I blame the Indian Army…

…for my consistently lousy running times.

Seriously, it’s all their fault.

Every day I try and run to India Gate, simply because it is the most fantastic place to run to (ooh, ugly sentence construction there, Christine) but ne’er a day goes past when I don’t stop and dawdle at the sheer spectacle of it all.

Some days there is simply the honour guard –  and usually someone polishing the memorial to the Unknown Soldier – but at least once a week, there is some splendiferous ceremony or rehearsal taking place.

Like this morning.

And however much I tell myself to concentrate on running and bettering my slow times…well, the sheer gorgeousness of the whole India Gate thing always wins the day, and my time goes for a toss.

Like this morning.

I was itching to run, after a week away, travelling.  I walked miles in Himachal, up and down those steep country lanes, but I didn’t run, and so I very much need to train before this Sunday’s 10km  –  and (gulp!) the half marathon in a month.

But the army was having none of it.

There was a full scale practice for Infantry Day, and so obviously I stopped, and there was my timed run over and done with.

But what a pageant, in the crisp early morning sunshine, with just one other runner to share it –  and he was lying flat on his stomach trying to take arty photos with his GoPro.

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There were soldiers from several different regiments, standing in groups around the memorial, some of them chatting and some rehearsing, like these young men :

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While the buglers practised the Last Post, which has to be one of the most evocative pieces of music going…and don’t miss the sweeper-upperer-of-leaves and flower petals:

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It was lovely and relaxed, and so I trotted round and round India Gate and then headed back down Raj Path.  I had the avenue pretty much to myself, which is always an amazing feeling.  This is from Raisina Hill, and I love running up and down that yellow line.  Just because I can :

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I then went for a run up towards Rashtrapti Bhavan –  barriers removed after 8 am :

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You can no longer go right up to the gate, as before, as there is another barrier, but early in the morning, the cops are all super relaxed about photos.

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There was a distinct nip in the air this morning, even though I left a full hour later than usual…winter is clearly a-coming.  What with the rehearsal and lots of photos at Rashtrapati Bhavan, and dodging the monkeys, and nipping into the National Museum to use the loo –  I tell you, Delhi is a totally different world early in the morning.  Can you imagine being allowed to zip into the museum during the day? – so, yes, I had a brilliant, but slow 14km run.  Not my fault.  Too much going on.

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It’s official. Age really IS just a number…

So there was I, bright and early this morning, pounding the Delhi streets in my brand new running shoes (& feeling ridiculously happy because I have new shoes…) and wearing my brand new Fitbit (& feeling ridiculously happy etc etc) running along the final stretch of Shahjahan Road –  always one of my favourite moments in my run, seeing India Gate – when I had another “Whoa!” moment.

Yesterday’s “whoa” moment was because of fabulously flowery wild animals scattered all over the city’s roundabouts.

This morning my “Whoa and WHAT is going on here?” moment was because the normally deserted India Gate was packed to the gunwales with hundreds of neatly dresses OAPs all marching along.

Like so :

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Hundreds and hundreds of them.  All marching in well-defined quiet and orderly groups.  All wearing white polo shirts.  All wearing white caps.

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I asked one of the many cops on duty what was going on, and the reply was “Vo log Senior Citizens hai” (you don’t need me to translate that, surely?) to which I replied (in an echo of “Me hu aam aadmi”) “Me bhi Senior Citizen hu”.   For non-Hindi speakers, explanation below*** at the end of this post.

I don’t flatter myself that I look any younger than these smartly upright folks, but it was probably the sweaty running gear, T shirt, iPhone blasting out “Eye of the Tiger” that gave the young cop momentary pause for thought.  And yes, you betcha, of course I was flattered that he didn’t agree straight away that I was a senior citizen.

“Acchha” he replied with a smile and said I could join the OAPs if I wished.

I declined, and ran on, but stopped frequently to chat and take photos with the columns of marchers who kept on arriving.

I have to say, I have seen many protests and marches during my time in Delhi, but never such a well-behaved, orderly one as this.  They walked smartly along, used the rubbish bins (now THAT you don’t see very often) and everyone I spoke to politely invited me to join them.

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But you know what?  Seeing these elderly folks this morning was a serious Road to Damascus moment for me.

I’ve been getting increasingly fed up of people telling me that I am too old to run, that enough is enough, that I should start acting my age…and, in the case of some members of Himmat’s family, that I am quote unquote ridiculous for running and climbing.  “At your age” is beginning to irritate.

Delightful as these OAPs were this morning, I’m not ready to be a kindred spirit.

Which is why I cranked up the volume of “Rhinestone Cowboy” and ran off down Raj Path…well, until a kindly policeman darted into the busy morning traffic, and with one imperious gesture stopped it so I could cross…so much for my inner youth.  I must’ve looked like a rather sweaty lil’ ol’ lady needing help to cross the road.

Ah well.

 

There were loads of cops on duty this morning, all very polite and caring towards the Senior Citizens and I have to say that if one has to grow old in a country, India –  with its respect for the elderly –  is the place to be.

 

And as if all this were not enough, underneath India Gate, yet another rehearsal was taking place :

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NOW do you understand me, when I say that there is never a dull moment here?  I may run the same route most mornings, but the scenery, the people, the soundscape is never the same.

 

*** “Me hu aam aadmi” was a slogan from last year’s political furore against corruption and means “I am a common man”

So “Me bhi Senior Citizen hu” means “I am also a senior citizen”.

I blame, no, no I mean I bless the politicians…

Well, one politician in particular.

One Mr. Ajit Singh to be precise.

Thanks to Mr. Singh, for the last 2 days I have had the luxury of running down 100% traffic free roads in Lutyens Delhi.

Like this :

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Let me explain.

Mr. Singh used to be a minister in the last coalition government which means he lived – sorry, I mean still lives –  in a stonking great Lutyens bungalow.

#12 Tughlak Road, to be precise.

Here it is:

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Not shabby at all.

But, sad to say, Mr. Singh lost his seat in the general elections in May.  Over 3 months ago.

Now these much coveted grace and favour bungalows, all nicely subsidised by we the poor tax payer, are one of the obvious perks of the job, a perk that Mr. Singh does not (quite understandably) wish to give up.

So, using a tactic that many a politician has used in the past, he has demanded – oh yes, demanded –  that the bungalow be made into a memorial for his late father, who was the sixth PM of India for a very short time.  Technically less than 6 months, though Wikipedia implies it was just a month.

And I quote :

“Charan Singh holds the record of being the sole Prime Minister of India who did not face the Lok Sabha (parliament) even for a single day during his short tenure of just a month. The day before the Lok Sabha was due to meet for the first time, the Indian National Congress withdrew their support from his Bharatiya Lok Dal Government. Charan Singh resigned and fresh elections were held six months later.”

Suffice it to say that his son –  75 year old Ajit Singh –  feels his papa deserves a nice bungalow as a memorial for this sterling service to the nation –  all one never-going-to-Parliament-month of it.  And so he refuses to move out, until his demands are met.

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There you go, Daddy in more detail.

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The government has turned down Mr. Singh’s request, I mean demand.

His water and electricity were cut last week. (At last, some action.)

But still he soldiers on.  And his supporters, mainly farmers, have rocked up in Delhi to show their support.

Hence the barricades.

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And the metro station closest to his house being closed yesterday.

And the city being hugely inconvenienced by early morning gridlock.

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What you can’t see are all the riot police and armoured vehicles parked a little further down the road.

 

Right, enough of the faux flippancy.

What an outrage.

What a shameful waste of my tax rupees, your tax rupees, our police/traffic police/riot police time.

And how about the thousands of citizens whose days get wrecked by roads being closed, and the metro being closed, and the ensuing huge traffic jams.  I saw so many fathers on scooters ferrying their children to school, being turned back at the roundabout near the Ashoka Hotel.  They were pleading to be allowed through, but no.

Thanks to one calculating man and an administration that is too pusillanimous for speech, the city is held to ransom.

 

But I do get to run in total peace and quiet.

 

In fact, so peaceful and quiet was Tughlak Road this morning, that I ran up and down it 3 times, relishing the emptiness in what is otherwise a noisy traffic-choked city.

Even the little Hindu shrine was locked and shuttered this morning, and minus the small crowd who is normally there, waiting for alms.

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Every day I try and vary the route within Lutyens Delhi, but as long as Tughlak Road is barricaded, I shall huff and puff my way there every day.

Just for the peace.

And also so that I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I am benefitting from the actions of an Indian politician.

 

This was my run this morning.  All 15.33 km of it.

Lucky for me, my Garmin doesn’t differentiate on the track log between running and walking…’cos there was a fair amount of the latter after the 12km point…

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I try and include India Gate and Raj Path as often as possible, simply because they are both so utterly fabulous, and no matter how many times I run around India Gate (and how exciting to be able to say that) I get such a thrill.

 

 

There’s no such thing as boring in India

Ever since I became a (late) convert to the joys of running, I have started reading articles and blogs about running, and one little nugget I have gleaned is that it is good to vary your route from time to time, so that boredom doesn’t set in.

Which is why I run pretty much the same route every day, through Lutyens Delhi.

Because –  as those of you who live here and/or have visited here know full well –  there’s no such thing as boring in India.  Or repetitive. Or same old-same old.

I may well run down the glorious Raj Path every day, but every day is different.

One day barefoot runners.

Another day 2 ladies in saris slowly trotting along (that was on Tuesday).

One day people on segue bikes, another day no-one at all and the whole scenic panorama is just for lil’ ol’ me.

Today, for example, it was the honour guard at India Gate practising for the visit of the Chinese President who is in town.

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In a country where protocol and the wretched VIP culture are so deeply engrained (yesterday the city ground to a halt because of OTT traffic restrictions for Xi Jinping***) every time I run around India Gate I am always struck at the relaxed mood there.  Try taking a photo of any embassy building or any government office –  forbidden.  But standing in front of India Gate filming the soldiers on duty –  no problem.

Some days I’m virtually alone.  Some days we are a “crowd” of about – gosh –  about 10 people.  Tops.  Today we were about 7 people.

So much splendour, in the relative quiet of early morning Delhi…

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So, yes, the running route may be give or take the same through the wide Lutyens avenues, but I always try and take at least one different road every day, to ring the changes.

But ne’er a day goes by without my seeing macaques (I blogged about them stealing chapatis, just a couple of days ago).

I always see the race horses being exercised in the mornings.

There’s always someone seeing for the first time an elderly foreigner out running and gawping appropriately.

 

As I increase my mileage every week – 9 weeks till the Delhi Half Marathon – I bless Mr. Lutyens and his civic planning, because there is no shortage of wide tree-lined roads for me to pound.  The changing scenery is all courtesy of India.

 

This morning’s track-log is 13 km –  so, yes, as you can see, there are still loads more streets to discover.  And as long as I get my India Gate fix, that’s fine by me.

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***   Click on this link for THE most hilarious story about Mr. Xi’s visit.

Or as he is now known in India “Mr Eleven.”

We zumba-ed at dawn. We danced to Bollywood as the sun rose. And then we ran a 10k.

Don’t believe me?

I have some clips of my dancing divas for you later on, but first of all, a bit of scene setting.

5.15am on a muggy Sunday morning and the traffic is pouring into the Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium.

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It’s Pinkathon time, and if you wish to see a reported 7000+ women dancing and zumba-ing and taking a zillion selfies and then running 21/10/5/3km, then that was the place to be. (And we’ll have no comments about the cheeky ladies in saris (yes!!!!  So divinely Indian) who were doing the 3km and all posed next to the 8km marker board…)

This was the scene pre sunrise :

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Then as the sun rose, we watched male cheerleaders dancing, and then there was a zumba warm up, watched in some mystification by a group of ladies in pink saris :

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My running divas, of course, proved themselves to be zumba divas as well :

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Just watch Sonea in the clip above (along with her pretty daughter Kshagun) and trust me when I tell you that over a raucous running group lunch in Shahpurjat just yesterday, Sonea was expressing doubts about her ability to run, and here she is dancing away at dawn.  And obviously she finished the 10km.  That’s why I cherish these women –  so much energy.

Katha and Samiksha were also zumba-ing away :

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Finally we were off, for a very, very humid 10km.

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The route well marshalled and policed.  Loads of water stations (loved the way the bottles were opened for us).  Pity about the total lack of waste paper bins which meant the route was lined with plastic bottles.

This was our 10km route – and how lovely and orderly Delhi looks on Google Earth :

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There were many more people along the route than I remember for the Great Delhi Run last December – lots of husbands I suspect – and so the atmosphere was nice and uplifting.  Nothing like strangers  – including co-runners – urging you on, to make you run that little bit faster.

And when a running group husband runs with you for the last agonising, exhausted few hundred metres, deposits you at the finishing line and goes off to find more ladies from our group…well, it’s all just amazing.  Thanks Ankit.

Might take tomorrow off, but then it’s exactly 10 weeks to the Airtel half marathon, which means if we all build on today’s performance at the recommended rate of 10% a week…quick, let me do the maths and see if we will all be ready…

A day is a long time in…in…

…in running.

Forget the concept of  “a week is a long time in politics”.  Introducing “a day is a long time for a newbie runner.”

Lemme explain.

Yesterday I wrote 3/4 of a blog post about running, in which I mentioned feeling discouraged and out of shape and out of sorts.  I didn’t post the post (if you see what I mean) since it wasn’t finished.

This is what I wrote early yesterday :

“Indulge me, while I muse aloud about running in general and this morning’s run in particular.  I am supposedly training for a 10km run this Sunday (another one, not the cancelled race)  – the annual Pinkathon, a women’s only race which should see quite a lot of us from my wonderful gang of running girls meeting up and running together after too long.

But this morning was one of those days when I might just have hit the wall, or whatever the expression is.

Got up, drove to usual place, parked my car, did my stretches, set off to run through the (for Delhi) well manicured and relatively un-encroached upon streets of shady Lutyens Delhi, but  I dunno, heart/mind/body/whatever just wasn’t in it.  Felt tired and out of breath and so I started blaming everything about me, but mainly the heat and humidity.

But I plugged away, and “only” ran 7km.

And then, of course, it struck me.   My bad day, my out-of-sorts run day, my hitting the wall day was, nonetheless, a 7 km run day.

And then I felt a little bit cheered up.

Right, personal introspection over. (Could introspection be anything other than personal, come to think of it? )   Now let me share with you a few other thoughts about pounding the Delhi pavements.

Firstly, early early in the morning is the time to go out, oh fellow residents, if you wish to see pavements and, from time to time, actually get to walk on them.  What is totally encroached upon during the day is sort of available pre dawn. Actually in the uber posh part of Delhi where I run, Lutyens Delhi, the pavements are not encroached upon the way they are on my ‘hood, ie by cars and tea stalls and guard huts and yet more parked cars and yet more guard huts.

No, in smart Lutyens Delhi, the pavements are so tiled and so pillared and so concrete-posted, that you have to keep weaving and ducking to avoid what the city considers to be beautification.

Like this :

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Avoid slipping on the shiny tiles. Don’t trip over the uneven levels. Squeeeeeze through the wretched concrete pillars (and tough if you are in a wheelchair.)

 

Then of course there is what I call the creeping garden-itis of Lutyens Delhi.  You would have thought the residents of these grace and favour bungalows had enough gardens, but no. As I pound the pavements of this pampered and cosseted bit of town, I spy lots of landscaping of the pavements, which is in theory no bad thing in itself, except when it becomes like this…a little more for the bungalow and a whole lot less for we ***mango people.

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This kind of encroachment is obviously less offensive than the guard hut and car park variety, but it is still swiping the public footpath all the same.  You are left with a tile’s width to walk on…and, once again, tough if you’re in a wheelchair.”

 

And now, fast forward a mere 24 hours to this morning.

Early morning Delhi was equally sticky and humid (89% humidity if you want to know. I checked.)

Same route, more or less, as yesterday, except that today it was a case of God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.  I ran (I also speed-walked a lot), I felt tired and hot and sweaty and thirsty, but unlike yesterday, no feelings of wall-hitting.

Wonder if it’s because I’ve started reading a motivational book about preparing for a marathon, in which one is exhorted to embrace pain (I’m paraphrasing, of course), and they use the example of knee pain.  Apparently you are supposed to feel positive when your knees start hurting, since it’s evidence of your body working (I’m paraphrasing Mark II, of course).  So when my knees started hurting, I tried telling myself it was a good thing…

Or perhaps it was because it is such a treat to run down empty roads at dawn, knowing full well that in a few hours they will be choked with noisy, aggressive, honking drivers.  This is Raj Path, leading to Rashtrapati Bhavan (the President’s Palace).

Bar a couple of other runners,  and some pigeons, it was mine, all mine.  How fabulous is this?

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Or perhaps it’s the relaxed nonchalance of the iconic India Gate at dawn :

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Yesterday

Today

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Maybe it’s seeing monkeys…

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or, quite possibly, it’s the truly puzzling sights you run past…

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Whatever the magic combo, this morning was brilliant.  (And I’m still embracing that knee pain…)

 

 

***You do remember the expression “mango people”, right?  A translation from the Hindi “aam admi”…here you go, read this explanation.

The 10km that wasn’t…

Talk about India being the land of lastminute.com…

I was supposed to be running a 10 km race in NOIDA tomorrow –  just across the river from Delhi –  with some of my dear running girls.  My clothes and running shoes were already out.  A friend had kindly collected my bib for me today.  Alarm already set.  Early night planned for a 4.30am start…and then we get an email just now, telling us the race is cancelled because the NOIDA cops won’t give permission.

Apparently the President and the PM will be visiting NOIDA soon…

Ah well, trying to put a positive spin on things, this just means that we have a few more weeks to train.

Nevertheless, I have been up and about early most of the last week, putting myself through so-called “training” for Tomorrow’s Race That Isn’t, but a combo of post-climb fatigue + not too much running these last few weeks + + + any other excuse I care to throw into the mix, means that my times have been shocking, so I am going to take this irritating delay as proof positive that I am meant to train more.

But.

That doesn’t stop me feeling irritated on behalf of the sponsors and organisers, who are informed 12 hours before kick-off that their event is cancelled.

All that money and sponsorship and work and organisation for nothing.

 

But, moving right along –  I have had a brilliant week, pounding the hot and humid and rainy pavements of Lutyens Delhi in that elusive attempt to get back into pukka 10k running shape…

I have avoided banana skins.  Literally :

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I have negotiated the ups and downs (and clashing colours) of the pavements of Lutyens Delhi, where no expense is spared for our VIPs :

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I have puzzled as to what on earth was going on:

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And every day I met lots of critters, above and beyond the inevitable stray dogs and the cows…

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These fellows cut short my budding career as a film director, as I took to my heels and ran!

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No run in posh Delhi is complete without the “bunderlog”:

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And this man restored my zen one morning :

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Never a dull moment…

The ultimate Shanghai run

I ran on The Bund this morning, and if that isn’t the Shanghai absolute-totally-amazing-ultimate run location –  then I honestly don’t know what is…

I have been on a high ever since we arrived in Shanghai, so fab and beautiful is this amazing city.

First seen 31 years ago, and last seen over 20 years ago, I was apprehensive about returning to a city I feared might have been ravaged by “modernisation” (say the way Macau has been) but the historic heart of the city is dazzling.  Beautifully restored, spotlessly clean, safe, un-encroached upon – basically The Bund is fabulous.

The weather this morning was perfect.  Oh-so-deep blue sky.  Slight breeze.  And even though I set off to run at about 8.30am there was virtually no-one on The Bund, so, yes, a dream run.

Not dream timing, however.  Very slow, but I blame Shanghai.  What can you expect a poor gawping visitor like me to do, except stop every few moments to take photos, so stunning are the views.  Not my fault…

I walked (briskly) from our hotel, which is about 1.5 km away, then ran along The Bund, crossed over the bridge, ran past Broadway Mansions, back across the river, past the former Rowing Club, and back down The Bund.  I then walked back to the hotel, picking up my take-away coffee on the way.

As I said, slow, slow timing, but the views…oh the views…

It was clean and safe.  The roads and pavements are perfect.  Very little traffic.

All I want to know is, why was I the only person out running this glorious morning ?

So, here goes.

Brisk walk from hotel…

IMG_6913 Arrival on The Bund (and you see what I mean about that blue sky?)

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And do you also see what I mean about having this fabulous place virtually to myself…

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These were the kind of views that delayed me, guv’nor…honest…

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Broadway Mansions (above) and the former swimming pool of the former Rowing Club (below)

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This used to be the British Consulate…glory days etc etc…

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Back onto The Bund

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“My” local take-away coffee place, complete with lovely phonetic spelling.

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IMG_6955Totally brilliant run.

My take home moment?

Oh, other than the whole thing, it has to be that first moment on the elevated section of The Bund, with the view of the river and all the old buildings bathed in sunlight…too too fabulous.

Running around a Formula 1 track? Yes, please, thank you very much

Advance warning.

This post will be full of gushing enthusiasm.  100% guaranteed.  You have been warned.

So let’s start gushing and enthusing, shall we?

Yesterday, along with some of my gang of running girls, we took part in a timed race out at the amazing Formula 1 circuit in Noida, across the river from Delhi in UP state.

2 of our girls, Kathakoli Dasgupta and Sonam Taneja ran the half marathon, with our indomitable coach and guru, Dr. Rajat Chauhan pacing Sonam for her first ever 21km, and the look of joy on that girl’s face when she crossed the finishing line, with all of us cheering for her, spoke volumes.
One of our newer members ran the 5.14km, which took some doing in the heat – they started the last, at 9 o’clock I think, by which time it was seriously hot.

And the bulk of us ran the 10.28km and it was all brilliant and huge fun and, yes, after just 5 months of running, all hugely encouraging.
Before you ask.  The slightly odd distances (5.14km and 10.28km) are because they correspond to one and two laps respectively of the Formula 1 circuit.  Which leads me nicely to the venue.  Far from Delhi, which meant an extremely early start – think 4am –  and STILL there was a traffic jam at the exit road leading to the venue.  A Rs 20 toll –  really?  Given that we didn’t get a receipt, I wonder if it wasn’t simply a bit of private enterprise, someone sensing a quick business opportunity, with hundreds of cars full of eager beaver runners, with race deadlines to meet and so ready to cough up without a protest.

Be that as it may, there was a ridiculous jam.

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Running on a Formula 1 track was the hugest fun.  As in the hugest fun ever.

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Having been there twice for F1, it was brilliant to be in the pits and as we ran round the track, I recognised where we had sat in previous years, and discovered things I hadn’t seen on race days, such as a water feature.  The track is also far more up-and-down than I had realised, and running up those slopes in the increasing heat as the dawn mist burned off was –  well –  challenging.

Downside of the track? Absolutely no shade whatsoever, which is why I pitied the 9am starters.  Also, clearly, there were no spectators, other than some loyal family members who had come to cheer on runners, but that didn’t bother me at all, and what I liked was the relaxed feel to the race, with many of said family members standing all over the route to get good photos  –  a far cry from the uber-security of F1.

The race was organised by a company called Running and Living, and if a total newbie to this kind of thing is allowed her two pennyworth of critical feedback, it would be that there were not enough water stations on the track –  just 2, though Katha told me there were more for the half-marathon, after they left the track.

I always have a water bottle with which I run, so I was fine, but when my running partner, darling 13 year old Shaivi, started having shin pain (a) there was no medical station and (b) there was nothing for her to drink, other than my water.  As a rank amateur, I feel that something like Gatorade would have helped her cramps, and those of another little girl who ran with us, who was in quite some pain.  Gatorade was only available at the finishing line, which was great, but it might have been a good idea to have it at the 2 water stations as well.  And have more stations.

At one point, as Shaivi was stretching and trying to work out the pain, Old Mother Hen here spotted a tiny little thing also clearly in pain.  Sanskriti, part of a Gurgaon running club who were there in huge, cheery, enthusiastic numbers, is an amazing little 11 year old who has already run a half marathon and was trying to run 10.28km in an hour to win a bet, bless her.  She was struggling and asked if she could run with us, so there I was with these two young things, and we chatted and walked and ran and encouraged each other.

Shaivi and I finished, together, as we did for our first race in December.  Our time was 1 hour 8 minutes and the encouraging thing is that we both know we can do better, and that’s pretty amazing.  Well, naturally, it’s not that amazing for a fit 13 year old, but for old Auntie-ji here, it certainly is.

And so here are a few of my most memorable moments for you.

This slope might not look much, but you certainly feel it.  Mind’s you, the down slopes more than compensate :

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 This was the amazing view as we approached the finishing line –  it really doesn’t get much better, let me tell you.

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Constantly aware of my age, in a sea of young people, I was thrilled to see this gentleman.  What I failed to see was the front of his T shirt which said he had run over 100 marathons, or some such crazy figure.  Almost made me feel young…

India_NOIDA 10km_5961The medal station.

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My 2 young co-runners, with their medals.

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And the 2 of us.

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And here is Sonam crossing the finishing line of her first ever half-marathon with Doc.

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Team photos.

And yes they are big, as befits our group achievement yesterday.

 

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My take home moment ?

Oh, the whole wonderful thing, from misty chilly start to sunny finish.

Running.  New friends.  Mutual encouragement and support.  Aspirations…

…hey, I warned you this would be gushing.

And here’s my track log.  The little jink is when Shaivi and I left the track to find support for her to stretch.

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Running through the heart of Lutyens Delhi

As some of you may know, I am a recent – but super enthusiastic –  convert to running, and so if this all gets a tad too gushing, well…tough.  I have discovered a love somewhat late in life, and fully intend to enjoy it to the full, and share this enjoyment as much as I can.

Our running group has moved on from our first challenge, our 6km in mid-December, and many of us are now training for our first 10km next Sunday.  Actually it’s 10.28km, and that .28 is very important, since we will then be able to claim, with complete honesty, that we ran “more than 10km.”

We meet on Saturday mornings, and this morning, just like last Saturday, we ran from Nehru Park to India Gate and back, but the huge difference was the weather.  Last week it was grey and gloomy.  Today was perfect.  Unbelievably gorgeous –  chilly enough to require a light fleece all the time, mist burning off with the sun, and an impossibly deep blue sky.

Since I hope that there may be some non-dilli-walas who read this post, looking for advice about where to run in Delhi, let me talk you through the route, which takes you through some of the best of New Delhi’s colonial architecture.

As you can see from the Google Earth image below, it’s a fabulously “green” run :

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 We meet at Nehru Park (extreme bottom left of the track log) because it’s central and there is loads of parking.  From there we cross the road to Shantipath, where we do our stretches and off we go.

We left a little late this morning –  just after 7 am – and ran to Teen Murti through empty streets, and this, let me tell you, is one of the joys of early morning running in Delhi, especially at the weekend.   Precious little traffic, compared to the usual daytime nightmare-ish traffic.

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 Past Teen Murti (below)

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 Past the 3 wise monkeys (below)

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 Past the brooding Rahul Gandhi –  we have elections looming, hence this man’s face plastered everywhere.

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 Down South Avenue towards a just-peeping-through-the-mist Rashtrapati Bhavan (the residence of the President of India) – and you take my point about empty, empty roads?

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 Right along Thyagaraj Avenue, with only a pair of road sweepers (and some monkeys) for company.

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Out into Vijay Chowk, where the sweeping, dramatic vistas really start, and with the flowers and the reflections, it all looked amazing.  I didn’t stop my Garmin while taking all these photos, by the way, which (sort of) explains the slow pace…

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 Up the slope towards Rashtrapti Bhavan, with a silhouetted monkey for company.

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I sneaked this photo in, before a guard issued that immortal phrase in India – “Allowed nahi hai” (It’s not allowed).  I love the use of “allowed” as an almost pukka Hindi word.

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Back across Vijay Chowk, and down Raj Path towards India Gate which I could still scarcely see through the mist.

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And now for the gushing bit.

To run towards and then around India Gate –  especially on such a brilliant morning – is actually very emotional.  It is a beautifully dramatic monument, and when it is relatively quiet, and bathed in bright morning sunshine, with the flags fluttering –  well, it is a truly special moment, and it was with some reluctance that I turned away and headed back, leaving India Gate behind.

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My pace on the return trip was even slower, since I kept meeting people:

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Let sleeping dogs lie, they say, and this one, below, was really king of the road.  At least until the day time lunatic traffic starts, bless him.

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By now the fountains had been switched on, and the traffic was very slowly beginning to build up.  But nothing at all, compared to during the week.  Still a delight to run on these wide empty streets.

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 The return was along the same route –  Vijay Chowk, South Avenue, Teen Murti, Shanti Path and Nehru Park.

Conditions along the route

If you do this route early in the morning, and I cannot stress enough that this is the best time to run in Delhi, traffic is extremely light and unaggressive, the roads are nice and wide, and there are very few pedestrians around.  Because you are running through the heart of VIP Delhi there are policemen everywhere, so no need to feel insecure.

No loos.

No shops open, so take water.

Scenic score

Oh, 10/10 for absolutely outstanding views.  To run through such iconic streets and past historic buildings like these gives you a spring in your step.

Take home moment?

Other than the buzz from running round India Gate, it was seeing the President’s Bodyguard out bright and early :

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What?

Trophy photos at India Gate?

Oh well, if you insist…

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As I have noted previously, there is always a slight discrepancy between by Garmin (which gave me 13,25 km) and Mapmywalk on my iPhone, which said 13.80km.  I would love it to be the latter, since that is almost 14km, but I will opt for prudence and go with 13.25 km, which is still the furthest I have ever run.

Such a great feeling.

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