Running footloose. Literally.

Last weekend, I admit it, I took the concept of being footloose to a whole new dimension.

On Sunday, Coach Ravinder, a Gurgaon based runner and coach, organised the 2nd edition of his Footloose Run.  It’s a super interesting concept.  Runners are not allowed to run with a watch, a GPS, a phone, headphones and they have to predict their own finishing time.

And so the winners are not the fastest over the finish line, but rather those who most accurately predict their own finishing time.

How interesting is that?!

I did the race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Like last year, this year’s edition had another interesting twist – the entrance fee is higher than usual, BUT instead of the standard T shirt, you get a pair of Mizuno shoes.  Like so.

Great concept.

So, very early on Sunday morning, off I went to Gurgaon to run the 2nd edition of Coach Ravinder’s race.

And got beyond lost.

God knows how I managed to mess up – despite using Google maps – but I drove miles and miles in circles. I did one stretch twice, pukka.

My 15km race was due to start at 5.30 so I’d planned to arrive at the venue at 5.10.

OK, make that 5.15.

Oh heck. Might just make it for 5.30…and on it went, and when it was 5.50 and I was still lost I called Coach, only to discover I was still 11km from the venue… 😛

Drive like a bat out of hell.

Finally arrive, to hear the 10k race being flagged off, and then the 5k…and I’m still walking to the venue.

Caught on camera (below) trying to look nonchalant, casually strolling in nearly 3/4 hour late, as the 5k runners set off…& yes, you’re right, that is indeed a lady in a sari running 🙂

But such is the nature of the lovely Footloose people, that the organisers all laughed it off, and just told me to run, and so off I trotted, a mere 42 minutes after the gun start of my 15km run.

Whoops.

You can see my friends Faizi & Tanya (below) clearly finding it all hilarious

Anyway, off I trotted (below), almost certainly the last starter in Footloose 2018 😛

The run itself was good – a 10km loop on a flat, well marked route, and then a 2.5 there & back on the same road.  Loads of water stations.  Lots of friendly faces.

Plus the inspirational presence of India’s very own Blade Runner, Major D.P.Singh.  Sunday marked the 19th year, to the day, since the Major was severely injured during the Kargil war.  Part of his right leg had to be amputated, but that hasn’t stopped the galant Major from becoming a living legend, running marathons and giving inspiring motivational talks. He is also a lovely man, which I ascertained when I was lucky enough to run and chat with him, last December.

He ran 19km to mark the 19th anniversary of what he describes as his ‘rebirth”.

What a man!

Closing thoughts on running footloose?

It really is a very different experience running without a watch.

No constant checking, no fretting about your timing, which is my usual race scenario.

I have yet to run a race where I am happy with my time and feel able to relax.

But on Sunday there was no stress.

It was as it was.

Of course, since both the gross (gun) and net times are recorded, I now have a truly disastrous time for my run – because the internet is forever, right?!

Seriously, I was very happy with my net finish time, so let’s just gloss over those extra 42 minutes that are now part of my record, shall we 😛

 

 

Running diagonally in 92% humidity

Let’s get the “oh my God 92% humidity” stuff out of the way first, shall we?

Today was indeed humid.

As in 92% humidity.

Well, that’s what my trusty iPhone weather widget told me (eyes left), as I headed out to meet up with my running group this morning.

But the weather certainly didn’t stop us all training and drilling this morning – “us” being my ASICS Running Club.

The original plan was for hill reps, but Coach decided against these : the rain yesterday made everything muddy and slippery, so we did a different kind of workout instead.

After our warm up lap and drills, we did a circuit of exercises – jumping jacks, burpees, high knees, butt kicks, planks and – pause for dramatic effect – push-ups.

And here’s the thing – I actually did 2×10 push-ups.

Me.

The Queen of Not Able To Do Push-Ups Land.

I decided last Thursday – exactly 10 days ago – that I was through with wimping out whenever Coach announced push-ups.  I’ve been trading on my “I’ve got no strength in my arms” excuse for a pathetically long time, and even I was getting bored with my own weakness.

So, a few YouTube videos later, I started a 30 day programme, and today, voilà, 20 push ups.

Rubbish ones.

But they were push ups 🙂

Then came the main event – diagonal training, which we don’t seem to have done in the longest time.  Coach explained that this drill was “invented” by Kenyan athletes, for the rainy season, and so it definitely made sense to do them today, given the damp condition of the grass.

Diagonals are literally that – you run diagonally across a field, walk the end, diagonally back, walk.

Like so:

My track log is a lot wonkier than this.

In our defence, we weren’t in a a rectangular field and there were other people around us – it’s a public park – but we still ran 10 pretty fast reps.

Here is a little of the theory behind diagonals, with thanks to ww.sleekrunning.com:

Diagonals are a drill best run on a football or soccer field, but any grassy rectangular field will do. They can help you:

  • Practice and fine-tune your running form – at both slow and fast speeds
  • Help racers develop a finishing kick (the ability to sprint at the end of a distance race)
  • Improve your speed
  • Use interval training to improve your stamina more quickly

I was super chuffed today because, for once, I ran with the big boys – the fast guys in our group who are usually always w-a-y ahead of me and w-a-y faster.  I was the last of the pack, but nevertheless I sort-of-just-about kept up with them, and we didn’t stop for a water break, so all in all, pretty darn chuffed.

We all drank litres during the training session, and we were drenched in sweat, but boy oh boy, what a fabulous session and what a great feeling to know you didn’t let the inclement weather get the better of you.

Running to the tune of Coach’s whistle

For those of you who were not out running early this morning in Delhi, let me say, quite simply, that it was brutally humid.  Hot and very, very humid.

For those of you who were running this morning, you don’t need me to remind you of the cruel weather.  So let me just say “well done” for being out there, training 🙂

We were a large contingent from our ASICS Running Club to meet up before 6am in a Delhi sports ground, to drill and train and run.

Today we did an unstructured fartlek workout.

We’ve done many fartlek workouts over the 18 months we’ve trained together, and I’ve written about them, too.  Here’s the link to the most recent fartlek session I wrote about, dating from mid-May.

Today, though, was different in that Coach didn’t tell us in advance that we would do x fast reps and y slow reps.

Instead, we were to start running and then go by his whistle.

So we all set off running fast and waited for his whistle, and then ran slowly until the next whistle, and so on and so forth.

Coach blew his whistle in what appeared to be a random pattern, but I’m sure it wasn’t.  Sometimes the long-short rhythm would be regular, sometimes there would be a long fast section followed by a too short slow section 😛 and he varied the rhythm non-stop for 5 km.

Yes, it was exhausting.

But it was challenging and fun and though I felt a bit nauseous about half way through, I didn’t stop, and staggered on to the end. Coach stood there, throwing out his pithy one liners to encourage us.  At one point, when Coach was blowing his whistle quickly between the fast and slow sections (meaning they were each of a shorter duration), as I tottered past, he muttered something about how I could perhaps make an effort in the fast drills, since they were getting shorter.

Although I managed a fast pace at the outset, obviously I got slower as the 5.3km went on, but was pretty darn pleased that I finished it, with no goofing off.

I was wiped out, I have to say, and things were not helped by a fearsomely difficult yoga workout led by one of our tribe, Ajay Jaisinghania.

I’m stiff and un-supple at the best of times, but Ajay’s routine this morning actually had me teetering on the edge of tears.

Truly.

To be the only one unable to bend and twist, and the realisation that I’m probably too old ever to be able to work towards such suppleness was a sobering thought.

From the “high” of doing a good fartlek, I was almost in tears.

Stupid, but there you go.

Team photo, though probably more than half of the group had left, since it’s a working day.

Once home, I did a little online research about the benefits of unstructured fartlek & I’m sharing here a very useful article from the always excellent Runners World website, which has some interesting insights into the kind of unstructured fartlek we did this morning:

“…workout uses deception as a way of tapping into your hidden reserves. You may think you’re cooked when you finish a hard workout, but scientists have repeatedly shown that people can actually maintain a similar pace for another few reps after completing a prescribed workout. And the benefits can be substantial. In one study, cyclists who were fooled into riding farther than expected were subsequently able to race 13 percent faster when they knew the correct distance…”

Deception as a way of tapping into your hidden reserves“.

Now how interesting is that as a concept?  Certainly worked for me this morning.

And this next sentence could almost have been tailor made for a slow runner like yours truly:

“Don’t get hung up on pace—the goal is to push when you thought you couldn’t anymore.”

Somehow, something worked, because despite feeling super tired, after our ASICS session, I then went for a v-e-r-y slow 6km run with my running partner Ripu Daman.

I was quite convinced after the fartlek workout that I’d have absolutely no energy left, but those hidden reserves mentioned above actually came into play.

We went to check on the tree-cutting, by the way, and found no evidence of further tree cutting in Netaji Nagar, scene of our protests.

That was good news.

Delhi’s showpiece trail run

Bright and early this morning, we were hundred of Delhi & NCR runners, all heading to Sanjay Van, a lovely large forested area in south Delhi.

The occasion?

The 4th edition of the legendary DRG run – Delhi Runners Group – and it was as every bit as much fun as the other editions.  I’m super proud to have taken part in all 4 editions of this fun run in the forest.  It is always impeccably organised, all by volunteers, and just think about it:

No entry fee.

No chip.

No timing mat.

No medal.

Loads of water and snacks.

Definitely the best crewing at water stations ever.

Volunteer photographers.

Free breakfast afterwards.

And THE best certificates ever, drawn by the children of the DRG members.

Like so:

As I say every year – what’s not to love?

A certificate telling you that your finishing time is brilliant – total love 🙂

The atmosphere at this race, which consists of 7km loops through the forest, on a very up-and-down-y trail run, is one of great camaraderie.  Seemingly, just about everyone I know from the Delhi running world was there, so it was one long “hello, how are you, lots of love, sweaty hugs” – too good.

I did 2 loops, so 14km, and was happy with my time.  I deliberately didn’t take it too fast, because the weather was pretty darn brutal AND I’ve been slacking off lately, with all my travels and climbing.  The humidity was killer and the sun was fierce, but it didn’t rain.  Don’t mind running in the rain at all, it just plays havoc with my specs!

The aid stations were manned by the cheerful-est, smiling-est group of DRG members you could wish to meet, most of them runners themselves, greeting us all by name.

Lots of my ASICS running group were there, but I ran quite a bit on my own (not quite sure how that happened) and quite a bit with Abhay Kohli, a lovely, calm runner who kept telling me to slow down, given the weather conditions.

But in a run like today’s you are never actually on your own, since there are hundreds of running mates and friendly faces at every turn.  Brilliant atmosphere.

Once again, hats off to the lovely, happy runners of DRG.

They make the run appear effortless, though I’m sure it isn’t.  So much behind the scenes planning and co-ordination, and then the preparation of the trail, with chalk marks to guide us and – new this year – cute signs to warn us of upcoming hills or muddy patches.

Too good, I tell you.

The official photos are not yet out, so here are a couple taken by our very own ASICS running group’s Sunil Punshi.

The group photo, below, includes only a fraction of us.  But you can see that the default setting was smiles 🙂

(And sweat, if you really want to know :P)

“You look like a kangaroo when you jump”

Gee thanks, Coach.

And there was I thinking I was actually, you know, doing OK, jumping energetically up a hill in a Delhi park in what seemed to be 200% humidity.

But, as I’ve learned in these past few years of running, there is nothing more humbling than this sport 😛

Seriously, kangaroo-like jumping aside, this morning’s running and training session with my ASICS running group was amazing, and despite the crazy weather conditions, we all worked hard and – I think – everyone enjoyed the morning.

All through the 2 hours we were working out, I kept thinking, over and over again, thanks goodness I got up and came.

Because it’s tough to get up at 4.30, especially when you know you’re heading out into killer heat and even more killer humidity.

But our hill training today was proof that you always, always, always need to show up, regardless.

For people unfamiliar with Delhi, hill training is not easy in a city that is by and large flat.  What we call ‘hills” here are really not much at all, more like little bumps, so Coach makes us work hard with what we have.

Hence many of today’s drills were done up a slope, intensifying the work out.


We ran up the slope, we jumped up the slope – like so.

Love all the energy & determination happening below!



And we did a sort of spiderman-y crawl (though I think the technical term is spider crawl), also up the slope:

We lunged up the slope:

 

Then we tackled the “hills” of Nehru Park, which is actually a rather cool drill.

We ran up and down a series of 5 hillocks, there and back, 3 times, which may not sound much but was pretty darn exhausting.  The humidity was punishing, I tell you.

So why was all this so brilliant, do I hear you ask?

Not only was it really great to be running with my tribe again, the workout was challenging and invigorating.  Does that make any sense at all, when we were all exhausted by the heat and humidity?

Also, some dear friends who haven’t been to our sessions for quite a few months rocked up unexpectedly – that means you, Dr & Dr Gandhi 🙂 –  we had 2 birthdays to celebrate, so there was cake and yet more cake.

All in all, a morning super well spent.

What did you see on your run today? 2 very different processions!

Yesterday I had to apologise to the lovely Myriam in Belgium for taking so long to share her running photo of the day.

Today, I must apologise to the equally lovely Katha, one of my original Delhi running group, & now happily married and living in England.

Late last month Katha and hubby Dave – also a super fast runner – went to London and, as she always does, bless her, Katha sent me photos of what she saw.  The blame for the fact they are – ahem – nearly 2 weeks late appearing here – is entirely mine.

So, apologies tendered, let’s check out what Katha and Dave saw in the course of their run, which was, amazingly, 2 different kinds of processions on display.

They set out to go have a look at the Rath Yatra, which, as Katha explains “is something I have grown up participating in during summer vacations in Kolkata.  And en route, we got to see the Changing of the Guard.”

So, in chronological sequence, here are the Guards – sort of visible behind a forest of mobile phones 😛

[jwplayer mediaid=”29351″]

Katha later got to pull the Rath Yatra (“rath” is a chariot, by the way) and, in her own words, she says “I pulled the rath after probably about 28 years – the last time, Dad had taken me to the artisan’s alley in north Kolkata to a custom-made 3 tier rath.”

[jwplayer mediaid=”29352″]

As she said in her message, regarding this photo below, “Here’s a happy me!”

The essence of cosmopolitan London was how Katha summed up her morning.

Thanks, as ever, and #keeprunning #keepinspiring

What did you see on your run today? Muddy angels!

I was always told, as a child, that to start a letter with an apology was bad form.

You know the kind of thing…”Dear Auntie, Sorry for taking so long to write and thank you for the lovely Christmas present…”

But I’m obliged to do a grown up, blogging version of this apology before I go any further.

Over 3 weeks ago, the lovely Myriam Sleeckx, a Belgian cyber-friend, sent me a series of fab photos of her running with her 2 daughters in the Muddy Angel Run.

Over 3 weeks ago…

I have NO idea why I took this long to share them.  No idea at all.

My apologies, dear Myriam.

To be honest, I’d never heard of the Muddy Angel Run until I got these photos, but a little research later, I learned that it is a huge Europe-wide women’s only run in aid of breast cancer.

To quote Myriam, “Beacuse cancer fights dirty and we fight dirty back.”

Running, obstacles, mud – sounds like a fun event, and these photos only go to prove it!

Take a look at these fun photos, below, and tell me, by the way, if you agree that these 3 look more like 3 sisters, than a mother & her 2 daughters 😛


About slow runners…

About 18 months ago, I was at a friend’s birthday party.

I’d just run a full marathon that same morning, so felt:

(a) super chuffed with myself for having run a marathon at 62 (as I was then)

and

(b) super chuffed with myself for putting on my best frock & my dancing shoes, instead of going to bed early, after running a marathon.

At the party, a man I didn’t know, still don’t know, and whose name I never caught, came up to me and said the darnedest thing ever.

”I saw your time for the race today,” he started, and I preened myself for a congratulatory comment.

”You were really really slow.”

WHAT. THE. HELL.

I had NO idea who he was, nor how on earth he knew that I’d run a marathon etc etc, but in the moment, I was so stunned that I just stood there, jaw probably slack, while he continued, “5 hours is really slow.”

If I could have those 2 minutes of my life back, boy, would the conversation have been totally different.

Instead of staring in disbelief at this rude stranger, I’d have said to him something along the lines of “How dare you comment on my marathon time?  It is a fabulous achievement and it’s not up for discussion or criticism.”

Or, perhaps, I’d have asked this judge-y man, “Have YOU run a marathon?  No, I thought not,  So why don’t you shut the **** up”, and I’d have walked away, head held high.

But none of this happened, of course.

I just stood there, staring in disbelief at the rudeness of the man.

His wife – I suppose – piped up, and here the whole thing got weirder:

”Darling, she ran the full this morning.  That time was for a full not a half.”

WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE??

HOW DID THEY KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT ME?!

”Oh” says bloke.  “A full.  5 hours for a full.  Better than 5 for a half,” and off they wandered, having totally messed with my head.

I tell you, that conversation changed me.

It was as though someone had critiscised my children, or told me that my dogs are ugly.

Damn it, how DARE you tell me that I’m a slow runner.

None of your damned business.

Which is why I try never to ask people their finishing times.

I congratulate them on the stupendous feat of finishing a 10K/HM/FM and strive never to ask “What was your time?”

If they want to, they’ll tell me.

We need to celebrate achieving something fantastic, something which is a personal benchmark and who knows the back story?

Where is all this slow-runner talk coming from, do I hear you ask?

Well, for one thing, since I’m easing back into running after over 3 weeks away on a climbing trip, I’m super slow and out of shape myself.

And secondly, this turned up today:

It’s my finisher’s T shirt from the New Delhi Marathon in February, and shows my time.

Yaay!  I cracked 5:00 which was my goal and so I, for one, am super happy to have this time on show.  Hubby commented that perhaps some people who were disappointed with their time might not want to wear such a T, and perhaps he’s right, but not in my case.

4:50:10 and proud of it and aiming to reduce it next time round 🙂

 

“Climb every mountain…”

For someone who has just returned from climbing a real live 6000m+ mountain in the Himalayas, I made a complete dog’s breakfast of our hill repeats at running group, this hot and humid morning.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post this week, I was pretty knackered on my return from climbing, and only mustered the courage to go meet my running group on Tuesday.  I didn’t drill with them that day, just trotted slowly round the park.

But day by day I have felt increasingly stronger and less exhausted, though dealing with the extreme heat (& pollution, boo hiss) has been a bit of a struggle.

Anyway, today I felt fully fit (or so I thought 😛 ) and so off I went to meet up with my tribe in Nehru Park.

Today was hill repeats which I actually rather enjoy, and since my next race is a marathon in Ladakh in September, at an altitude of 3500m, hill repeats seemed like a good idea.

Delhi is pretty flat, so finding “hills” is a bit of a challenge, but Nehru Park has a couple of “hills”.

Today we did 15 reps, and I thought I was going to die.

As in keel over.

Pass out.

Faint.

Puke.

It was really tough, and I struggled to complete the 15 repetitions, watching in awe as my fellow runners sprinted up & down, making it all look so easy.

I tried not to panic, or think of the hills in Leh, but could hardly avoid the fact that my form has suffered in the past month and that a lot of work lies ahead in the months before Leh.

So I finished my 15 reps, super slowly, but I did ’em.

Do the others look exhausted (below)?

Quite.


Anyway, what’s done is done & all that jazz.
I have resumed training.

I’m feeling a whole lot stronger than a week ago.

And that can only be for the good, right?

Here we all are, still smiling despite the humidity – in fact, most of the lads stayed behind to play football.

Gotta love #mytribe

And here’s my new mantra 🙂

Running and drinking

(This post is NOT what you think.  No booze.  Just water!)

Now here’s the thing – I need to get back to hydration basics.

Or, actually, given my sloppy record in eating & drinking healthily, what I actually need to do is to re-think my diet totally.

Despite the terrible weather here in Delhi and the even more terrible pollution this morning (back to the same scary levels as last winter) I still decided to go out for a run.

Big mistake.

On so many levels.

1) I quickly realised that I’m still tired from my climbing trip, more tired than I realised.

2) I also quickly realised that ignoring the weather and the wise counsel of my running group not to head out this morning, was a stupid mistake.  Coughing and spluttering, murky dusty sky at 6am, dust swirling everywhere.  What did I not understand?

3) But it was when I started staggering across the track in my local park that I realised (finally 🙁 ) that all was not well.

Empty stomach + a coffee + water is clearly not what a body needs in this heat and 40% humidity.

It was quite alarming, tottering from side to side, so I stopped running, slowed down to a painfully slow walk, and made it back home, where I immediately drank coconut water & a glass of nimbu pani (sweet lime water with sugar & salt) to restore the electrolyte balance.

I then ate a banana.

Only then did I sit down to consult Dr. Google, and think some more about what happened out there this morning.

The only other time I remember staggering and wobbling like that was the first time I ran the wonderful (& upcoming 🙂 ) DRG half marathon in Sanjay Van, where I drank only water and was completely knocked sideways by the heat and humidity.

I instinctively dislike (&, yes, distrust) energy drinks.

Without mincing my words, the thought of sweet, orange-y flavoured drinks when I’m exercising makes me want to puke.

I remember inadvertently having a glucose energy drink on summit night, the second time I climbed Kilimanjaro, and promptly vomiting it all up.

I also remember foolishly having a sip of whatever was on offer at an aid station at about the 14/15km stage during my first ADHM (Airtel Delhi Half Marathon) and – yet again – vomiting.

Nevertheless, I have in my kitchen 2 opened and unfinished boxes of Glucon D, which I try and take in the lead up to marathons, and then promptly forget about afterwards.

I’d better check their expiry dates and then see about incorporating them in my summer drinks menu.  Should I?

Or is Enerzal better?

Your thoughts, friends.  Please.

I find it difficult to eat first thing so early in the morning, but I suppose a banana is better than heading out an empty stomach, right?

Amy other tips for easy-to-digest food I could eat at about 4.30/5.00 in the morning before setting out to run?

Still so much to learn…

Here are a few thoughts about hydration that Dr. Google came up with, which are worth sharing, I think.

At just 2% dehydration, “athletes lose the ability to operate at full mental capacity.”  Yikes.

And here is a simple explanation of why we all need electrolytes:

Thanks for sticking with me this far, and I really would welcome all feedback/advice/suggestions.  I have a marathon to prepare for and less than 3 months of hot & humid weather in which to do so, so I really do have to sort out a proper hydration and energy régime.

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