…fit, but…”

What the heck, I’d be stuck there all day at this rate.

“I am 62”, I replied. (Actually, I’m not quite there yet, but what’s three months amongst strangers?)

“64?” he said, looking taken aback.  “64?”.

To my shame I snapped, “No, not 64. 62.”  Might mean nothing to a youngster, but those are two extra years, buddy.  Two whole years.

“How long have you been running?” he asked, still looking a bit shaken.

“I started when I turned 60” I replied.

“But why? Why did you start running at that age? Why do you run at your age?”

Ah India.  Land of the totally politically incorrect question.

Then he smiled and said, “But you run so fast, and your are so fit.” (Fit was his only English word. Everything else was in in Hindi.)

“I want to run like you. How do I become a runner like you?”

Oh, the temptation to say some thing like “First, young man, put that T shirt back on whilst talking to a senior citizen…” But since he wouldn’t stop talking I never got a word in edge ways…

You run so fast, how do you do it?

how much do you run every day? How much should I run?

What is that in your hand? (Er, a water bottle.)  Oh, should I run with water?

Should I drink water while running?

Should I run on my heels or on my toes? (This last question accompanied by a demonstration.)

Should I look down or look up?

Blimey, the questions didn’t stop, and there was old auntie-ji (as my young running-group-girls call me) answering questions as though she knew the answers.

Still, it was cute to be perceived to be a runner, whilst I still describe myself to everyone else as a total and utter newbie.

Each time I tried to excuse myself and continue with my own run, he would have another question – and, let me say within the context of the dubious reputation Delhi has for women’s safety, he was not in the least creepy or threatening.  Plus it was broad daylight.  Plus I knew I could outrun him!!

It was just that he had an endless string of questions – how long, how fast, breathing – and once he’d established how ancient I am, he kept saying, every few minutes, “aap itni fit hai.”

Eventually I extricated myself, restarted my mapmyrun timer, reswitched my music on and ran off, feeling quite the runner.

Feeling quite old, too, but at least an old runner.

Where to run in New Delhi. Suggested route #1

For those of us who live in New Delhi, or for people visiting this amazing city, there are many places to run, and we shall cover them systematically in a series of blog posts that kicks off today.  They will come complete with route maps and useful info, and  – it goes without saying –  all feedback is welcome.

For a city as hectically crowded and busy as New Delhi, we are fortunate to have such extensive green cover, and this is an important consideration for a runner, given –  no beating about the bush here – our shocking pollution levels.

For a visitor, it makes sense to combine some important landmarks along with their run, and there is nothing more stirring than a run down one of the city’s marquee roads –  Raj Path  – linking the Presidential place, Rashtrapati Bhavan – with the country’s War memorial, India Gate. (These are the two ends of the horizontal track log, below.  India Gate is to the right and Rashtrapati Bhavan to the left).
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If it doesn’t sound too vague, you can get to India Gate by many roads, as you can see from the map, and since all the streets in this pampered part of Delhi housing VIPs and politicians galore, are reasonably well maintained, have tree cover and security (thanks, VIPs) you can pretty much choose any starting point.  If you are driving, parking is a consideration.

For a longer run, park at Nehru Park, where there is ample space.  Otherwise, people park along Raj Path itself.  I have never done this, since I always start my run from around Nehru Park, so can’t tell you first hand what it’s like, but there are enough cars there every morning, so it’s clearly allowed and safe.

 

Recommended time of day

Mornings, definitely.  There is less traffic, less pollution, and the whole vibe around India Gate is way more relaxed than during the day.

The barriers at the bottom of Raisina Hill, leading to Rashtrapti Bhavan, are removed at 8 am, and then you can puff up the hill and get closer for a dekko at the official residence of the President.

Safety

Good.  Loads of cops around – but a word of warning, Indian cops are not given to intervening unnecessarily.  They tend to sit back and watch rather than actively “police”, but by and large you should be safe here.  I’ve had one unpleasant incident in this area (outside the National Museum on Janpath) and the cops did diddly squat, sad to report.

Traffic

Not bad at all, given that this is a gridlocked city for much of the day.

Condition of the road

For Delhi, this part of town (known as Lutyens Delhi) is well maintained.

You get fancy paving stones :

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I generally try and run on the sandy tracks bordering Raj Path (below)

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Scenic score

10/10

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Loos

Hmmm…nope, not really.

In sheer desperation, I have on occasions talked my way into government ministries and a military clinic and the National Museum in the dawn hours, but I wouldn’t bank on that always working.

Downside

There is always always always something happening around India Gate, from changing of the guard to demonstrations to wedding photos, so prepare for a slow time, as you slow down to watch whatever is going on.

But the sightseeing and absorbing the city vibe is all part of the run.

 

The track log (above) is for a 13km run, by the way.

Does running make you anti-social?

I ask this question in all honesty, since I have been accused of this many times over the past year.

“Anti-social” essentially translates into the need to go to bed earlier than one was used to before and, usually, not drink.

Or perhaps it’s just me.

But I can no longer have a couple of glasses of wine and then get up at 5 in the morning to go running. No can do. And much as I enjoy my wine, the choice was/is a no-brainer.

Obviously, go for a run.

What I find baffling is the assumption that Lifestyle A is somehow “better” than Lifestyle B, so that by not wanting to party long and hard, one is ipso facto boring and anti-social. I have yet to hear a runner criticising others for not wanting to get up at dawn and go for a run. We just do it.

Often I return home to a still sleeping house, so where was the anti-social-ness there, pray?

I acknowledge that there is definitely something very addictive about running, and the more one runs, the more importance it assumes in one’s life. Carving out time to go for a run is now part of my daily mantra, and when you live in a country like India, and it’s the summer, and so so hot, that means that you have to get up at dawn. Which means you have to go to bed early. And there we are again, back at the “Oh you are becoming anti-social” charge.

I don’t think I am totally alone in this. Certainly some of the lovely young ladies in my Delhi running group have faced issues of families resenting their commitment to running, that much I know.

Your thoughts, people?

How do you respond?

A novice’s guide to hill running

We are back in our beloved Tirthan Valley, in Himachal Pradesh, for a few days welcome escape from the heat and dust of Delhi.  While hubby fishes for trout in the fast flowing clear Tirthan river, I set out every morning and run.

We have been coming to Himachal for many years now, and since fishing isn’t my thing, I have always spent my days here going for long walks in the forest – or last time, thrillingly, climbing the peak opposite the lodge – but this time…the #100daysofrunning challenge is totally guiding my activities.

And so I am running.

Seriously, who would have known that an online challenge could become so competely addictive?

Thus it is that I am coming to grips with running in the hills, as in (a) at altitude, after Delhi and (b) literally running up and down the steep hills along which the tiny roads meander.

This morning I ran through part of the Great Himalayan National Park, and it now officially ranks as one of the most fabulous runs I have ever done in my (admittedly) short running life.

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Once I had turned off the road leading to the little village of Gushaini, there was no more traffic, since it was inside the park – and the only traffic was a few giggling schoolgirls (school on a Sunday?) saying “Hi” and then getting dumbstruck when I replied, and lots of porters on the way down from camping trips, judging by their loads.

Interestingly, every one of the porters greeted me not with the ubiquitous “Hi” but rather, very gravely, with a “Kaha ja rahi hai aap?” or “Where are you going?”.  They were probably foxed by the fact that I had only a tiny hydration pack and was running as best I could up the steep slopes. Also that I wasn’t wearing hiking boots like everyone else.

Whether it was newbie enthusiasm, or the joy of running in cool, damp, super clean air and being able to breathe deep lungfuls, unlike Delhi, but I found myself able to run way more uphill than I had expected.  It was amazingly exhilarating running uphill and negotiating the rocks and boulders along the track, and as for the flat sections through the forest…they were fabulous- the sound of the river below, butterflies galore and even wild strawberries to eat.

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Running on muddy earth, as opposed to roads, is fabulous but more than anything else it was the complete absence of traffic that made this run so perfect.

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Now, what I would love to know is this…is there a formula for calculating how a kilometre in the hills equates to a kilometre on the flat?  When I first started running, back in late 2013, our fearless coach and mentor and guru, Dr.Rajat Chauhan, was always very encouraging when we would tackle Raisina Hill, which is pretty much what passes for a slope in South Delhi.  He would always assure us that running up a gradient was worth w-a-y more kilometre-wise than running in the flat.

I realise the good doctor was doing this to encourage us, but all the same…is there indeed a formula? If any of you know, do please let me know.

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Oh the romance of running! The sheer gorgeous romance of it!

Anyone who thinks running is only about running – think again!

This morning, in the killer Delhi pre-monsoon heat, one of the prettiest young ladies I know, and the person responsible for getting me to start running, got married.

To a fellow runner.

Of course.

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Katha and Dave were introduced by one of the girls in my running group at a post-run brunch.  And well, after they met, their love story just ran and ran.

They discovered they were true sole mates.

They ran into each others’ arms.  You could even say they raced into each others’ arms.

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Dear Katha and Dave, here’s wishing you both lots of PBs in your new life together.

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OK, OK, OK.

That’s probably enough bad puns.

(Though actually, if any of you can think of any more suitable wedding-running puns, do please let me know.  Love to include them!)

So there you go, fellow runners.  A lovely story that all began with running.

“What are ya’ll running from? Where y’all going?” One of the funniest running videos you’ll see

I have my friend Mary Tremblay to thank for this.  An accomplished runner years before I had even thought of lacing up my running shoes, Mary sent me this link, below, to one of the funniest running videos you’ll see.

Watch as a group of rowdy hillbillies heckle runners in the Franklin Half Marathon.  It’s a long clip, but well worth watching.  Trust me.

Banjo music, hillbilly running in his overall, a kidnapped runner (serious!) and THE best quote ever, from one Mr. Red Duck Cantrell:

“We had all stayed up drinking moonshine all night and next thing you know a bunch of people in tight shorts started running by”

 

 

Fabulous stuff, but perhaps not so much fun for the poor fellow they hoiked off the road for a while.

Here’s a link to the race website with more brilliant photos.

Should you wear a mask when you go for a run in a polluted city?

Like Delhi, where I live.

Currently we have the dubious honour of being the world’s most polluted city.  (In your face, China!)

Yesterday, in my blog post about our very own marathon man completing his 50th marathon, I included a photo of Piyush-ji and some of his fellow runners, and what caught my eye was the gentleman wearing a mask.

Here’s the photo again.

(And apologies, once again, for “lifting” this photo from FB)

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Now, what do we all think about the efficacy and practicality of wearing a mask?  We poor Delhi-walas have suddenly woken up to the fact that we live in the muckiest city on the planet, which is a hang-your-head-in-shame title, and one which we should all be very frightened about.

The problem is that much of the time it doesn’t actually feel that polluted.  Sure, on those horrid grey foggy winter days when your can taste the foulness in the air –  then, yes, for sure you know it is polluted.  But for much of the year it doesn’t seem polluted.

And yet.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who now regularly checks the PM2.5 levels – now that we all know what they mean for our poor chests and lungs.

Here is the reading right now:

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(Am foxed, though, by the fact that in the reading, above, there is such a temperature difference between 2 parts of the city…22C vs 34C…)

So.

What do we do?

Masks or not?

On Saturday morning, out running in Lutyens Delhi, there was a sudden violent windstorm, and I used the buff with which I always run as a quick-fix to stop inhaling the clouds of dust I could see swirling around me.  God knows if it actually kept any dust out, but it was hot and uncomfortable, and I couldn’t have done my whole 12km run wearing it, that’s for sure.

 

And now –  over to you all, please, for your feedback.

I am throwing the discussion open, and would welcome your thoughts, your recommendations, your ideas.

Here are a few questions to get the discussion started:

a) are masks effective?

b) if so, which mask?

c) available in India? (That’s a domestic concern, for we local runners)

 

Please God we are not headed the way China did –  before they apparently got their act together, and India didn’t…

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[Photo: Imagine China]

India’s Marathon Man does it : 50 marathons down (And only another 50 to go…)

So.
What have YOU achieved in the last 3 days?
And yes, indeed, what have I achieved in the last 3 days?
My answer to that question goes something like this, “Oh, you know, a bit of this, bit of that.  Planned to do x, but ran out of time…thought about doing y but never got around to it…wasted time doing…planned to…never finished…”
Sound familiar?
Meanwhile, over in Ahmedabad, our very own Marathon man, Piyush-ji, has run 2 more marathons.  2 marathons in 3 days.
Yup.
Quite.
I shared his amazing story with you on Thursday, at which point he had run 48 marathons since April 1st.
Now make that 50 marathons.  In 75 days.
Yup.
Quite.
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I thought a lot about this amazing man as I battle with tiredness and the heat here in Delhi, as I work my way through our friendly online challenge to run for 100 days.  If I’m pathetically tired after running piddly short distances every day, how on earth does Piyush keep going day after day after day, running back-to-back marathons?
So I tackled him again, poor fellow, trying to winkle out some more of his secrets from him.  At this rate, he will probably soon block my emails, thinking I’m a creepy online stalker or something.
But here’s the thing with Piyush (whom I have never met, I hasten to add) – he is so totally modest and low key, that he makes the whole business of running marathon after marathon after marathon sound so simple and easy and uncomplicated.
Here, read my latest email Q & A below, and you’ll see what I mean.
Seriously, have you ever met anyone so unassuming and casual about such physical prowess?
Christine: Please tell us how much you eat! Doesn’t it require vast amounts of food to fuel so much intensive running?
Piyush: I only eat our Gujarati food. It is home product.
C: How long before a run do you eat?
P:  I eat at night time & in the morning I have cup of tea and 60ml Aloe vera gel drink. Not eating any thing.
C: Do you eat snacks or gels while you are running your marathons? Or do you not get hungry?
P: Never eat snacks or gels.
C: What do you drink while running? Just water or energy drinks?  How much?
P: Yes I drink only normal water.
C: Do you listen to music while running?
P: No!!! Running gives me time for great meditation. 6hrs worth.
C: No aches and pains?  No stiffness after so much running?
P: No pains & I run every time👍
I am as lost in admiration as ever.
I am gearing my self up, mentally and physically, to run my first ever marathon.  In 2016.
So months and months in advance, I bought those specialised running gels in London.  I even bought a specially designed belt to carry said special gels on the go.  I also bought a backpack-thingy to be able to drink on the go.  Gadgets maketh the woman.
And here is this amazingly modest man running 50 marathons in 75 days, eating very little, sleeping very little, no gels, no motivational playlists, none of the hoopla.
Truly inspirational.
Typically, in his laconic Facebook post this morning, that he had just run his 50th marathon, Piyush thanks the runners who had joined him to celebrate this milestone :
“I was feeling really strong today and thanks to all the runners of Ahmedabad coming out in large numbers to support my run.”
Here are some of these supporters (Piyush is in the orange T, to the right in both photos).
And apologies, unknown photographer, for swiping your pictures!
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And…yes, yes…Having seen this photo, I am already planning my next blog post about running in a mask against pollution.
More on that anon.
In the meantime it’s “shabash” to an amazing man who needs no sleep and runs on water and simple food.

How long should a pair of running shoes last?

I ask this in all seriousness, since I have just had an email from mapmyrun, an app I have on my iPhone, telling me that it’s time to think about buying new running shoes.

Crikey, I only bought my lovely pink & purple Adidas Energy Boost on 28 April –  ie 47 days ago.

Come on, surely, even with this #100daysofrunning challenge I can’t have almost worn my shoes out. Can I?

Or can I?

Let’s put all this in context.  I only wear my shoes for running, not during the day to go walking or anything.  There might have been some over-calculation with mapmyrun, since I think it syncs with my Garmin (but I don’t use that all the time).

But whatever the maths in all this –  how long should a pair of running shoes last?

FYI, the programme says 644km.  A very precise figure, arrived at how…?

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So, please, all you way more experienced runners out there, won’t you tell me what you feel is the expected life of a pair of running shoes?

And I have a few other related questions for you all:

1) Should I wear the same shoes every day, or alternate?

2) If the latter, should one have 2 pairs of the same shoes, or different shoes?  Does change help?  is it good for one’s feet or not?

 

I am no way going to replace my almost new shoes just because an app tells me to.  I’m not that much of a naive newbie runner, folks.  But I would love your feedback on what you all feel is a reasonable amount of mileage to get from shoes.

And – am I being paranoid here & imagining conspiracy theories – but do you suppose these tracking apps are in cahoots with the shoe companies to push us to buy more…?

No, you’re so right…they couldn’t be…could they…no, no, I AM being paranoid.

Am I?

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