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.
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?
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.
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 🙂