Get up. Lace up. Show up.

If ever there was a morning for pressing the snooze button and going back to sleep, it was this morning.

I was so knackered when the alarm went off at 4.45 for running group that I ignored it, and the next thing I knew it was 5.15 and I was already doomed to be late.

Which I was.

So…arrive late? Or go back to sleep?

Obviously, I went to meet my running group, half dead with exhaustion and it was the best decision of the day. As ever.

We exercised and drilled and trained, in the bright sunshine of Nehru Park, and we did some new things today. Like doing all the regular pre-session drills uphill for a change.

Like so!

WHAT a change working uphill made!

I was, as is so often the case, extremely humbled by the end of the session.

I know full well that I’m not the fittest woman on the planet, but I didn’t know until this morning that I was (a) too scared and (b) too weak to hang from a tree – like everyone else was doing, as though it were the simplest thing in the world.

So that’s something I’m going to have to practise in the privacy of the park, or on gym equipment…I mean, for crying out loud – not being able to hang from a tree branch?

How silly is that?

As I said, all very humbling.

All of which is to say that no matter how tired or unfit one feels, just remember the mantra – “Get up! Lace up! Show up!”

Because there is always, always, always something knew to learn. About exercise and fitness. And about yourself 🙂

Do you #daretorun?

One of the first things I do, on waking up every morning, is to check the air quality index, which I often share on social media, on my running Insta feed, like so :

For those of you who don’t know me, I live in New Delhi, which has the unenviable reputation of being the most polluted city on the planet.

In the winters, our air is so toxic that you can smell it, taste it, feel it. Your eyes sting, everyone is coughing and spluttering, and we are all outraged.

Then the summer comes, and we forget.

But the pollution remains.

Never doubt it.

But we all get fooled, even old cynics like yours truly!

I was running in my local Biodiversity Park yesterday – a place with lots of trees and greenery, so naturally cleaner than much of Delhi -and there I was gazing up at the deep blue sky and smiling…and caught myself just in time, before I said something foolish…

Just ‘cos the sky is blue, Christine, doesn’t mean the air is clean.

And that is exactly the problem.

We all have such short memories, and because the sky doesn’t look grey and horrid, and the air doesn’t taste vile, we foolishly imagine that our air isn’t all that dangerous at this time of the year

But it is.

Our air is toxic.

PLEASE take time and read the excellent article (below) from the Hindustan Times 2 days ago.

It is spot on.

As the author points out, in the skewed reality in which we Delhi-ites are forced to live, our “moderate” is still 2.5 or 3.5 higher than the WHO safe norms.

So, no.

We cannot afford to be complacent about our toxic air.

General elections are approaching (sadly for me I cannot vote in India) but without anything resembling a green party or a green manifesto, I’m not really sure where that leaves us all.

The next day, I read about the State of Global Air Report 2019.

I’ll leave you to read the report at your leisure, but please note this one fact:

“Air pollution caused the deaths of 1.2 million people in India in 2017.”

WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?

THE HORROR?

THE DEMANDS FOR OUR GOVERNMENT TO PUT A STOP TO THIS CRISIS?

Why are we all so complacent?

I’m in touch with a company based here in the Delhi NCR called Nirvana Being, and tomorrow I’m going to run with them, using one of their sports masks.

It’s shocking that things have got to this state, but what option do we all have?

Move to another city?

Stop going outside?

Stop running?

Stop exercising?

So, I ask you, what do we do?

Any Delhi friends, runners and non-runners alike, if you feel like joining us at India Gate tomorrow, Sunday 7 April, at 7am, you can see and try out the special sports masks, and talk to people who are trying their best to combat the poor air quality.

Do come if you can.

What did you see on your run today? #389 comes from Shanghai

I”m slightly cheating in this post because I’m now back in New Delhi, where I live, but the Shanghai vibe is still very much alive & kicking, so bear with me!

I ran most days in Shanghai starting out from where we were staying in the Former French Concession, and discovering different local parks.

One day I ran along Fuxing Lu, where we’d stayed on our last visit, and ran around my old haunt, Fuxing Park, which was a big mistake.

Yes, you read that right.

A BIG mistake.

There was SO much going on in the Park, that the running immediately took second place to people-watching, and enjoying the amazing spectacle that is early morning Shanghai.

There were people playing the sax.

LOTS of people playing the sax, including one group of ageing hippies.

There was dancing.

LOTS of dancing – ballroom, line dancing, even a ballroom dancing class, complete with mic-ed up teachers for the men and another for the women, teaching them their respective steps, one group moving forward, the other backwards.

I got asked to dance by this fab fella (below) which totally made my morning 🙂 🙂

There were kites, and choirs, and tai chi and even a bunch of grannies with swords.

Oh, I can’t tell you how much fun it all was.

THE most brilliant people watching EVER 🙂

I spotted just 2 other people running – and one was another foreign woman – but our activity was positively dull in comparison with the crazy singing and dancing taking place all around us.

I stopped and people-watched.

I danced (as I said earlier).

I talked to a charming elderly man who told me that the park was, and I quote “an oasis of tranquility in the chaos of Shanghai”. Felt like telling him that if he hasn’t been to Delhi, he ain’t seen chaos, but it seemed churlish.

So I agreed with him, and also accepted his fanciful compliments on my excellent Chinese & the loveliness of my home country (Brexit-ruined England, forsooth) – and thought, “You old charmer, you! :P”

The funnest of runs in one of the coolest cities I know!

What did you see on your run today? #388 stars a city run & it’s hilarious!

One of the joys of cyber-living is that you get to connect with people from all over the world, sometimes without actually ever meeting them in person.

Like my Belgian friend Myriam Sleeckx who has contributed several fun posts for us here.

This morning, Myriam sent me an absolutely hilarious account of her Sunday run.

Here you go!

Last Sunday I run the urban trail run in Antwerp and again in the rain, typical Belgian weather.

The urban trail in Antwerp is a run through Antwerp and you go straight through buildings, houses.

(Note to self: how super cool is this as a concept?!)

I started in the wave of 10.40h and had the pleasure (I think)  to start with the mayor of Antwerp beside me. I didn’t had the courage to make a selfie. So, you have to take my word for it.😃

We started as first to run in Café Local, a popular disco, desert but full of music. A loud start.

Along the way to the next “building” people in the streets , shouting and cheering.

Our next stop was the University campus (and we did  a few), steps up and down, and students clapping, singing student songs.

We ran through the little streets in Antwerp, the smallest  “de Vlaaikensgang” with a road of real stones like in the Middle Ages.

Through the shopping “Stadsfeestzaal”, a very beautiful shopping mall, design shops, wine and champagne bar, down under in the parking garage Blauwtorentunnel, the Institute for tropical medicine.

I asked people to take a picture of me. Why not, hé?

The funniest part was that I lost my way in my own city. I ran behind a guy, no thinking, just running. Suddenly he stopped, turned and said : we are lost!

Really, we couldn’t find any other participant. We had to look for the trail on our mobiles, and google maps. After half an hour running in circles, we founded our track again.

How is that possible in a city where I grew up, went to high school, worked, and passed a lots of nights. Unbelievable !

I send you some photos.

The lady on the picture “we did it”, her mobile gave up, so we took the photo together, sent it to her by Messenger. Maybe we’ll meet again at another trail.

I had a wonderful Sunday.

Loved it.

Myriam, that sounds like such a fun run, and I LOVE the idea of a trail run literally through your city.

Sadly, I can never imagine it happening in Delhi, where I live…can’t see the authorities ever giving permission 🙁

So thanks for sharing your fun run!

Running differently

Even in something as wonderful as running, one gets into a repetitive habit.

Not out of boredom, far from it, but just a habit, basically.

Like always running the same route.

And always running in the same direction.

I do that.

I run in my local biodiversity park, and when I get to the fork in the road, I always head left and do my loops that way.

I know every incline and descent like the back of my hand.

I know where the peacocks gather in the summer.

I know where I’m most likely to see jackal.

It’s all delightfully familiar, and I look forward to certain views seen from certain points on the track.

Fast forward to a conversation with my Coach about a slight injury I have – here, listen to the short video I made last night while out running.

It explains our conversation, and what all this has to do with I call “running differently”:

So, yes, I did indeed run the other way round the park, as instructed, and I don’t know if I’m imagining things, but my hamstring definitely seems to hurt less…yeah, you’re probably right, I am imagining it!

Could the strain really have eased up after just one 6km run?

But I’m going to follow Coach’s advice going forward, and vary my route.

The views were indeed different.

The inclines and descents were different.

All in all, that has to be a good thing, right? Changing one’s perspective etc etc.

Anyway, even though I trust my Coach, I did go ahead and Google “hamstring…strain…runner”, and guess what?

Bingo!!

So I read further, & this also made sense:

And then came the nub of the matter…

The message is loud & clear.

Gotta exercise around running, complementing it & not simply run, run, run – which is what I do.

I’ve been avoiding gym and strength training for years now, because they don’t really appeal, and actually all I want to do is to be outdoors & running, but this article + Coach’s advice pretty much indicates that I really do need to start exercising.

Run “differently”, in other words.

Team work making the dream work

No matter how much you enjoy solo running, there are times when you really do need your mates.

Perhaps I am spectacularly undisciplined, but the truth of the matter is that I tend to avoid formal/structured workouts like intervals and fartlek when I run alone.

On my own, I’ll happily run long – that’s my “speciality” long, s-l-o-w solo runs – I’ll even run fast, but drills and hardcore training…nope.

I avoid.

Which is why I need my Coach and my running group.

This morning (and WHAT a fabulous morning it was, by the way! Delhi at her best) we did pyramid intervals in my ASICS Running Club.

Like so:

4 x 800m

4 x 400m

2 x 200m

I was in the slowest group, but it was still a stiff workout which left us all gasping for breath at each authorised recovery break.

Our pyramid intervals worked as follows:

We did the 800m loops at a pace of 5:45 m/km

The 400 m loops a little faster, at a pace between 5:30 to 5:15 m/km

And the final 200m at a rather impressive 4:30m/km

All of the above details are from one of my running friends, Saurabh Garg, who paced our group. At the end we were just 5 running together in a tight little posse, matching each other step for step:

I actually didn’t realise how much we were ramping up the pace, leaving it to Saurabh to set the pace, and by virtue of not using the interval programme on my Garmin & simply recording the distance run/pausing it for the recoveries, I theoretically ended up running my fastest 5km ever!

Got one of those “congrats” messages on my watch which made my morning 🙂

Of course, it’s not a PB at all, I know, I know, but it all goes to show – running with your friends definitely makes you work harder.

If I’d even attempted to do this pyramid interval workout on my own (& it’s a big “if” 😛 ) I would have given up, slowed down, walked.

But by dint of running in a group, I kept up, didn’t slow down once, didn’t stop – and felt amazing afterwards, as a result.

I also felt – fleetingly – nauseous as we did the last, fast 200m loop. Coach Vijay says feeling nauseous is a good thing, since it’s proof that you’re pushing your physical limits. So I’m trying to embrace that nauseous feeling!

As well as the pyramid intervals, we did the usual warm up and cool down laps, and then a nice long session of yoga and stretching where I yet again made a complete fool of myself.

I have always been stiff and not very flexible, but with age it is only getting worse.

I’ve said it many times before, but I really do need to start yoga or at least stretch regularly and consistently, but left to my own devices, all I want to do is run.

Anyway, I’m going for a trial Pilates class tomorrow so perhaps this will turn out to be the kick up the proverbial that I need to make me start exercising holistically.

In the meantime – long live my running group!

What did you see on your run today? #387 stars a rainy zoo

Running brings you friends from all over their world, linked by our shared love of the sport, regardless of place or language or time zones.

Like my friend Myriam Sleeckx, a Belgian runner whom I haven’t actually met in person. We were cyber-introduced by a Belgian friend of mine who used to live in South Africa when I did, and now I count Myriam as a friend I’ve yet to meet 🙂

United by this love of running, we make friends across the globe 🙂

Myriam has just sent me this cute message:

“I’m running, and that’s a good thing.

Still 5 km every time but.. I’m doing it.

Last sunday, a raining day in Belgium, a day for staying in  bed, watching TV or some DVD from a long time ago.

My daughter An asked a month ago if I want to run a zoo-run. A run through a zoo in Olmen (a little town in Belgium), running past the wolves, the bears, some birds, the lions.

Why not?

Let’s do this.

So, in the dripping rain, cold and wet, we ran (I 5 km, An went for the 10 km).

We left Dirk, my husband in the bistro of the zoo, and started running.

It was amazing. It felt so good.  Afterwards, back home, a shower and  a Sunday nap.


“Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.”  

Now isn’t that a great running story?!

As someone who also ran in the rain on Sunday, here in Delhi, I sympathise, my friend!

And PS – you 2 look like sisters 🙂

What did you see on your run today? #386 comes from rainy Tokyo

My ASICS coach, Vijay Shukla, became a full marathoner on Sunday, when he ran the Tokyo Marathon.

Poor fellow also chose the worst weather in the race’s 13 year history to run 😛

Here is one of Coach’s photos from the starting area.

Just look at that sea of plastic rain coats!

Congrats, shabash, well done, Coach, for running a fast maiden marathon in such difficult conditions. This scene below is before it started raining 😛

Everyone is clearly prepared, and just look how many people are running in masks!

Feeling conflicted

I’ve waited a week before sitting down to write my review of last Sunday’s IDBI Federal Life New Delhi Marathon.

I’ve pretty much recovered from my marathon, I’ve even raced again – a 5k & a PB yesterday, oh joy of joys! – but all through the last week I’ve been thinking about how to phrase my feedback on the 4th edition of this race.

I’ve run every edition of this race, so I definitely feel very proprietorial about it.

It’s a marathon in my home city, so I don’t have to travel, which is a huge plus.

It’s a good, flat route, which is also a definite plus.

So, yes, I am predisposed to like this race and the fact that it is still a small-ish race is good too.

You don’t feel overwhelmed.

But the 4th edition of the New Delhi Marathon was not without its problems, and even though I count the race directors as friends, it behoves me to share my concerns.

The fact that this race comes exactly a month after the biggest race in India, the Tata Mumbai Marathon, is hardly the fault of the organisers, but realistically it is crazy close.

A full marathon start time of 4.ooam is downright ridiculous.

Our reporting time was 3.00am.

That meant (for me) getting up at 1.00am.

Talk about arriving at the start line already exhausted. Despite being in bed by 8pm, there was no way I could sleep immediately, so the net result was just a few hours sleep.

Not ideal.

Then, running in the dark for 2+ hours was not nice.

Delhi’s civic infrastructure is not the best, and despite running through some of the smartest parts of the city, street lighting was poor, and there was construction debris & the usual potholes. I wore a head torch, but even so, there were some streets entirely without any lighting.

Traffic was another problem.

Despite barriers and volunteers, there were still cars and rickshaws driving down the dark roads where we were running.

Thus far, the problems almost certainly lie outside the purview of the organisers who (sadly!) cannot get our civic infrastructure upgraded, not change the crass disregard for rules that is the hallmark of Delhi drivers.

What is entirely the responsibility of the organisers and their teams of route marshals, is crowd control.

Which was shocking for we slow runners.

I am a slow runner.

Now is not the place to discuss whether, as a slow runner, I am entitled to call myself a marathoner vis-à-vis faster runners (but for the record, I most certainly am a marathoner. I did the distance and it is NOBODY’s business how fast or slow I run.)

But for me – and the many other runners around me at the time – the last few kilometres of our first loop was a nightmare. A tidal wave of half marathoners took over the entire road, and we had to push and fight our way through the crowd.

I was very disappointed by the behaviour of my fellow runners, I must say, as they knowingly took over the half of the road meant for we full marathoners.

I wasted a lot of energy pushing and shouting at people (probably insulted a few people, too) but very few half-marathoners moved to let us through.

Where were the marshals?

Where was the dividing tape?

I had to ask marshals to help, but they should’ve known what to do, without one frustrated runner shouting at them as she ran past.

Are they not given instructions?

Fast forward to the same roads at the end of the 2nd loop.

Absolute nightmare.

The 10k and 5k runners were all over the road, and since many of the 5k runners were children, they were oblivious to any form of lane discipline.

I am not making excuses, really I’m not, but I know that the uncontrolled crowds spilling over the road cost me my sub-5.

I am ALL for people running and taking part in races. Running is brilliant, and has to be encouraged, especially amongst children.

That’s how I started, 5 years ago, as a nervous 6km fun-runner.

But I do not think you can mix a full + a half + a 10k + a 5k, all on the same route.

It is irresponsible, and does a disservice to the serious runners.

(And don’t tell me that as a 5 hour marathoner, I’m not a serious runner!).

I felt quite despondent when I saw the drummers packing up and walking away as I ran up Raj Path on my 2nd loop, and at that point, I was still on target for a 4:50 (my time last year for this same race). Since there were pacing groups up to 5;45, how on earth must those runners have felt, knowing things had packed up?

I have met other full marathoners who told me that there was no water or energy drinks left at the water/aid stations when they passed by in the later stages of the race, but I had no such problems.

I only took water, and had no problems.

Most of the water stations were great, with one of the youngsters on Raj Path being an absolute star, & telling me how well I was doing as he quickly handed me a bottle 🙂

I didn’t have the breakfast, so can’t comment.

So, in a nutshell, my feedback is that this race needs better & stricter marshalling.

It needs better crowd control.

And, I humbly request, there needs to be a different route for the 5ks and possible 10ks. 4 different distances on the same route is tough for runners.

I enjoyed my 4th New Delhi Marathon, though secretly I was disappointed at not bettering my time.

Still, there’s always next year to look forward to 🙂

Oh yes. One last thing.

The best moment of the race – other than crossing the finish line 😛 !

The start in the floodlit Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium 🙂

It was electrifying!!

There’s running. And then there’s life

Or is it the other way round?!

Right now, on the eve of my 2nd marathon within a month, it feels much more like a case of:

“There’s running. And then there’s a bunch of really resentful people”.

Speaking frankly, I have had it up to here with being questioned about my running. With having to justify myself vis-à-vis non-runners.

I have absolutely no issues justifying myself to my running Coach. No issues at all.

But to have random non-runners passing judgement on the way I choose to spend my time….no, siree.

This week there is a wedding in my husband’s family.

It also happens to be marathon week.

For non-Indians, let me quickly explain that Indian family weddings are a huge deal.

Your average North Indian wedding goes on for days, involves serious partying, and a cast of thousands.

I knew from the day we were told about the wedding, informally, last year, that I wouldn’t be able to go to this wedding. My diary already had 24 February 2019 filled in for the New Delhi Marathon.

But now the event is upon us, between the welter of WhatsApp groups, and dance practice, and prayer ceremonies, and extra parties tacked on, I have sunk ever deeper into disgrace.

I suppose I could have decided not to run the marathon…

…yeah, you’re right,..

…there’s NO WAY on God’s Earth that I’d give up a marathon for a bunch of late nights.

I have had to go into detail over and over again, explaining that running a marathon isn’t simply a question of those 42.195km on race day, but a whole programme of training and diet and early night…and…and…and…

And as I explain for the nth time, I catch myself thinking:

Do I ever, EVER question other people’s right to stay out late, partying and drinking?

Do I ever EVER question other people’s lazy lifestyle?

Do I ever, EVER question other people’s past-times?

Do I ever, EVER question other people’s decision to lie on the couch and watch Netflix?

No, I don’t, because it is NONE of my business.

Which is why I feel it is no-one else’s business (well, outside my nuclear family) how I spend my leisure time.

The only people who really and truly get it are other runners.

I had a smashing lunch last weekend with a group of women running friends, and it was SUCH a relief that every single one of them GOT IT.

We all knew instinctively, and without anything needing to be explained, why we all need early nights, and minimal alcohol, and hours of time for long runs, and how difficult it is to carve out blocks of time for running and training.

I’m one of the luckier ones, since I don’t have young children, plus I work from home, but the story was the same for every one of the women – having to explain all the time to other people why they need time, why they need an early night, why they need to eat early…

So, I sit here, writing this at 3pm in the afternoon, knowing that I have to eat dinner by 7pm & be asleep well before 8, so that I can wake up at 1.00, to leave at 3.00, for a 4.oo am full marathon start…so yes, as I sit here (beginning to feel nervous at the thought of tomorrow), I know that I am well and truly in the doghouse.

But I also know that every runner out there reading this will understand 🙂

Will instinctively get it 🙂


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