Of buses and bibs and other such things

I know, I know, ANOTHER post about the joys of running in Delhi.

But hey, just bear with me for one more week, and then the half marathon will be over, and normal service will be resumed…whatever that may be.

Yesterday I went to collect my bib for next Sunday’s race, and got a taste for what lies in store.  Although I got there just before the running expo shut up shop for the day (thank you awful Delhi traffic) there were still hundreds of youngsters milling around, dashing frantically from one stand to another, mainly in search of goody bags, which had, I gathered, run out.  As a half-marathoner (how pretentious, did I hear someone say?) I don’t qualify for a goody bag, so I went in search of my free T shirt instead.  Slightly calmer atmosphere there.

Now, remembering my experience in last year’s ADHM (Airtel Delhi Half Marathon) when we were all shiny brand-new runners, and did the 6km Great Delhi Run, I realise now that lots of the hyper active youngsters rushing around with armfuls of bibs, were indeed Great Delhi Runners.  Which means lots of them will be running as part of their company’s CSR programmes, which means they will have banners and matching hats, and much fun will be had by all.  I also know (judging from last year) that many of them will peel off after a while, and that many more of them will walk, as opposed to run.  Our little group last year had seriously over-trained for the 6km run –  but of course that would explain why we are all still running a year later…

But anyway, the posse of over-excited young girls dashing around with armfuls of running bibs couldn’t have been sweeter, and I wish them well.

And a bib, by the way is this :

IMG_8492Name, rank & serial number.  And starting zone C.

A is for the elite runners, most of whom will be halfway through, I imagine, by the time we C-walas shuffle to the starting line…B is, I imagine, for faster runners than C and so it goes on down the alphabet.  As to how many hundreds of people are in each zone, no clue.  Are there hundreds of half-marathoners or thousands?  If the latter, there will be hundreds of people in each starting category, I imagine.  I’ll let you know next week.

What you can’t see here is the chip behind the bib that will record my not so brilliant time for posterity.

So that’s a bib.

And what’s a bus did I hear you ask?  Now this fascinating piece of running vocab is my linguistic discovery of the week.  A bus is –  in running-speak –  a person who paces you as you run, and you join their bus.  So, say I am aiming for 2.30 (2 and a half hours) then I would find the pacers doing that timing (they have flags, so I’m told) and join their bus.

Or at least I think that’s how it goes.

All terribly exciting, having the inside catch phrases, but of course I have come a cropper  – in that I have absolutely no idea what time I should aim for, so how can I join a bus…dilemma indeed.

Basically, am going to play it by ear, so to speak.  Each time I read a FB post or a blog about calculating times + speed – water stoppage time etc etc etc., my mind blanks out –  it’s all too much like a maths problem from school days. So I shall simply tootle along in a totally unscientific way, and have fun.

Which is what I had this morning, as I ran around Lutyens Delhi in the cool morning.

I had so much fun.  Loads and loads.

Saw such fantabulous stuff.

India Gate was, as usual, gorgeous :

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But today the undoubted star was Teen Murti, where soldiers were standing around waiting for a ceremony to start (couldn’t get a clear answer from any of the dear boys as to what the ceremony was), but one thing’s for sure, they all looked a million dollars ;

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I imagine the ceremony was to do with the centenary of the World War I –  but it was more 2 hours to kick-off, so I didn’t hang around but eventually ran off.  And another run time became s-l-o-w, with all the stopping and watching and filming.

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Such gorgeousness bright and early in the morning…this is the reason I love to run, not so much the bibs and buses.

 

Going that extra mile – and being oh so brilliantly rewarded for it

5 of us met up in the dark this morning to run.  As one does on a slightly chilly Sunday.  With the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon exactly 2 weeks away, the plan is to do a long run this Sunday and next, and then, after that the rest is up to us….

Anyway, we met at 6am and it was still dark.  As in dark.  As in no street lights working.

So we warmed up in the Lodhi Gardens for a while, a safer bet than running on those dark streets.

IMG_8137I TOLD you it was dark.

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Imagine being able to run around such fabulosity as this…

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However fab the Lodhi Gardens are, they are crowded, so once the sky got light, off we headed through Lutyens Delhi towards India Gate.

I’ve told you in previous blogs that sometimes I have all the magnificence and splendour of India Gate and Raj Path practically to myself.

But not this morning.

Masses of people running –  there was a trial run for the half marathon – and there was just, basically, a whole lot of stuff going on.

Munchkins bombing along on their skates :

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A brilliant couple cycling along to the soundtrack of the Lion King.  I missed the moment when, at the traffic lights, they both hopped off their bikes and did some stretching exercises.
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Then I met up with a friend.

Last week, when I was running along Parliament Street, there was a pavement dweller just waking up from sleeping on the pavement, poor fellow.  He was neatly folding up the newspapers on which he had slept, and as I huffed and puffed past him, he greeted me in English, with a cheery “Good morning, madam.”  I replied in kind and was rewarded with a huge smile and a “Good Aunty.”

And this morning, there was my friend again –  still barefoot, still dirty, still wearing the same clothes as last week, and holding a stack of newspapers – and he greeted me with a huge wave and a shouted “Hello Aunty” across Raj Path.

By my next time down that stretch of Raj Path, he had ensconced himself in a prime position to read his papers and watch everyone exercising around him :

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When I took this photo of him, he called me over to show it to him, and we chatted some more.

“What is your good name?”  (all in English)

“Christine.  And what is your name?”

“Swami” he replied with a huge grin. “Swami Vivekanand”.  What a character.

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We saw many more brilliant things, including this lot:

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We watched a flock of Indian Grey Hornbills in a tree opposite the Lodhi Gardens, and just as we were about to pack up, after a run of about 12km, Doc –  our fearless coach & mentor –  suggested one last short run.

OK we all obediently groaned, and trotted off down Amrita Sher Gill Marg.

And this was our reward:

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You can say many things about Delhi (and I do, as you all know) but one thing is for sure.

Never a dull moment.

Never a boring day.

Never a routine run.

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Hello, Madam, how old are you?

Before I tell you how I answered that question, let me get something off my chest.

2 weeks ago, I lay the blame at the door of the army for my poor running times, thanks to all the fabulosity going on at India Gate, all of which inevitably slows me down to a gawping standstill.

This time round, I blame the cops, fairly and squarely, for the fact that my running times are so consistently slow.

This morning it was the turn of the police –  well, the CRPF to be precise –  the Central Reserve Police Force –  who were out en masse rehearsing for their forthcoming diamond jubilee celebrations.

Having set out with the intention of doing a long run this morning (only 23 days till the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon…yikes…) off I ran towards India Gate, which always draws me like a magnet.

Today it was hectic beyond belief.  There were people finishing up their Chhath puja in the Lutyens designed fountains around India Gate.

Yes, well.

And then there were marching bands, and a glockenspiel on a stand (I kid you not) and women in kilts carrying bagpipes (I kid you not Mark II) and women with riot shields marching to Bollywood music (I kid you not Mark III).

So of course I lingered for ages.

And of course I forgot to pause my GPS, so my run stats are shockingly slow –  but what a fab morning.

It was while I was checking out the glockenspiel (as one does) that a group of about 10 middle-aged men (all musicians I gathered) started chatting. The usual “Oh madam you speak such good Hindi…oh, very good, your husband is Indian…” routine and then one of the men suddenly asked me, in Hindi:

“How old are you Madam?”

I could have lied, but after muttering “You are never supposed to ask a lady her age” in English, I replied with the shocking truth.

A moment of stunned silence from assembled middle-aged blokes.  Then the one who had asked me the question and who did look rather shocked at my reply said, with great aplomb :
“Nahi Madam.  Nahi.  Aap young girl ki jaise lagti hai. ” (No madam.  You look like a young girl.)

Quite made my morning, bless him.

 

But what really and truly made my morning was the music and marching.  Loads of it.

What shall I share with you first ?

OK, what I call “conventional” stuff, but pretty good for your average Thursday morning…

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Then there were the ladies in kilts who sadly didn’t march (or play their bagpipes) but a charming young lady from Manipur, in a kilt, patted me on the arm and told me I spoke beautiful Hindi.

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And here are the true rockstars of the morning.

Young women from the RAF  – Rapid Action Force –  who performed to some very jolly music, riot shields and coshes to the fore :

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It all became a bit delightfully Indian at one point, while the riot shield girls demonstrated their skills, a platoon of men hove into view, marching to a different beat

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Apologies for shooting into the rising sun, by the way, but that’s where 2 friendly cops installed me for the “best view”, and it seemed churlish to ignore their kindness.

As the whole marvellous rehearsal wound down, and I realised that there was no way I was going to run another 10 km after all, and so off I trotted off down Raj Path.

Said it before.

Saying it again.

What’s not to love about running in Delhi?

And, yet again, how deceptively orderly Delhi looks here…

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And another tick for that bucket list (plus oodles of happy hormones)

A full month earlier than scheduled, theoretically totally under-prepared, but buoyed up my the companionship of my fab running girls, I ran my first ever half marathon this morning.

And if you ever doubted the existence of a runner’s high…well, trust me, it exists.

Totally.

Let me give you the back story (and yes, I’ll be brief, for all of you non-runners out there, yawning away in boredom already…)

I started running a year ago, part of a 10 week programme aimed at getting women on their feet and running, and we went from Couch to 6km, as our group name implies, running the Great Delhi Run last year.

Most of us have continued running, and these young women (damn it, EVERYONE is young these days) have become very dear and special, since they are always so fabulously encouraging and, well, they all totally get this running-bug-thing, since they have all been equally bitten.

I had signed up, rather apprehensively, for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, and have been training towards that date.

And then last week, out of the blue, with a little “jugaad” from one of my running girls, Shweta, I signed up, very late, for a half marathon this morning.  It was the name that first attracted me “Delhi Heritage Half Marathon” and the route was fabulous –  from New to Old Delhi, via some of the city’s most gorgeous monuments.  Organised and run by Coach Ravinder, who couldn’t have been more gracious as he allowed one dotty OAP entry just 3 days before the event.

We started at Qutb Minar in the pre-dawn dark, ran past Safdarjung’s Tomb and the Lodhi Gardens, on past Purana Qila, Raj Ghat, Lal Qila, and into the noise and chaos of Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi, where we got our medals, hugged each other to death and then retired to have a massive breakfast.

Super super super fun.

How on earth do you describe the feeling of accomplishing a half marathon?

Since I entered this race on the spur of the moment, just 3 days before, I hadn’t had time to get nervous as such, but I think what I expected from my first ever HM was a combination of nerves-bordering-on-panic, with a healthy dollop of total and utter exhaustion.

But it wasn’t like that at all.

It was a happy, joyous and (dare I say it?) an altogether easier experience than I could possibly have imagined.

We set off in the dark, running along Delhi’s dark and often pot-holey roads (not helped by the street lights suddenly going off for no apparent reason) and I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to run along what are normally crazily busy roads.

Take the AIIMS underpass for example.  How often do you see it virtually traffic free?  And how often can you safely do this?  Make a complete and utter fool of yourself dancing in the dark?

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In my defence, I had just spotted the totally fabulous mother-and-daughter combo of Sonea and Kshagun, who were our very own support team.. As Sonea drove slowly along the entire 21.08 km route, her pretty teenage daughter Kshagun either leaned out/leaped out of the car and took photos of us all.

So, yes, I was happy and I showed it!

Having never done anything like this before, and only a few 10k races, I had no idea just how important the support of friends would be.  At this dancing stage of the race (5km) I wasn’t flagging at all, but it was just such a joy to see the 2 of them, waving and cheering as I ran sweatily past.

This scene was to be repeated (but without the awkward dance moves) for the next 16km, bless them.

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There was no time to stop and gaze at the monuments we ran past, obviously, but it was a great concept, linking them all in this way.

Traffic police were out in force, and I thought we had Delhi pretty much to ourselves until we got to Purana Qila (Old Fort) where there were hundreds upon hundreds (which were then, actually, clearly thousands of people), making their way to Pragati Maidan, all dressed in white T shirts and dark blue baseball caps.  All very orderly, as they got down from fleets of buses, and walked along the roads, with their own marshalls to guide them.  What made me smile was that the logo on their Ts said “Run for Oneness”.  As they all walked.

There were moments of kindness as I ran.

A young man gave me his water bottle, when the water station had run dry.  (Met up with him later at the finishing line.)

A lady told me very firmly to straighten up, and open up my lungs, as I was (apparently) hunched over, and that I would run better as a result. (Also met up with her later at the finishing line.)

We ran under signs, over a bridge, under a flyover, under bridges, and over a footbridge, with funny slanty-angled-steps, which were surprisingly difficult to run on…

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As well as the monuments there were other amazing sights.  Barefoot Jain nuns for example in Old Delhi:

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And a man busy increasing the already post-Diwali grey polluted air :

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Gotta love running in India.

As I got to the 15km point, with “only” 6 km left to the finish line, I realised that 6km was where all this started.

10 months ago, when we ran 6km, it was a massive accomplishment.  And here I was saying “only” 6 left.

To mark the moment I switched from my running play list on my phone, to my “ultra” running playlist. which is the best of all the uplifting, thumping music I like.

Which meant that as I ran along past Lal Qila, “Jai Ho” was blasting out, and yes –  it was a truly great feeling and I know I had a daft smile on my face because Kshagun captured it.  (Hey, didn’t you read the title of this blog post?  Happy hormones…)

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This road sign was a huge morale booster :

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And then suddenly, expectedly I was there.

The finishing line.

21.08 fabulous kilometres.  With Sonea, Kshagun and Sonam waving and yelling and cheering.

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We waited for everyone from our group to arrive, and then went for breakfast, which was copious and very happy:

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Outside the restaurant where we ate, there was the most humungous bull you ever did see :

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One last daft sign sighting (below), and then onto the metro we all piled – hot, sweaty, and proudly showing off our medals.

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A truly epic day, made even more epic-er because of a group of amazing young women.

Khsagun, Sonam, Sonea, Samiksha, Katha, Shweta and Anita –  you all made my day.

 

And this is what we accomplished:

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Meet the mattress-fluffer-up-wala

I read an article in the Huffington Post recently about runners obsessively sharing all the joys and the highs and the lows and the statistics of their running, so enthused and happy-hormone-d out are they.   So I shall cunningly try and disguise all the running-y news in this post with some genuine non-running snippets.

Thik hai?

So here’s the thing…having inveighled my way into a fab run this coming Sunday morning, I now need to run a lot this week.

As in a lot.

As in Sunday’s run is actually a half marathon.

As in I have never run that much, and am still slowly preparing for the Delhi half marathon in November.

Gulp.  But a heritage run from Qutb Minar to Old Delhi, with some of my running girls for company, was just too tempting a prospect to miss.

So off I trotted this morning into a Delhi that was quite foggy and misty and felt winter-like, aiming to increase the distance I run.

I suspect a lot of the fog-like pall hanging over the city today is actually due to pre-Diwali pollution, with all the crackers and fireworks going off.  But the odd thing is, that although one knows that the city is polluted, on a day like today it doesn’t actually seem so.  Sure it was foggy, but it didn’t smell and taste polluted.  But there’s nothing I can do about it, and I am lucky enough to be able to run in relatively green and open spaces, so there you are.

Anyway, off I trotted down a deserted Raj Path, with India Gate just about visible through the gloom.  Imagine having all this for oneself.

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Arrive at India Gate to find loads of soldiers milling around, all looking super-smart and snapping to attention as I ran along.  Somewhat thrilled by all this attention, I told myself they were all saluting me, and not that pesky army jeep that was driving behind me…

As I got to the monument however, a young soldier hesitantly came up to me and said “Sorry Ma’am. No”.

“Ah”, quoth I in Hindi as his English was clearly limited, “Can I not run around India Gate this morning?”

“No Ma’am.  Sorry Ma’am.  Thank you Ma’am.”

Perfect manners, bless him.

So I did what I have wanted to do for a while, and ran round the outer circle that surrounds the monument, and there really is always a silver lining in everything, because otherwise I might not have met this fabulous man :

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He is a “pinjara” (or, is it “pinja”? Hindi speaking friends…?) and basically he re-plumps up your old mattresses.

The “pinjara” walks along twanging the bow-like wooden implement, to let you know he is down in the street, but over the years they are becoming increasingly fewer.  I remember in my early days in India hearing these men relatively frequently, but nowadays, hardly ever.

This dignified man gravely answered my questions, and here is the “gyaan” summarised for you : he is from Uttar Pradesh state, it takes him about 2 hours to re-card a mattress.  It costs Rs500 and he was walking to Sundernagar where there is always business because of all the big old houses there.

I tell you, the things you see when you are out and about early in Delhi…

Back down Raj Path I trotted, and up to the gates of Rashtrapati Bhawan, where I ran several laps up and down Raisina Hill.  Just because it is so totally fabulous to be on your own, surrounded by acres of Lutyens and Herbert Baker architecture.

I stopped and checked on the men who built all these amazing structures :

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Not sure quite what Mr. Donkin’s job entailed  – “E and M”?

And you have to wonder what poor Mr. Parker would think about the sanitary situation today…

Actually, what would any of these men think about the deliciously wonky road markings on Raisina Hill ?

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So between the pinjara and all that saluting, and chatting to a delightful road sweeper who turned off his music on his smart phone to greet me, and avoiding the monkeys who were out in force this morning, I clocked up 18km –  the most I have ever run.  So that is all pretty exciting.

And how pretty is my track log around India Gate?

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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…

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