In an ideal world, we would all have that precious hour or two of “me” time, when we could head out for a run, on our own terms and at our own convenience.
Off we would go, and no-one would be affected by it, no compromises would have to be made, and no one would grumble about our absence.
But, of course, we do not live in a perfect world. Far from it, and so carving out the time to go running isn’t always easy.
I have it very easy compared to most of you younger people. I am a freelance writer and photographer (translation, I am “vela”) but basically my days are (sort of) my own, so I can (sort of) run when I wish.
The “sort of” restrictions arise mainly from the very fact of living in New Delhi:
a) the weather
b) the traffic and pollution
For those of you who don’t live here, for many months of the year Delhi is hot hot hot, and there is no question of running in such fierce heat. So that leaves the very early mornings or late at night.
What do I mean by hot, do I hear you ask?
Oh, upper 30Cs and low-mid 40Cs for weeks at a time. That hot enough for you?
With those kind of temperatures, you have to be out and about very early, to try and beat the worst of the heat, which is why I prefer early mornings. Somehow the day never seems quite as hot, nor quite as polluted, first thing in the morning as later on – that’s probably an illusion, but mornings seem cleaner here in Delhi.
Late at night, as well as the residual heat and the accumulated petrol fumes hanging in the air, there is the additional fact that civic infrastructure is poor here, with dodgy streetlighting and badly maintained roads. The few times I have had to run at night (like yesterday – more anon) it wasn’t as relaxed as in the morning. Conscious of the darkness, worried about tripping up on the potholes and – of course – not venturing into the parks for obvious reasons – yes, all in all, night running is not brilliant here.
What if that’s your only window of opportunity, between the school run and work and commuting?
In that case, night running it will have to be.
Better a night run than no run. Obviously.
So, you take care – wear clothes with reflective strips, wear a head torch if the lighting is really bad, and – ‘fraid so – you probably have to compromise on the route. Stick to roads that are familiar and as well lit as possible. Yes, it might mean more boring running, but one has to be safe.
But all of this you all know already, I’m sure.
What I find needs to be mastered – especially in the Indian context – is a degree of ruthlessness, that means you prioritise your run, no matter what. I wrote a post a little while ago, asking whether running makes you anti-social. I like to describe it as being focused.
But it’s not always easy. Family makes more demands on one here than in the west, that’s for sure, and it’s a delicate thing, isn’t it, learning how to tell relatives that you need to go to bed ‘cos you need to be up at 5am, and that yes, actually, my run is very important. As important to me as your chitchat is to you.
I allowed politeness to over-ride things the other night when friends unexpectedly dropped round for a quick drink -> staying for dinner -> late late night -> just couldn’t get up after 4 1/2 hours sleep -> evening run -> and this is the most important bit of this anecdote – since my run got topsy-turvied, I felt out of sorts all day.
Until I ran.
And then I felt great.
As I ran in the dark, I got to thinking that under what circumstances would it have been socially OK for me to ditch my guests and go to bed?
Had I announced that I was turning in to get up for an early morning flight, that would have been fine.
Had I said I needed to study, that too would have been fine.
Had I said I had a deadline for an article…that, too, would have been OK, I suspect.
But I just know that saying “I have to go to bed now, so I can get up and run tomorrow at dawn” would have been misconstrued, and yes, would probably have sounded very rude.
So what to do?
Toughen up a little, I suspect.