Running to celebrate India’s Independence Day

Today, August 15, India celebrates her Independence Day, the day when, in 1947, India gained independence from colonial rule.

To mark the day, our running group did a short fun run, with flags galore & as many orange, white and green Ts as we could muster. (Those are the 3 colours of the Indian flag, for those unfamiliar with the tricolour).

The plan was to run to India Gate, but sadly we weren’t allowed to run down Raj Path by the cops.

But, undeterred, we took another zillion photos & selfies at Vijay Chowk, got filmed & interviewed by Republic TV, and trotted happily back to our starting point.

It was a morning of endless photos, and the nice sight of some wives and little children joining us.  Many of our cycling mates also joined us.

We met up with loads of other running groups.

It was, in other words, a morning of true camaraderie.

So, Happy Independence Day, India.

Enjoy my ASICS Running Club in their true colours 🙂

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As the only Brit in the group, I came in for some good natured ribbing, especially from my running mate & neighbour Mahendra Bhist who was twice caught on camera (well, my iPhone) telling me I could Quit India & go home 😛

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We are lucky in our running group to have one lovely man, Sunil Punshi, who is – among many other nice things – an excellent photographer and a very generous one, too.  By that I mean that he takes loads of photos of us all, and readily and happily shares them.

He had a great idea this morning – line us up in our 3 basic colour groups to form our very own version of the flag.  Like so:

Sunil was filming us all morning and made a YouTube video, but I especially like this clip (below) from YouTube:

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Now HOW fun is that?!

Happy Independence Day, India !

D-25 & the hell with it!

Gosh, the days are racing by and the countdown to the Ladakh Marathon on 9 September now stands at D-25.

Like so:
Yesterday I made a big decision, changing from the full to the half marathon, after days of dithering and weeks of stress.

Realistically, I doubt anyone is truly interested in my thought processes for making the switch, so I won’t bore you to death.

But, in a nutshell, I was ill-prepared to run a full at such high altitudes – Leh is at 11,500 feet, which means that any exertion is that much more difficult.

Plus I was stressing so much about not pushing beyond the 25km mark in my runs here in hot & miserably humid Delhi, and suddenly I thought – the hell with it!

This is supposed to be fun.

You are going to Ladakh for pleasure.

What on earth are you doing fretting and worrying about running the full?

And so I changed my category, and INSTANTLY felt a huge sense of relief, which seems to imply that I made the correct decision, despite a definite sense of let down in doing so.

I’ve discovered many things late in life, and one of them is that I am surprisingly competitive…never knew until I started running.

So, now that I am officially competitive, there is most definitely a sense of regret at not doing the full.

As though a half marathon at high altitude is somehow “a let down”.

Nonsense, I agree.

So, there you are.

The new status quo.

What this means, of course, is that I now no longer have to stress about doing very long runs.  I have comfortably run more than 21k a few times these last few weeks.  So, as I told our ASICS running coach when I made the category switch, now I can work on speed.

Which brings me to this morning, and interval training in 92% humidity.

Before you say anything I know, I know – same humidity for everyone else in my running group, but I’m just telling you!

My group did 8x400m metres & we were quite fast, I have to say.

My fastest lap was at an equivalent speed of 4:38 min/km.

Pretty chuffed, but I only did one lap at that speed.  The other laps were not too shabby, so felt pleased.

Also felt nauseous, which might well be a result of running too fast 🙁

So, it’s now Operation Speed.

It’s a more relaxed frame of mind.

It’s all about enjoying Ladakh.

 

D-30 to the Ladakh Marathon

Today it’s the 9th August.
The Ladakh Marathon is on the 9th September.
So even a dodgy mathematician like me can do the sums.
There’s just one month to go.
That’s just 30 days.  But I checked the website all the same, to confirm my maths 😛

So, do I hear you ask, how did I mark this one-month-to-go day?

Did I do a lovely long 30k run, as planned?

Not one bit of it!

I marked the day by tripping and falling, and banging & scraping my left knee & right elbow, and tearing my running trousers, that’s how 🙁 🙁

Like so:

  

All a bit of a bore, really.

It’s hardly life threatening, but it is certainly gonna slow me down over the next few days and that is the LAST thing I need.

Anyway, after I’d picked myself up, I continued with my run, though I did make a concession to aching knee and disgustingly high humidity, and scaled back my ambitions from a 30k to a 20k.

Slowest 20k ever, as in ever, as in seriously ever, but I was determined not to give up, just because of this wretched stretch of pavement, below, that did me in:

I ask you, who designs these stupid pavements of ours with so many different levels and surfaces?

So yes, all in all, I marked D-30 in an original way.  Stupid, but original.

My biggest worry now is getting in the crucial LSD that will take my run over the 24k threshold.  Even though I know I can run 42km (because I’ve done it before) I still need to get in the mileage.

So, this weekend it is…

Last Sunday was supposed to be a major LSD.  Instead I took part in what may well be Delhi’s first ever sports bra run, the #shedit run.  Super fun.

So, watch this space, folks.  This weekend it is –  the breakthrough mileage weekend.  Just pray for better weather & not such horrid humidity – 93% today.

Shed your inhibitions!

To women runners across the globe, this is to let you know that a small group of women in Delhi took a decisive step this morning 🙂

We ran in our sports bras and crop tops, the way millions of you already do, without even thinking about it.

But this is India.

And this is Delhi, a city not known to be women-friendly.

But we did it!

It all started with a phone call from one of the Delhi NCR’s most popular and influential runners – the blogger, yogini and runner Tanya Agarwal.

She was organising a sports bra run along with another runner Nikita Seth.  Was I interested?

“Obviously,” was my answer.

And so this overcast, humid Delhi morning a group of us ran together in our sports bras and crop tops, feeling cooler without the extra layer of a sweaty T shirt, feeling great, and having a blast.

When Tanya announced the run, she shared the vision behind it:

“The objective of this Run :
Shed your Inhibitions and run!
This is not any of those women’s liberation kind of run. It’s a few of us ladies getting together to feel the experience of a different run with like minded company. It’s to shed inhibitions, continue to feel strong about our bodies and believe that once in a while you can do it just the way you’d really like and have wanted. Delhi is hard on us women and we should not do this alone! But together we can! 

Hoping to inspire the fence sitters. Hoping to be a drop in the ocean!”

I can’t officially speak for all the other fabulous young women, but I’d say it was TOTAL “mission accomplished”, Tanya and Nikita.

We ran strong, we had fun, we turned a few heads, and we garnered smiles and high fives from most of the runners we met en route.

It was SO encouraging to see the smiles and hear the cheers as runners passed us this morning and – in a moment that I hope someone captured on film – as we crossed a group running towards us, Tanya yelled “Take it off!” and Garima Dhamija did just that! Whipped off her T-shirt, changed directions and  joined us.

Total rockstar moment.

Whenever I’ve seen runners overseas, I’ve noticed that so many women run in crop tops.

If you look at photos online of races, marathons, whatever, so many women are running comfortably clad, and no-one seems to bat an eyelid.

So that issue was part of the rationale behind today’s run.

And yes, it felt great to run freer and cooler, and I think we all looked pretty damn fantastic –  though I’m obviously biased!

But it wasn’t simply about running in our sports bras.

It was also about shedding inhibitions, about feeling OK about your body.  About feeling good in your own skin.

Yet again, I can’t speak for all the young women this morning, but I know that a couple of women felt apprehensive about running in less rather than more.

I certainly did.

I’m very conscious of my age, of the wrinkles, and of the old-lady flab that is gradually accumulating, despite all the running.

I admit to having a bit of a wobble during the week and wondering whether I wasn’t about to make a total and utter fool of myself.

But I wasn’t about to let down the great core team of women and – very importantly – great male supporters, and so off I went.

We rendezvous-ed outside Nehru Park, and had a fun photo shoot

    

Just look at these young women!  Fit & fabulous & looking completely normal in their pared down running gear.

    

What a gallery of great women 🙂

After yet more photos and initiating an hour-long Facebook live session, off we set, accompanied by a gang of great guys.

These men, all stellar runners and coaches in their own right, supported us fantastically.

I suppose the original idea was that the men would be there in case of any untoward reaction to the sight of women in Delhi in – gasp – sports bras & crop tops.

As it was, nothing happened, though to be fair we were running at dawn, and around a park that is runners central on Sundays, but nothing other than cheers and positivity came our way.  Which is SUCH a wonderful reaction.

So the presence of so many of my male running friends just made the whole exercise seem more normal.  In the end, we were a group of women running with a group of men.  How brilliant.

I enjoyed every single moment of this initiative and was hoping that Nikita & Tanya would agree to another lap of the park.  As it is, I’m hoping they already have the next #shedit run planned!

So.

Did I shed any of my own inhibitions?

Well…I certainly feel very conscious of my wrinkles in one photo that is so hideous (of me 🙁 ) that even in the pursuit of objective blogging, I can’t bear to share it.  I look about 700 years old 🙁 🙁

So, no, actually, a total fail in shedding that particular inhibition!

Joking aside, it actually felt weird for a moment, putting my T shirt on for the drive home.  It had felt natural to be dressed the way we were.

And taking things forward?

In Delhi, I certainly won’t be running in my sports bra alone.

I might well run in it with another group of women, like today, or with the same kind of fab blokes we ran with today.

And I’m going to work on that flab, which isn’t an inhibition, before you say anything – just need to #shedit!

Today was great fun, but also came with a great purpose behind it.

Honoured to have been part of the inaugural #shedit run & look forward to the next one!

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Reminding myself why I started running

Facebook has a neat feature where they remind you of what you said/did/posted on any given date in previous years.

Turns out, 2 years ago today, I shared this article, that I wrote for the Reader’s Digest, about my running journey.

After a pretty miserable running session this morning, where I battled all kinds of things, and felt very discouraged, it was good to revisit the reason how and why I started running.

So I’m sharing this article with you here.



Not too much has changed, in the 2 years since I wrote this.

99.9% of the time I love running.

Sadly this morning was the 1%, when I wonder if I’m being an old fool for trying to keep up with younger, fitter people.

People still make the occasional mean comment about running “at your age,” but either they are less frequent than before, or I’ve learned to ignore them.  Also, the nasty remarks are totally out-numbered by the kind & encouraging things people say – usually my lovely fellow runners.

So, yes.

2 years on.

2 years older.

Not much progress made on my running timings and achievements, if I’m being honest, but if the love is still there – which it is – then I’m cool with running “at my age.”

D-36 & an unexpected compliment

D-36 to the Ladakh Marathon.

Pause, please, while I hyperventilate and panic.

How ON EARTH did it get to D-36 so quickly?

And here am I, still faffing about, and not really in control of my marathon training.

I was at D-40 when last I updated my cyber-countdown.

That was Monday.  Now it’s Friday.  Yikes!

So on Monday, since Sunday’s run had gone pear-shaped, I ran 16km.

All well & good.

Except that it left me feeling completely knackered for our regular Tuesday ASICS Running Club meet.  My friend and running mentor Navi pointed out as much, asking me why I looked so below par, and taking me for task for not having a proper rest day.

Tuesday we did pyramid intervals, and despite slow speed & stupidly pausing my Garmin for 2 laps, my mileage for the morning was 5.24km.  And thus ended D-39.

Wednesday.  D-38.  Rest day.  Finally.

Had to give the old bones one day to recover, so I switched off the usual 4.30am alarm & took the day off.

It was also hubby’s birthday = party = late night = the next day, 4.30am alarm was also switched off, for the 2nd day in a row 😛

Yesterday, D-37, therefore, I went for an evening run.  Not usually a fan of evening runs, because in a city like Delhi there is more traffic in the evening as opposed to at dawn.  Plus, in the summer, it’s hotter.

But last night was more of a mental exercise.  It would’ve been way too easy not to head out, telling myself it was too hot & too humid (it was and it was) but boy, am I glad I went.

A reasonably-paced 10km, given the heat and humidity, and I felt invigorated.  And that was D-37.

Today, D-36, plans changed at 5.40 in the morning, when my usual partner in crime felt unwell, so instead of running in the Lodhi Gardens, I headed back to my local Aravalli Biodiversity Park, last seen a mere 10 hours earlier!

Beautiful morning, & not too humid.

More birds than you could shake a stick at.

Lovely sighting of a family of 3 jackals who crossed the track in front of me, with the juvenile taking a long time to stand and stare at the red-faced old lady puffing towards him.

Hilarious encounter with a man out power walking with whopping great wrist weights on, who told me his life story in less than 2 minutes, including age, retirement status, passport status and where he lives in London.

He was ever-so-slightly bragging about being 60, expecting compliments on how fit he looked.  But I didn’t rise to the bait, so he then did that oh-so-Indian thing and asked me outright how old I am.  Slightly taken aback at my reply – since I’m w-a-y older then him – he quickly recovered and said, “Madam, you don’t look a day over 45”.

Off I trotted, feeling very pleased with myself! 🙂

Ah, the questions that runners are asked!

Absolute cracker of a conversation last night with one of my (Indian) husband’s cousins from his step-father’s side, which naturally makes her my first cousin as well, of course.

Someone had mentioned that I run, and that I am preparing to run a marathon in a month.

Questions ensued.

First up was the standard ”How far exactly is a marathon?”

”42km” I replied.

”42km.  Oh my goodness me.  So how many days will it take you to finish it?’

Bless 😛

Meet Stormy, the dog who just ran a half marathon

Here you go.

My running story of the day 🙂

Here’s Stormy, an Australian stray who has just run the Pipeline Marathon in a very respectable 2 and a half hours and won a medal, having crossed though all the checkpoints.

I absolutely adore stories like this.  Well, who doesn’t?

Apparently Stormy sort of belongs to an Aboriginal community, rather than to an individual, but since no one has come to claim him after his half marathon, he is currently in a shelter, with lots of his fellow runners willing to adopt him.

He looks totally fabulous, despite those stumpy little legs:

Love the race organiser’s assessment of his running style:

‘I suppose he would be middle to back of the pack, but he wasn’t necessarily running in a straight line either.’ race organiser Grant Wholey said.

What a rockstar!

And here he is, being awarded his finisher’s medal 🙂

When your running schedule goes haywire

Well, here we are, then.

D-40 to the Ladakh Marathon, which we now know is not the world’s highest marathon, as I’d always thought, but certainly one of the highest in the world, and most definitely India’s highest marathon.

40 days and counting, and I still haven’t got the mileage under my belt.

Cue yesterday.

Sunday is traditionally the day for LSD (no, silly, not THAT LSD) – a Long Slow Distance run.

I decided I’d run alone, since my plan was to do a minimum of 27k, preferably 30k, since I am lagging behind in training + miles on the clock + time on feet.

Everything, really 😛

Oh my giddy aunt, what a disaster it all turned out to be.

Stomach shot, I felt clammy & unwell, so after 4 km or so, I abandoned all pretence of a long run, and headed home, to rest up & calm down.  Really needed to calm down, because, and I’m not proud of myself, I got super worked up about not doing a long run, and it really began to mess with my head.

I started panicking about lack of time/not enough Sundays/the traffic/the heat/the humidity & on and on it went.

Cue for hubby to start muttering about “this running of yours has become an obsession…run for pleasure…running is taking over your life…” (All that, by the way, is for another, subsequent blog post)

Anyway, after a few immature tears, I calmed down & made myself go out again in the evening, telling myself I’d do at least 20k.

Yesterday was SO not my day.

Super hot.

Super humid.

I was basically faffing around, feeling sluggish, so I just did 8km and called it a day.  Again.

Thus ended D-41, on a very nervous note.

Fretting about lack of mileage.

Fretting about finding the time to do a long run during the week, when there are other commitments.

Fret, fret, fret.

So I decided that instead of declaring today, Monday, my rest day – which it usually is, post the previous day’s LSD – I’d go run today as well.  Logic was that I hadn’t really ‘earned” a rest day.

Given the time + the traffic build up + the humidity + a meeting at home by 9.00, I could only manage a slow 16km.

But those 16km calmed me down.

I may not have done the mileage in one go, but between Sunday and Monday, I clocked up a little over 28km so I sort-of-kind-of did my LSD.

And my head is now sorted.

Which is more than half the battle.

Closing mileage for last week was 44.05, meaning it took me a week to run a marathon 🙁

Countdown to Ladakh, D-42 to 42k

I tell you what.

Maintaining this Ladakh marathon countdown diary is a great way to focus the mind, & also highlight how the days are rushing by.

I last chatted to you on Wednesday, and today is already Saturday.

Whoops.

Also, since the Ladakh Marathon website shows 42 days remaining, I have decided to align my own countdown with theirs. I think I included race day as well.  (Maths & logic were never my strong points :P).

Anyway, whatever, today is now D-42.

D-42 to a 42K event.

Life kinda got in the way of training on Thursday & Friday, meaning I didn’t do anything, other than a bit of stretching and some paltry push ups (more on them anon) and it poured down, and yadda yadda yadda.

So, by the time Friday evening came around, I felt distinctly cabin-fever-ish and since the rain had eased up, off I went for a solitary trot around my local biodiversity park.

I was feeling distinctly uneasy at the lack of miles put in this week, so a nice, slow 13km sorted me out.

I set off for the run in a bad mood, because of something that happened here (basically a bitchy comment from someone who has always been unpleasant, but still manages to get to me) but within a couple of minutes of running in the damp and lush green forest, I’d forgotten my bad mood.

Talk about running being the answer to every single problem.

I ran slowly, enjoying being on my own.  Much as I love running with my running group, and let’s be clear, I always run better with other people, sometimes it’s good to run alone.  Last night was one of those times.

I came back relaxed and refreshed and with harmony restored.

So that was D-43.

Which brings us to D-42.

This morning was our regular ASICS Running Club meet, & in 99% humidity we did hill reps in Nehru Park.  The strong runners managed 4 reps, but I caved in after 3.  Absolutely wiped out which, doesn’t bode too well for You Know What.

I kept telling myself that there won’t be any humidity up in Ladakh, which is true enough.

What there will be, on the other hand, is that little matter of 11,550 feet…

Anyway, let’s not dwell too much on vexing issues like high altitude racing, shall we? 😛

 

After our hill reps we did a killer work out – a combo of drills such as leg raises and planks and push ups and squats –  everything that I am so pathetic at.

Although I was pretty chuffed, I must admit, to be able to do all the series of push ups – feeble as they were – after never being able to before.

Here we are, smiling when it was all over!

 

So, as the week draws to a close, let’s have a look at the week’s mileage to date, shall we?

I won’t include walking, just running.

So far, I’ve covered 31.7km.

Even if I round it up to 32, I’m still technically only 3/4 of the way through my marathon…

Yet again, yikes!

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