Yoga for runners 101

Yoga.

One of those quintessential Indian “things” which I’ve never really “got”. Is that too many quotation marks for one short sentence?

Maybe.

I tried yoga a few years ago, in an effort to make hubby dearest do some kind of exercise. The teacher came highly recommended by hubby’s sister-in-law, if memory serves me right, but he wasn’t at all what I imagined a yoga teacher to be.

For one thing, he sat on a chair throughout the class, drinking tea.

And for another thing, we did the same exercises over and over and over again. No variation, no progress. Just lots of cups of tea.

So I stopped going to his classes, and would head out to run instead.

Anyway, he soon retired back to Bihar and that was that.

Cue my running group, where very often we do yoga-esque stretches after our sessions.

Every single person in the group knows all the poses, knows their technical names, and they are all terrifyingly bendy and flexible.

And they all run w-a-y faster than me, so there must be something in it, right? Yoga for runners clearly works.

So hubby and I have restarted yoga, and this time I’m determined to stick with it, hoping it will help my running.

This teacher seems better, doesn’t drink tea, and alters the sequence of the exercises, adding new “asanas”, so already in a month there is a feeling of progress.

Cue the other day.

I saw a photo on social media of my terrifyingly lithe & fit running friend Reeti Sahai, who was doing a reverse namaste pose..

I showed the photo to my husband and made some comment like “God, I wish I were so flexible. I’ll never be able to do that pose.”

AND LEFT IT AT THAT.

DIDN’T TRY THE POSE.

JUST EXPRESSED SELF DOUBT.

This morning, out of the blue, my husband asked our teacher about this pose.

He said he’d never heard of it (should I be worried about the extent of his knowledge?)

Himmat said, “Oh, it’s like doing a namaste behind your back” & I started to demonstrate to the teacher.

AND DID ONE.

First time.

People, I was SO chuffed, I can’t tell you!

Begone self doubt!

I realise that it is far from perfect, but what the heck. I did it.

I decided to read up a little about this pose (I’m nerdy like that) and here is the result.

REVERSE PRAYER POSE

Depending on the style of yoga, tadasana paschima namaskar may also be called paschima namaskarasana (westward prayer pose) or viparita namaskarasana (inverted prayer pose) in Sanskrit.

Thanks yogapedia.com.

Tadasana paschima namaskar is a simple yet advanced shoulder and chest stretch practiced from a standing position. The name comes from the Sanskrit, tadasana, or mountain pose; paschima, meaning “west” and referring to the back of the body; and namaskar, which is a greeting and term of respect.”

“As the name suggests, tadasana paschima namaskar is a variation of the foundational tadasana, but with the palms touching at the center of the back in an upward prayer position.

In English, tadasana paschima namaskar is most commonly known as reverse prayer pose.”

Yogapedia.com again.

For strengthening the upper back, it say, on the illustration above.

So I re-consulted yogapedia:

In addition to its physical benefits, tadasana paschima namaskar:

Calms the mind

Reduces stress

Boosts confidence

Relieves anxiety and mild depression

The pose is also believed to open the anahata (heart) chakra, which is associated with compassion, forgiveness, emotional stability, love and acceptance of oneself and others. Anahata is where the true Self resides; so, Self-realization is only possible when this chakra is balanced.

Wow.

I can’t honestly say that doing this asana calmed my mind or reduced my stress levels, but it sure boosted my confidence.

Hey, I’m sharing photos of me doing it, aren’t I?!

Imperfectly, but I’m doing it nonetheless.

The photo above shows attempt #2.

My palms are a little bit closer together, I think.

But my head isn’t straight, so I’ll have to work on that next time.

Now what about the physical benefits of the reverse prayer pose?

As per the photo below, it’s good for a frozen shoulder.

According to doyogawithme.com

“The Reverse Prayer Pose is a great pose for those with tight wrists and forearms. It stretches the flexors of the wrist.”

The Art of Living adds further benefits:

Opens the abdomen, thus allowing deeper breaths.

Stretches the upper back.

Stretches the shoulder joints and pectoral muscles.

Summarising all the benefits of this pose, what do we have?

1)Strengthening the upper back.

2)Dealing with frozen shoulder

3)Stretches the worst flexors

4)Stretching the shoulder joints and pectoral muscles

5)Opening the abdomen

That’s a whole lot of benefits from one asana.

Given that today was a fluke, it seemed a good idea to check the proper sequence.

Of all the explanations (& oh my God such l-o-n-g, rambling, self-indulgent 14 minute Youtube tutorials from American yoga teachers), I decided that the Art of Living gave the most succinct instructions of how to do this asana:

Begin in Tadasana pose.

Relax the shoulders and bend your knees a little.

Bring your arms behind your back and join the palms with fingertips facing downward.

As you inhale, turn the fingertips inwards towards the spine and bring them to face upwards.

Ensure that the knees are still slightly bent and the palms are pressed firmly against each other.

Stay in the position for a couple of breaths.

As you exhale, slowly turn the fingertips downward.

Bring the arms to the side of the body and slowly come back into Tadasana

I had no idea about the breathing involved, so will have to work on that.

My knees weren’t bent & I look ramrod stiff on the photo, to be honest.

So there are 2 things to correct immediately.

Plus the head tilting to the right.

Conclusion?

Definitely a pose to be worked on and repeated, and it’s probably something one can do in isolation, just like that, as a stretch, & not always in the context of a yoga class.

Final thought

While checking with yet another website I was fascinated to read that this pose is also known as the penguin pose.

Did the ancient yogis, high in the Himalayas, really know about penguins?

Really?

What a fascinating thought.

I definitely need more info on this, please.

Swimming for runners

I’ve been swimming a lot, these last few days, as I holiday in Bangkok, mainly because the building has a pool, so there is no effort required at all. No crazy Delhi traffic to drive through to get to a pool, which is my standard excuse for not swimming regularly in Delhi (where I live).

I realised that I have been sharing swimming updates on my running Instagram feed as cross-training, and decided to check if this is indeed true, or was I simply showing off a little?

Is swimming indeed good for runners?

Does it “count” as cross-training?

After just a couple of seconds online, I think the answer is an unequivocal YES.

“In fact, runners looking to boost strength and lung capacity will find swimming is an excellent form of cross training.”

Great news from mapmyrun.com

Swimming is officially great for runners,

Whew!

Of course, like anything one researches, there are a zillion different suggestions as to which stroke is the best/most efficient/most useful – and sadly none of them appears to be breaststroke, which is my go-to stroke.

I even read a few scary comments suggesting that the leg kick of breastroke was actively bad for my knees, so I need to re-think that a little.

But what is undisputed is that swimming is good for we runners.

I posit that it is actually great for every single person, but for runners especially, swimming works its magic in so many ways.

So what benefits exactly does swimming offer us?

Back to mapmyrun.com:

“Runners benefit from swimming because it is an effective cardiovascular exercise that is not weight bearing,” explains Dr. Leesa Galatz, orthopedic surgeon and system chair of the Department of Orthopedics in the Mount Sinai Health System. “Runners are constantly loading lower extremity joints and spine, and swimming offers the ability to maintain fitness level in a setting where joints are relatively unloaded, allowing joints to rest.”

According to Natasha van der Merwe, a professional triathlete and coach, there are 4 main benefits that athletes will get from swimming:

1)Improved cardiovascular fitness with minimal stress on the body – which ties in exactly with Dr. Galatz’s assessment (above).

2) Swimming helps the body recover from runs since the movement and cold water facilitate blood flow & recovery. (Good to know, since the water temperatures here in Bangkok are downright chilly )

3) Swimming can increase oxygen and lung capacity

4) Swimming works and strengthens different muscle groups that are not used in running

So far, so good.

So far, very good in fact.

Except for the little question of which stroke is the most beneficial.

Back to Dr. Galatz, and I quote:


“Depending on the stroke, swimming engages upper & lower extremities. Most swimmers perform freestyle or crawl, which engages deltoid, latissimus doors, pectorals major and rotator cuff.

And my go-to stroke, breaststroke?

It appears that it’s not quite as efficient as front crawl, for example, especially as far as leg movements are concerned.

I double checked the forum which scarily mentioned potential knee damage due to breast stroke, and since the discussion ended in rather childish name-calling (what is wrong with people’s online manners?!) I decided to write off the knee comments as silliness too.

Leaving aside the technicalities of which stroke is the most beneficial, the undisputed truth is that swimming is relaxing, and for those of us who love being around water, there is nothing quite like it.

A minimal-stress, relaxing form of cross-training – sounds pretty darn perfect to me!

How lovely

My running friend, the lovely young Shikha Dadwal has just celebrated an anniversary.

No, not her wedding anniversary, but her running anniversary.

She has written a wonderful tribute to running, a vital part of our lives, and yet one that sometimes we love to hate 😛

“August is special.

It was August in 2014 that one fortunate morning, I decided to go out and run.

Been 5 years, as surprising it may seem, it hasn’t got any easier.

Fighting the demons never gets easy, specially when they live inside your own head. They tell you to sleep some more, to laze around all day or to even put the alarm on a snoozing spree!

But each morning in those 5 years that I could shut the demons, step out & run, has been a happy & fulfilling one.

And this anniversary is worth celebrating, and to remind myself that I must never hang up my running shoes. 👟👟

#5YearsAndRunning

P.S.: Super lucky to have my partner in life & on the run Ashish. (who I really had to pester to click this photo 😛)

And of course my other running buddies  🙂 “

Well done, my dear, and #keeprunning #keepinspiring

Sometimes numbers DO matter!

You know how people tell you not to worry about the numbers when you run?

All those exhortations to “just run, ignore the time, ignore the distance, just run for the love of it”…you know the kind of thing.

All very admirable.

But then you have a number like this, that just HAS to be celebrated.

Will ya just take a look at this?!

10101km.

This is my friend Harminder’s unbelievable running total.

The man is a machine.

We both ran the very first #100daysofrunning challenge together in 2015, and after that Harminder HAS NOT STOPPED!!

He has run day in day out, even the day he became a father, and just look at this resulting, magnificent statistic.

Shabash x 10101 times my dear friend.

Can’t wait for your next sexy statistic – 11111km, for example?!

Seriously, Harminder, fab stuff & #keeprunning #keepinspiring

What did you see on your run today? #395 comes from Toronto

One of my ASICS Running Club friends, Narpat Singh, who has already done a running Q&A for us, is currently in Toronto, and shared some great pictures from his run downtown today.

Or was it yesterday?

Possibly even my tomorrow, given the time difference!

I’ve never been to Toronto, so can’t really judge, but from Narpat’s description, it seems as though he pretty much covered most of the downtown city on his run.

“Areas covered: the Rogers centre, home of the leading baseball team, the Blue Jays; CN tower (that I HAVE heard of!), the Steam Whistle Brewery, Spadina Street, China Town, Little Italy, University of Toronto, Town Halls, both old & new, ICICI Bank branch ( 😛 ), Union Station & Scotia area, the home of the other baseball team, the Raptors.

Noteworthy is the contrast in the architecture throughout the town. Old & contemporary coexist seamlessly.

Lots of street art is another feature of the town.”

As an ex-army man, I guess it’s natural that Narpat stopped at the war memorials:

The old vs new contrast

Wonder if this is Clinton as in THOSE Clintons?

Thanks my friend.

Looking forward to more updates from you, as you explore more of Toronto.

#keeprunning #keepinspiring

ASICS Tanren sports bra

Pre-review disclosure.

I am an ASICS running influencer in India (where I live) and as such get to try out and wear their products.

BUT – and this really is very important – ASICS has never once even so much as suggested I review their products.

Not once.

I am under no pressure whatsoever to write any review nor blog about the company

But since I honestly do like their sports bra, why not?

I have worn and tried sports bras of many companies in the (almost) 6 years that I have been running and the ASICS Tanren bra really is top of the range.

What I particularly like about the Tanren is that it has a conventional hook & eye fastening system at the back, meaning you avoid some of the terrible contortions otherwise involved.

The fabric is, naturally, tight, so you do have to stretch your arms a bit through the arm holes, but nothing as panic inducing as one bra I have (I won’t mention names) – God knows how supple that company thinks the average woman is, contorting and twisting your way into their bra.

Another plus about this bra is the adjustable straps. Not all sports bras have ‘em.

Trust me.

Quick aside. You know what I like about the photo above? That the model ever-so-slightly bulges over the back of the bra.

As most of us do.

Makes me feel a whole lot less stressed.

I have 3 of these bras – one black & 2 yellow.

They’re not cheap, at Rs3599 a piece, but they are top quality.

Mine get worn, in rotation, nearly every day (though I admit to favouring the fab yellow ones more than the conventional black one 😛 ) and there is no sign of wear and tear at all.

Ah yes, before I go.

What does that D1 mean on the back of the bra?

Good question.

ASICS has a system of letters and numbers indicating the functions of the apparel, and each garment will have one.

The DI on the Tanren bra means that it is made from a moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabric that stays dry.

And it does. I can vouch for that.

I’ve run in these bras in extreme killer humidity in Delhi, in Mumbai (running the marathon) and in Bangkok, and they do wick away the moisture.

Personally tried, tested and recommended.

The world needs more runners like this

Runners are strange people, I tell ya’ 😛

Firstly, they get up at dawn and run.

And then, as if that in itself isn’t strange enough, they also decide to run for a cause.

And then they do it day after day after day.

And they do it in the worst of weather.

As I said, strange folk, runners!

Since I count myself as a runner, I accept that I am, by default, also strange too!

I freely admit to being part of the getting up at dawn to run part, but what my lovely running friend Mihika Gupta and Gaurav Pant are doing is in a whole new league altogether. (By the way, I’m sure Gaurav is lovely, too, but you know what I mean!)

These 2 amazing people are running a half marathon every day for 30 days, in an effort to raise awareness about the need to make Gurgaon, where they live, a safer place.

For those of you who don’t know this part of India, Gurgaon is a satellite town next to Delhi, and the two are almost one now, closely linked by road and metro.

But just like Delhi, Gurgaon has safety issues, especially for women, and so these two crazy I mean lovely people decided that enough is enough. They decided to put their money where their mouth is, and go out there and draw attention to their mission to make their city a better place.

I have nothing but the hugest admiration for these two runners, who coolly run a half marathon every day, and then just as coolly, go off to work. I collapse in a dramatic heap after running a half marathon, expecting praise and admiration from the world – and these two are churning out the miles, day after day after day.

The world needs more crazy gosh, did I say crazy runners like you, Gaurav and Mihika 😛

I asked Mihika to tell us more about their venture, so without any further ado, let me hand the blog over to this sassy, fearless runner.

“We were already doing the 100 days of running challenge and then thought of going the extra mile by running a half marathon in the last 30 days of the 100 days running challenge.

Here I would like to thank Dr. Ramit Wadhwa for instigating us to take up this challenge. He has played a vital role in motivating us and putting our thoughts into reality.


So while we decided to run a half marathon daily for 30 consecutive days, we thought of doing something  for our city and run for a cause, which needed to be addressed, and what could have been more apt than running for a “safer Gurgaon”. Since our run was spread over 30 days which is a good enough period to make significant observations, and while running we thought we could do that which generally is not possible when we are in a high speed vehicle.

While running we have been talking to people about issues like ‘lane driving’, ‘no wrong side driving’, ‘compulsory helmets for 2 wheelers’, ‘no jumping at traffic lights’ – basically, have been educating people to take ownership of their own safety and follow safety rules. At the same time we have observed a few lapses from the Gurgaon administration too.

To highlight a few:

Since we start running at 4 AM, we observed there weren’t enough street lights in the lanes. The only option we were left with was to run on Golf Course Road, one of the most lit roads in Gurgaon. We faced a few drunk people approaching us while running, and found minimal police patrolling.

Therefore we would like to highlight *Women Safety* as one of the biggest safety issues of Gurgaon.

During the rains, the roads were clogged, and there were many potholes. Pedestrians and  cyclists were stranded.

There is a lot of dog menace throughout the route which would scare pedestrians and cyclists when the dogs ran after them.

So all these issues need to be addressed.


We hope to create an awareness while running. We don’t expect  things to change overnight, but someone needs to voice the issues and that’s what we have tried to do in these 30 days.

Mainly we want the administration and residents to come together and work towards a safer Gurgaon.

One has to stop the blame-game and do their own bit. Administration has to take effective safety measures and residents have to take ownership of their own actions and follow safety rules.

We generally run the same route daily which is Golf Course Road and the areas around it, since that’s the only road that is well lit in the dark and has minimal potholes.

On week days we start our run at 4 am since it’s a working day and we have to get home in time to take care of the household chores and routine.

On weekends, we start at 5 am and lots of other runners from the running fraternity come and join us to support the cause. Our start time for both weekdays and weekends has never changed be it rain or sun. Our run is never dependent on the weather we have been out running on the roads come what may.

I was so impressed by these 2, & this amazing physical challenge, that I asked Mihika a really silly question: Aren’t you tired?”

Pretty silly question, right?

But Mihika just politely replied:

“Yes, we are tired but as the day goes by, we recover and are up and running again the next morning.”

We are taking care of our recovery very well, which includes a good amount of •stretching

•good nutrition, which includes good intake of protein and carbs

•hydration

•consumption of fast and up BCAA during running & fast and up recover post our runs

•proper rest and sleep 

As I said in the title of this blog, the world really does need more runners like you 2.

Instead of grumbling, the way many of us do, you 2 are going out there & making your voice heard.

A couple of things Mihika said particularly resonated. I like her observation that while running your can observe things and interact in a way that’s impossible when you’re in a car – as so many of us are. So true, Mihika.

I also appreciate the way she says that we citizens have to take ownership of our actions.

100% spot on.

We all love to blame someone else – and in all fairness our civic fathers are often at fault. But we can’t blame someone else all the time. There comes a point when we need to stand up and be counted, and that is EXACTLY what you two are doing.

Super impressed.

I got a lovely follow up message from Mihika, adding a few words thanking her children for their support.

Mihika, I have a sneaky feeling that you don’t actually need to thank them. I bet they are very proud of you already.

Also, since we know that kids learn by example, I feel we have some super dedicated future citizens in the making here.

But here is your message to your children 🙂

I also want to thank my kids for there immense support. When I started with this challenge there schools had just opened after summer break and I have not seen them off to school even one single day. They have supported me very well and have never missed their school or school bus either. Have got ready on time without any pressure on me.

Looks like your challenge has made your children step up, too.

Total win win!

FANTASTIC job, you two wonderful, crazy, dedicated, caring runners.

Shabash! You’ve both got dedication, grit, the whole 9 yards, and are using it to better our world.

Let’s talk trash! And taking responsibility for it

As anyone who knows me/runs with me will be aware, I HATE the litter that is omni-present all over India.

For decades now, I’ve picked up the litter wherever I am, on the basis that why walk past litter if you can pick it up & dispose of it properly?

I have been praised for such actions, which is nice, but I’d much rather people followed by example.

I have also been roundly abused for it in the process, mainly here in India, sad to say.

Apparently a quote unquote f***ing foreigner picking up Indian trash is offensive. Go figure.

One day, about 18 month ago, Ripu Daman, a running mate, & I decided we’d try and galvanise people into taking some responsibility for the garbage problem in India in whatever way we could. After each training session, we started picking up the trash in the park here in New Delhi where we trained together.

Momentum gradually built up, and we started a Facebook page and Instagram handle @ploggersofindia.

By the way – in the next few days, Ripu is embarking on a huge project, a nation-wide plog, which I’ll be reporting on here in the blog.

Stay tuned for that!

But back to talking trash…

Can’t deny it, there are moments of total despair in the quest to clean up the country and sensitise people into not littering in the first place.

And then there are moments of total WOW, like this morning, when I read the Twitter posts of a young man called Srini Swaminathan who, in a series of tweets and photos, shared his experience of a race he took part in yesterday in Mumbai.

I contacted Srini, and with his permission, am sharing his story with you all.

It is a great story – one of putting the public need over the private.

It is a great story – one of taking initiative, instead of blaming the powers that be.

Arre, why am I explaining his words, when they can speak for themselves so much better than I can!

So, here you are.

In his own words, here is the story of Srini’s 12km run:

“I ran my worst ever 12km run at the BNPEndurathon today inside Borivli National Park. It was also my best ever 12 km run.

Here is why: One by one, I picked up nearly 35+ kgs of plastic trash (left by tourists/locals/runners from previous years and this year) over 3.5 hours

Since the only run category at the BNPendurathon is 25kms, and I did only one loop (12.5 kms), I decided not to get a medal (obviously!)

But I am immensely happy and fulfilled that I left the 12 km trail inside Borivli National Park much better – for the animals and people.

If I had not done plogging (picking plastic trash while running) I could have finished the run in time and gotten a medal but then that became secondary priority when I saw so much convenience trash – chips packets, plastic water/soft drink bottles, single use plastic spoons.

I am aware of many debates around trash “it’s not my job”, & “why isn’t the Govt doing it?” etc., but I’m purely driven by two things:

1) lot of love & gratitude for the Borivli park & Mumbai

2) “What will I do about it?”

I’ve got no time for debates. I picked up trash because of gratitude.

Here’s the break up of plastic trash I picked up today inside Borivli park during the BNPendurathon run:

200+ chips namkeen packets

100+ single use plastic spoons

200+ PET water/soft drink bottles

100+ plastic carry bags

30+ alcohol bottles

100+ gutka and biscuit packets

During the run, I carried my own cup for water/tea at finish line and during travel I don’t buy water bottles but carry water+ use a kettle to boil water. I carried food in leaf & paper etc. That’s my commitment to not generating non bio-degradable waste. I try to walk the talk.

I really hope these dustbins inside Borivli National Park are cleared regularly and the trash is taken away, because I couldn’t carry all that plastic trash outside the park. In total, I cleared 6 bags worth today. But there is a lot more out there by the side of other roads

Srini, first of all, well done, thank you & let’s hope you have inspired other people to follow your example.

None of you needs me to interpret Srini’s words & actions – they speak eloquently for themselves – but one thing I especially liked is his reaction to people saying “it’s not my job.”

Oh, but it is.

It is EVERYONE’S job.

We are the ones who litter in the first place.

So we must damn well pick it up And stop littering.

There are no 2 ways about it.

We cannot sit around blaming other people. The garbage problem is w-a-y too big for that.

If you see trash, pick it up.

End of story.

“Sweat is just fat crying…”

If this oft-quoted statement is true, by rights we should ALL be as thin as stick insects after our ASICS Running Club meet this morning.

Because boy, was it humid!

93% according to my trusty phone widget.

93% at 4.50 when I woke up.

Like so.

See?

It clearly says 93%.

But humidity or not, we all showed up, and Coach made us work (& then some!) as we ran hill repeats with a twist.

For those of you who are not familiar with New Delhi (where I live), it is one of the flattest cities I know, so hill training is a tad difficult.

But we do our best, and in the park where we train, we use the hilly slopes to do our hill repeat drills.

This morning, after loads of rain yesterday, the grass was naturally wet and slippery, so when Coach told us to run slower and do less loops than we normally do, I thought, yippee, we were in for an easy session.

But no.

No chance.

Fewer loops BUT 10 x push ups & 10 x squats at the end of every loop 🙁

See what I mean about hill repeats with a twist!

Despite the humidity, everyone ran and drilled and smiled away – one crazy bunch, I tell ya!

On a personal level, I did the 3 reps Coach told me to do, as fast as I could (and before you ask, I have NO idea why I decided to go all out. No idea at all).

I felt shattered at the end of them, but secretly pleased as punch. Because it was tough, & I did it.

And this is what mornings like today are all about, actually.

We all faced seriously uncomfortable weather and we all did what we had to do.

And always with a smile.

There is something supremely satisfying about “defeating” the weather.

About pushing yourself, despite the conditions.

I remember thinking at one point that this was all good training for the humid weather we’ll all encounter in Mumbai in January, and wondering how long such humidity-proof-training will last…clearly not 6 months, but I guess it’s more a mental thing in the end.

If you know you can run in 93% humidity well, Mumbai shouldn’t seem quite so daunting, should it?

So, yes, it’s as much about the mental training as the physical, in the end.

I guess every run teaches you something.

Today’s knowledge – that we could all keep going, up and down those slippery hills, sweating and smiling away – I guess that knowledge should be tucked away somewhere, and produced when the going gets tough in our next race.

Sonali pushing up like a pro
While Neha shows how squats are done. She makes it look all quite effortless!

After the running and squats and push ups, we cooled down with stretches, including a new one for me which involved rotating your knee cap with your fingers.

I was a total dud. As in Total with a capital T.

Could hardly feel my knee caps through the fat, let alone move them 😛

Coach showing how it’s done

We ended with cake, to mark Shail’s birthday yesterday.

And here is our youngest runner (Kailas’s daughter) showing how to refuel after a crazy morning of running 🙂

PS – just realised that all my individual photos feature women. Plus a wee little muppet eating cake.

This wasn’t planned, but delighted that it happened 🙂

Photo credits go to Mudit Chawla & Sunil Punshi, the 2 ace photographers in our group.

Conquering your fears, one triathlon at a time

The lovely Kathakoli Dasgupta, the young woman who started me on my running journey, nearly 6 years ago, is a frequent contributor to this blog, happily & generously sharing her UK-based running adventures with hubby & fellow runner Dave.

But of all Katha’s posts over the past couple of years, I think the one you are about to read may be the most inspiring yet.

Read this smashing account of how these 2 love birds spent last weekend, both of them conquering their fear of water.

By swimming. In a triathlon. As one does.

I now hand the blog over to Katha…though I might well interrupt a few times along the way. Editor’s privilege, don’t you know?!

“Call us race gluttons.

My husband Dave and I signed up for a race/challenge (or two) every weekend of July barring one.

So the weekend that just went by saw us in Yorkshire…

(Editor: Yaay! My old home 🙂 )

…racing in the premises of Castle Howard and surrounding areas.

Editor: Castle Howard is one of the most stunning properties in the UK
And yes, of course I’m biased!

The super sprint triathlon we signed up for was the biggest challenge for us this year, as we went out of our comfort zone and attempted our first open water swim at an event.

To give to a bit of background, Dave and I are ‘runners’.

I couldn’t ride a bike until February 2016, Dave learnt to swim backend of 2015 and I am aquaphobic (having learnt to swim in 2010 after discovering my utter fear of deep water!)

So when we moved to the UK in October 2015, we challenged ourselves with a sprint pool triathlon the following season, and have been doing it since (we are hooked!).

So anyway, despite all the training last few months, we felt far from confident and so a couple of weeks back, Dave registered us for a run race at the same event, though the day after the triathlon—as a back up!

That’s a first, innit?

(Editor: You’re both certifiably bonkers. Said with the utmost love, of course :) )

We managed to complete both satisfactorily.

(Editor. Again. Katha, you are becoming SO British 😛 “Satisfactorily” forsooth. “Bloody marvellous” springs to mind)

As the likes and comments on our FB posts are pouring in, it is very tempting to take all the credit for it, and swell with self pride.

A day after the event though, having reflected on it I realised it is far from it. Our ‘achievement‘ was a combination of factors and people.

Our tri club coaches and fellow members

We have been so lucky with the gym we joined after we moved to the UK in October 2015. Not only does it boast of superb facilities and classes, it also has an active tri club. There’s swim, cycle and run training on offer most days of the week to all members of the gym, irrespective of whether you want to do triathlons or not. The ever expanding group consists of people of various abilities—novices, to those who’ve completed half iron man, or even compete in Team GB events.

There’s no discrimination.

That’s one thing about triathlons that both of us like—that it is a great leveller, people can play to their strengths at races and work on their weaknesses during training. And we’ve all got each other’s backs.

It was all the pre race coaching as well as the good wishes and shouts on race day that saw us through.

Race organisers

The very hilly cycle route

Everything at this large scale, two day, multiple sport event panned out like clock work. It was flawless, a far cry from an event we participated in two weeks back in Windermere where even the basic amenity of porta loos was a disaster.

Every single person behind the event at Castle Howard, from the race director to the marshals to the British triathlon officials to official photographers and publicists to volunteers did an amazing job.

The race offers free entry for a day’s volunteering at the event—such a good idea to ensure they are never short on numbers.

A special shout out to the absolutely magnificent lifeguards and marshals in the lake without whose support and encouragement, Dave and I would never have been able to complete the swim. During our practice swim (yes, the organisers offer that too, on evenings ahead of the morning aqua events), a lifeguard, said the nicest possible things and paddled alongside me all of the 400 m distance to help me overcome my fear.

During the event itself, the boats came by my side within seconds of me panicking and flipping on my back and thereafter, one of them paddled alongside me until I crossed the finish line. With that ‘safety net’ by my side I was able to swim at ease, non stop, utilising wisdom from our coaching sessions about optimal technique until I reached the shore.

No more panic attacks.

(They did the same for Dave. And yes, we were probably the only couple at the event that got the lifeguards out in the first 100m!).

Fellow participants

Watching people create records (even if it’s their own personal best) as they cross the finish line (including Bailey Matthews, a 8 year old with cerebral palsy who completed the triathlon) is inspiring in itself.

“Chuffed to bits having completed our first open water triathlon”

But sometimes, people, complete strangers, have a more immediate and personal impact.

And it was this that saw me through my first 10 k trail run on Day 2.

Even after a well paced (not a foolishly quick) start, I found my energy waning after barely 3 km. And I took my first walking break. A sudden pat on my back by a fellow participant and a few words of cheer egged me on. And I picked up my pace again. Thereafter, the two of us, sort of played cat and mouse and looked out for each other on the undulating course. I completed the race a few minutes before her, but stood at the finish line and welcomed her with a hug.

I remain indebted to her.

And then the half marathon and 10k for Dave and me respectively on Day 2 … posing in finishers tee.”

Katha, that is SUCH an inspiring blog post.

It is fun, it is kind, it is generous, and it is inspiring.

Truly.

#keepinspiring

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