Train. Drill. Repeat. Recalibrate

It was a fab morning workout with my ASICS tribe this morning, as we got back into serious workout mode.

Actually, why did I say “got back”?

We always train hard, but I think I sort of lost my way, these last few weeks.

First, the Mumbai Marathon took over my life and my thoughts and my focus, and then in the 4 weeks since Mumbai, it’s been nothing but long distance training for next week’s New Delhi Marathon.

Agreed – 2 marathons in 5 weeks is a little bonkers, and I’m aware that I’ve been focussing on distance, rather than enjoying the training and drilling.

So this morning was a great reminder of how much I enjoy training with my ASICS Running Club.

Stretching.

Warm up lap, which was a slow run around the perimeter of Delhi’s Nehru Park.

Warm up drills.

Then we all did 15 x hill reps which were tiring, no doubt about it, but not crushingly, agonisingly exhausting the way they used to be last year, when we started.

Signs of progress…

After the hill reps, a cool down lap and then a series of exercises under the watchful eye of Mr. Lenin, whose statue graces the park.

As well as “surya namaskar”, led here by Sonali, these exercises included the dreaded plank.

Actually, you know what, planks are not quite as dreaded nor dreadful as a year ago.  I can’t honestly say I enjoy planks, nor am I any good at them, but I can at least hold one for a minute without collapsing, which is very definite progress.

So yes, signs of progress Mark II…

Dunno why, & it’s difficult to explain, but this morning felt like a back-to-where-I-belong kinda morning.  Recalibrated.

Chit chat, good work out, laughs but lots of work.

Meet my tribe.

You run & you learn

The regular expression is “you live and you learn”, right?

But this morning’s long slow run through central Delhi was most definitely a case of you run and you learn.

As we ran past Jantar Mantar, we saw a crowd of people seated on the ground, in neat rows, behind a police barricade.

So, naturally, we stopped to see what was happening (“we”, by the way, was my running mate Ripu Daman and yours very truly).

The protestors were from the small north eastern state of Tripura and they have come to Delhi for 3 days to protest against immigration from Bangladesh in their state.

They were delighted to answer our questions and explain their grievances, which are, in a nutshell, that they have become a minority community in their own state.

When you take a look at the map of Tripura, with its 856km border with Bangladesh, it’s hardly surprising that migration is an issue. 

I just read a report online from late 2017, about the additional threat of Rohingya migration from Bangladesh to Tripura.

It sounds to be an interesting, although paradoxical state, with high literacy rates coupled with high unemployment.  That is a combination which might explain why there has been a Communist government for the last 25 years.

Coincidentally, the Prime Minister was in Tripura yesterday, campaigning before elections there on the 18th, so who knows?

Perhaps with the limelight currently being shone on this little state, tucked away and largely ignored by mainstream India, perhaps something will be done for the local people, who are clearly feeling threatened – at least on today’s showing.

But what a delight to chat with such lovely people, happy to explain their position, happy to take loads of selfies, and – when Ripu & I finally made tracks – waved us off with huge smiles.

I wish these dear people nothing but the best, and hope their grievances are addressed, while they stoically camp on the Delhi streets.


A beginner’s guide to PLOGGING

Gosh.

Never have I been so bang on trend as these last few days.

What I call “picking up rubbish when I go out for a run” is actually A Thing.

It’s a cool, Swedish inspired Thing and it’s called PLOGGING.

I have always tried to pick up the trash when I go out for a walk and, in the last 4 years since I started running, whenever I go for a run.

Many moons ago, when we lived on the beach in Mauritius, every morning I would walk my 3 late (& much missed) street dogs Képi, Birdey & Yoda on the beach, and I’d pick up the inevitable plastic that washed in on the tide.

I remember one day a spectacularly drunk fishermen – totally blotto at 8 o’clock in the morning, bless him – telling me I was an angel sent from heaven, for picking up the rubbish.

On the other hand, I was also abused and threatened by some horrible fishermen who used to play cards and drink on the beach outside our house.

“Put that rubbish down!” one of them shouted at me. “This is Mauritius and we don’t need a foreigner’s help.  Put it down now.”

I replied that I was more than happy to help clean up my adopted country.

“No, we Mauritians can do it” he snarled back.  He was a particularly vile sod, I remember.

OK, I decided, taking the path of least resistance.  These guys had already thrown stones at my Mauritian dogs on earlier occasions, and the dogs were getting antsy at the tone of these men.  So I put the plastic bag full of Coke bottles and lone rubber flip-flops down on the sand and beat a retreat.

I’ve been abused here in Delhi too.

“Crazy foreigner.”

“F***ing b**ch foreigner.” This from a young man drinking beer in his expensive sports car as he drove, as he threw the bottle at my feet.

I never knew rubbish had a racial hue to it, but there you go.

You live and you learn.

All of which is to say that, despite the odd ugly reaction & the almost-universal apathy from bystanders when they see you picking up rubbish, I am thrilled to discover that I am not a crazy woman, after all, but am a PLOGGER.

Meet the new trend of 2018.

And I quote:

“Hailing from Sweden, ‘plogging’ is a fitness craze that sees participants pick up plastic litter while jogging – adding a virtuous, environmentally driven element to the sport.”

And:

“As plogging makes its way around the globe, runners are turning their jogs into plogs. All you have to do is hold onto a small bag (and maybe a pair of gloves), and you’re ready to torch calories and tidy up the planet. Many ploggers have been surprised to see just how much trash is on the ground in parks and along running trails.”

The wonderful folk in my Delhi running group immediately & unquestioningly embraced the idea of tidying up and now, after every session, whoever can spare a few minutes stays back to help clean up the park where we train.

It’s not rocket science – we run in the park, we run past trash, so it’s to our benefit that we clean it up. End of story.

One of the runners in my group, Ripu Daman, started a Facebook page for our movement as well as an Instagram feed, the idea being to motivate people and share the stories, both in terms of what needs to be done & what has been achieved.  There is nothing wrong with celebrating success. Here are the links:
Instagram
Facebook

I am delighted that so many of my running friends plog 🙂 but although the current concept of plogging implies a certain amount of jogging, please let’s not get tied down by definitions.

Anyone can pick up trash.

Anyone.

All it takes is a bag in which to put the rubbish.  And possibly a pair of gloves.

I mean, how simple is it to put a bag in your pocket automatically when you go out for a walk, or to walk the dog?

And now the idea is to spread the word, and join hands with people the world over who are fighting the rising tide of plastic that blights our cities and out countryside, and endangers our planet.

Seriously, who wants to go for a walk and see this – Lutyens Delhi, last week:

Or this?  My local Biodiversity Park, 3 days ago:

So, there you go.

Plogging.

Couldn’t be easier.

Go out.

Pick up.

And please, all of you, do share your photos with us.  Tag us, so we can get the word out.

Plogging.  It’s cool 🙂

“Rubbish has become invisible”

I shared with you, a couple of weeks ago, that some of us in my Delhi running group are tackling the terrible rubbish problem as best we can – by picking up the trash in the park where we train, rather than run past it & ignore it, which so many people are content to do.

After every session, anyone who can spare 15/20 minutes pitches in, and invariably we pick up alarming amounts of rubbish.

One of the youngsters today made a very valid point, when he said that rubbish has become invisible.

He is so right.

People walk past the plastic bags and paan packets and chip packets – and worse, I assure you – seemingly oblivious to it all.

One imagines that there are cleaners on some municipal payroll somewhere or other, but clearly they don’t bother to do their job.

So we are trying, in our own little way, to break the “it’s not my job” mentality, by volunteering to clean up.

Because the option is, really and truly, to pretend that the rubbish is invisible.

We work on the basis that we use the park, so we owe it to ourselves to clean it up.

I mean – just look at the photo the left here.  That is what has been dumped behind the low stone wall that borders the park.

We none of us had the energy, not the time, nor the courage to tackle this filthy dump today, I must be honest.

There is more than enough to pick up within the park, on the path, on the grass, on the running track and around the exercise machines.

Today we didn’t mange to rope anyone else into helping us, the way we did 2 weeks ago.

People working out on the exercise machines just stared blankly at us, as we all picked up in front of them.

It’s going to be a long haul, to motivate people, but given the fabulous level of support amongst our running group, and the outrage at the filth (because I think every one of us is truly horrified) I am optimistic that, little by little, we can, as Mahatma Gandhi said:

As I mentioned in my earlier blog post about our clean up drive, I really and truly am proud of my friends.

Despite work commitments, people take a few minutes out to clean up, and the sense of team work is amazing.

Super proud of every one of us.

And we are making a difference, despite the enormity of the problem

This is before:

And this is after:

Impressive, right, with just about 20 minutes quick team work?

Here are some of my wonderful friends at work:

[jwplayer mediaid=”29128″]

We carry the garbage we have picked up to the rubbish skip:

  

One of our team, Sunil Punshi, not only cleans up, but also documents our work & the progress we have made.  All these photos & videos are his.

This is what we did today, trying, in our own little way to be the change:

[jwplayer mediaid=”29127″]

For anyone who wants to get involved, it’s not complicated.  Simply pick up around you, in your street, in your neighbourhood.

Out group has started an Instagram feed, to document the problem and the solution.  Here’s the link & do please share your own before/after photos with us.  Do please tag us on @ploggers_of_india.

We also have a Facebook page. Once again, please share stories & photos with us.

Running. Exploring. Enjoying.

In the few years since I discovered the joy that is running, I wouldn’t say that running is the answer to every single problem in life, but actually, come to think of it, it near as damnit is.

No matter how tired, how headache-y, how fat, how body-ache-y I feel, no matter how pissed-off with life in general I am, a run sorts me out.

Every time.

I admit to going through moments of regret, wishing I’d discovered running in my 20s or 30s – the median age of all the lovely kids in my running group.  I imagine how life might have turned out differently, had I run off frustrations and worries the way I now do, but alas ‘twas not to be.

I look back on cities where I’ve lived, places I’ve visited and regret not running their streets, and getting to know places differently, via running, the way I do now.

As I pound the pavements in my senior-citizen phase of life, I realise just how many doors running has opened for me.

New friends, for sure.

Better health.  Undoubtedly.

But most importantly of all, a new way of looking at cities and exploring them.  There’s an impromptu-ness in running and exploring that I absolutely love.

Take yesterday’s long run, for example, which turned out to be long time-wise, but not quite as long distance-wise, but involved visiting places I’d normally never go to.  And all because we were on foot.

A bit of context.

In 3 weeks, I’m running my second marathon of 2018 (yikes).

The New Delhi Marathon comes uncomfortably close on the heels of the Tata Mumbai Marathon – just 5 weeks between them – but such are the vagaries of the Indian climate, that these 2 big events have to be so close.  It’s too hot/too cold otherwise.

So, even though I suppose I’m still feeling a little tired from Mumbai, training for New Delhi has to happen.  Hence yesterday’s long run, to try and get the old legs working properly again.

I ran with one of my favourite running friends, young Ripu Daman who has, I am delighted to report, the same philosophy towards running as I do.

It needs to be fun and interesting, and one can’t just run, run, run.

There need to be pauses for discovering new places and things.

And for food.

Yesterday, I’d say we 100% discovered God in his many avatars as we trotted slowly round Lutyens Delhi.

Without having planned anything in advance, we ended up visiting a mosque, a Parsi cemetery, a Jewish cemetery and a Christian cemetery.

We were also offered honey for sale, watched a man making brooms, called in for a drink with friends en route, and chatted our way round the medieval tombs that dot the Lodhi Gardens, dodging all the pre-wedding shoots.

Small wonder that it took us quite a while to cover our 16km.  But such a fun run.

Trying to escape the noisy traffic on the main road (a definite downside to mid-week long runs) we trotted into B.K.Dutt colony and when we ran past a sign announcing Shah-e-Mardan dargah, we decided to stop and visit.  And what a discovery it was.  We were welcomed courteously by men who were sitting inside the different courtyards, inside this deceptively spacious complex.

We were told about the history of the shrine, I peeped into a shrine only for women: Ripu wasn’t allowed inside, although a helpful bloke who was showing us around went in – didn’t quite get the logic there.  We were made to feel very welcome and it was all interesting, though we left with more questions than answers.

Like we didn’t fully know the difference between Shias and Sunnis, and where does the Aga Khan fit into all this (that was in the context of discussing how to restore and preserve ancient Islamic places of worship).

And how do Borhas fit in?

And Ismaelis?

Admitting our mutual ignorance of one of the major faiths of this country and vowing to research all this, we next went looking for the Jewish cemetery, which I’d recently read about.

All I knew was that it was close to the Parsi cemetery, which I’d visited last summer on a run.  So into the Parsi cemetery we went, only to be told very politely by a young Sikh standing inside, that it was private property.

Oh.

But this being India, he said never mind, of course we could stay and look, and so we wandered amongst the beautifully tended graves, discussing the distinctive Parsi names and their history, and then the young Sikh joined us.  He turned out to be from a family of “Undertakers, Monumental and Art Sculptors  Estd 1872 Lahore”  as per his card.

Now how fascinating is that?

This family of Sikhs, from what is now Pakistan, is – and again I quote – “Authorised Contractors of Christian Cemeteries.”

After a jolly little chat, Ripu and I ran around the block to the smaller and more neglected-looking Jewish cemetery – a first for me.

I found the grave of the father of a friend of mine, which was pretty moving.

Onto the Christian cemetery, which I’ve visited before but Ripu hadn’t, where we wandered thought the well-tended plots and discussed the cultural fusion that is India.  Names that reference 2 cultures, marigold garlands around marble crosses.  That kind of lovely fusion.

On what may well have been the first day of spring 2018, with beautiful balmy weather and deep blue skies, this slow, long run, discovering new places and learning new things, was just what was needed.

Ah, you wonder, that’s all very well and good, but did we eat, since I mentioned the importance of food earlier on.

Of course we ate.

After all, we were very “rungry” after all that exploring 🙂

 

Smiling through pain

It’s a thing.

If you smile while running a marathon, you will feel better.

No, no, I’m not talking about the finish line photos, even though obviously they’re nicer with a “YESSS!!! I did it” smile, rather than a grimace of pain.

My 2017 Mumbai photos, as I tottered across the finish line, are a picture of misery.  It was either grimace or throw up, not to put too fine a point on it.

This year, however, I smiled and was happy and hugged the lovely man who chivvied me across the finish line.

But the psychology of smiling is more than just a photo op, of course.

There is a science behind it, as a fascinating article in today’s Times explains.

Here are the salient bit from the article, sent to me by sister dearest.

The underlining is mine:

“Last year Eliud Kipchoge, the fastest marathon runner on the planet, came within 26 seconds of covering the distance in two hours.

With each passing mile, something uncanny would happen to Kipchoge’s face: a broad grin, conceived in a deliberate effort to smile away the pain.

A study by British sport psychologists suggests that this tactic makes physical exertion measurably more efficient, boosting a runner’s economy by at least 2 per cent. The effect appears to be down to the way that acting out an emotion — even by simply rearranging your expression — can change your mood and even your physiology…

…For the study, published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise, they asked 24 club-level distance runners to run for four six-minute stretches at 80 to 85 per cent of their maximum heart rate, about the intensity at which they would compete in a marathon.

In some of the bursts the runners were asked to form a “real” smile; in others they were instructed to frown, to try to relax their upper bodies by imagining that they were carrying crisps between their fingers, or to think about what they would normally contemplate during a training session.

The scientists calculated the economy of each participant’s running by measuring the volume of oxygen they breathed out, which closely tracks the amount of energy expended. They were surprised to find that merely asking people to relax had no effect on their efficiency, but smiling did.

Now how fascinating is this?
A 2% boost to one’s running economy, just because you smile.  Sounds like a total win-win situation to me.
And so, as I count down the days to my next marathon on the 25th February (2 marathons in 5 weeks is a bit crazy, agreed) I’m going to practise that 2%-economy-winning-smile 🙂

The kindness of running strangers

You know Blanche Dubois’s classic line from “A Streetcar named desire” – “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”?

Well, paraphrasing it a little, I have often depended on the kindness of running strangers, and it is one of the aspects of running that impresses me no end.

Never, in my short running career, have I encountered meanness or hostility from another runner.

By and large, people are kind and courteous and, in the big showpiece Indian races, such as last week’s Tata Mumbai Marathon, fellow runners are amazingly supportive.

Take my new friend – now no longer a stranger – Sujit Kurup.

In the final stretch of that long, hot, gruelling 42.195km I did my usual thing.  Ran out of steam agonisingly close to the finish line.  Just could not force those legs to run any faster, felt like throwing up, and then a kind voice at my side started talking to me.

Come on, you can do this, we’re going to finish this together.

A young man I had never met before.

He stuck with me and when I slowed down to a walk, too knackered to run, he slowed down too.

I urged him to go on since I was slowing him down, but he was having none of it.

“I need to walk,” I gasped.

“So we’ll walk,” came the calm reply.

“I feel nauseous,” I whimpered, a few hundred metres further on.

“No worries, slow down, breathe,” came the reply.

Sujit knew the route – which had been slightly altered at the end – and said at one point, “Right, Christine, when we turn this corner, there are less than 300m to go and we are going to run them together.”

But even then, I needed to slow down at around 200m.

So he slowed down, too.

THIS is what I mean by the kindness of strangers.

This delightful young man compromised his own finish time, slowing down in order to steer a wobbly old lady across the finish line – and I rewarded him by sprinting the last couple of metres.

I have NO idea where that last gasp of energy came from, but it was along the lines of “Oh, what the heck, let’s just go for broke,” and so leaving the side of my gallant escort I dashed ahead.

Such is the nature of the man that – as you can see in the photo below – he has a happy grin on his face at my antics.

 

Happy birthday to a kind no-longer-stranger 🙂

Sujit, you made the end of my marathon memorable.

Thank you.

1000 days of running !!

I told you in a blog post earlier today, that my friend Harminder would complete his 1000th consecutive day of running today.

He did, in his trademark low-key, un-flashy way, managing to fit in a run on his office treadmill (and at a fast pace, too).

Asked for a caption for this milestone photo, Harminder replied “For Running, A Thousand Times Over!!!”

Shabash my friend!  This is one heck of an achievement.

1000 days of running, no matter what.

Super impressed.

I’d like to say something like “Now you must sit back and relax” but I suspect that isn’t going to happen, right?

In which case, onwards & upwards!

999 days of daily running

Over the past 999 days, I have shared with you on many occasions the daily running photo taken by my friend, the unstoppable, super low-key, super unassuming Harminder Singh.

Harminder & I both did the first edition of the #100daysofrunning challenge.  The only difference is that Harminder did not stop at the end of those 100 days.

Yesterday was his 999th day of daily running.

Day 999 of running every day, come sun, come cold, come rain, come the birth of his son, come travel, come running marathons…unbelievable!

Yesterday was a miserably cold, rainy, windy day here in Delhi and yet the dedicated Mr. Singh (who OF COURSE ran the full marathon in Mumbai just 2 days earlier) put in his daily miles.

Harminder, my dear friend, you are beyond an inspiration!

Fabulous achievement, and I can’t wait to share your 1000th photo, later on today 🙂 🙂 🙂

Post marathon blues. It’s a thing

Back home in Delhi (where I live) after running the Tata Mumbai Marathon, and I feel almost jet lagged.

2 days in a row, I’ve woken up at 5am, even though an early morning run isn’t/wasn’t on the cards.

I love running, but am definitely not running in the dark and in the cold and in the fog, when it’s not strictly necessary.

Here’s the weather, right now, at 6.00 as I sit and write.  See what I mean?

But it weird, this “jet-lagged” feeling.

I decided to Google it, as one does, and I’m clearly not alone in feeling a tad off-kilter, after running 42.195km.

There are any number of articles about feeling depressed and restless after a marathon.  That I don’t feel, not at all, but that’s probably because my next full is in exactly a month.

OK, OK, I exaggerate.

My next full marathon is in a month and a day.

Today is Jan 24th.

The New Delhi Marathon is Feb 25th.

So a month and a day it is!

There was an interesting analysis of why people feel depressed after completing a marathon in runnersworld.com:

Actually, rather than feeling any post-marathon blues, I’m already busy strategising for the next race, imagining how I can shave off those extra minutes, to try and improve upon last year’s timing.

Perhaps that’s why I’m waking up so early, since mentally I’m in training.  Might explain it.

If the Delhi weather behaves itself today, I’m planning on a first slow run after Bombay, to get the old bones working towards their next target.

Nothing like having a new plan.

February 25th.

Bring. It. On.

 

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