So what, exactly, makes someone a runner?


Sonam, one of the young ladies in my running group, posted something to our Whatsapp group yesterday.  It was this quotation – above – from John Bingham, and it certainly resonated with our group.

We all started as total novices in September 2013, a group of women who had never run before, ages ranging from 13 to…well, to me, the old age pensioner in the group.  That year, after 10 weeks, we all ran the 6km Great Delhi Run as part of ADHM (Airtel Delhi Half Marathon). Most of us are still running, still meeting, and we are all still friends.  Some of us have graduated to half marathons, there are plans afoot to go for a full marathon in Mumbai in January 2016, so yes, I guess you could describe our sMiling Girls group as a group of runners.

Sonam’s post made me think about what, exactly, is a runner, and at what stage can one legitimately call oneself a runner?

I certainly didn’t describe myself thus for ages, imagining hoots of derision if I said “Oh, yes, actually, I’m a runner.  I just ran a 6km race” and so for the longest time there was an awful lot of “Oh, I’m not really a runner, I’m just a beginner…very slow…just starting…still learning…” until one day, someone told me to stop parrying every question about running with a derogatory “Oh, I’m not really a runner” kind of comment.

So I stopped.

And, mentally, I became a runner.

A v-e-r-y slow one.

A very h-u-f-f-y and p-u-f-f-y runner.

But a runner nonetheless.

And that is because I run.  No more no less.

It’s not really rocket science, is it?  You run = you are a runner.

Does it matter how fast you run?

No, I don’t think so.

Does it matter whether you look like a runner?

(Yes, you’re right, I just included that question to make you angry and reply !!)

Does it matter how long it takes you to complete that 5km, 10km, HM…?

No, I don’t think so.  Isn’t the whole point to compete, to enjoy, to test oneself?

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So, please, won’t you share with us the moment that YOU became a runner?

What did YOU see on your run today? #5 comes from Ahmedabad

Remember our very own marathon man, Piyush Shah, who I told you about a couple of weeks ago?  The laconic, low-key gentleman from Ahmedabad who is attempting to run 100 marathons in 100 days.
As one does.

He’s just completed his 64th marathon this morning, by the way.

As one does.

Anyway, Piyush-ji sent me this photo of himself doing a headstand while #outforarun.

As one does.


So on this particular morning run, Piyush saw (upside down) lots of little boys looking at him in some astonishment, and they saw our marathon man showcasing his yoga skills.

And what did YOU see on your run today? # 4 comes from Paris

Today it’s Bastille Day, le quatorze juillet, and so it is entirely appropriate that your running photo of the day comes to you from France.

And what a photo.

C’est vraiment magnifique.

This fab photo was taken by my friend Chantal Wanten, a Belgian friend via Johannesburg.  We hiked together back in our South African days, but we never ran together –  since we both started running only recently, Chantal in Paris and yours truly here in Delhi.


This gorgeous panorama of the Paris skyline was taken from the Parc de St. Cloud, which is now very firmly on my running To Do list, on a future visit to Paris.

#stoppedforaphoto  #outforarun

Merci beaucoup Chantal.

Who let THAT **** dog out?

A few days ago, a lovely lady who runs and blogs, Anupriya Kapur, shared a blog post about avoiding stray dogs when you are out running.  I read the post, noted the many helpful comments and tips, and stored all the advice away for future reference –  hoping, of course, that I would never need to use them.

Fast forward to last night, when I set out for an evening run in my neighbourhood.  The same route I take every single day.

Not even 250 metres from my house a dog, on leash, held by its teenage owner who was busy chatting on her mobile, jumped up and bit me on the hip, while the owner finished her conversation, in a flurry of “Oh God…sorry…chalo bye…talk later…sorry.”

Now, and here’s the thing…unfortunately, all the good advice people had offered about stray dogs hardly applies when the dog is on a leash, and with the owner supposedly in control.  With the owner standing right there, trying to pull it off you.

Can hardly pepper spray or hit the dog, can you?

Let me tell you what I did not do. As in the things that might have provoked a dog to attack…

• I was not running –  as I said, wasn’t even 250 metres from my house, so was still warm up walking.

• I was not talking on my phone, nor listening to music, nor did I touch the dog, nor did I touch the owner, nor did I make any gesture as I passed it.  I was just walking.  And there was ample space, so didn’t squeeze past.

• I was wearing a light T shirt.  Someone commented about Anupriya’s post that dark clothes may spook dogs.

• It was still light.

So, sadly, I must conclude that the dog was just downright ill-tempered and out of control. As a dog lover (and an owner of a street dog myself) I really didn’t see an attack coming.  It jumped up, sunk its teeth into me and held on for a few seconds, until the girl pulled him off –  and yes, it hurt like hell.

I’ll spare you the chowkidars all watching and doing diddly squat to help.

I’ll spare you the to-ings and fro-ings with the girl, her brother, their mother – “Kya hua?” in a sceptical tone of voice until I yanked up my bloody T shirt and said “Yeh hua.”


As it was an “owner” dog and not a stray, I asked if the dog was inoculated against rabies, and they showed me its injection book, which was up to date, thank God.

Feeling slightly nauseous by this stage, I hobbled home and went to my nice local GP.

And so, folks, this is what happens if you get bitten by a dog –  and I wouldn’t wish it on any of you.

I had a tetanus shot + a rabies shot.

My GP said that even though the dog seems healthy and is inoculated against rabies, had the dog been bitten by a rabid dog, then it could nevertheless be infected.  So he gave me one injection and says I must do a visual check on the dog every day for a week, and if there are no changes in its appearance, then I should be OK.  Otherwise, it’s the full course of rabies shots for me.

Meds for 3 days = antibiotics and painkiller.

Instructions to wash the wound thoroughly, since the skin had been broken, to wash off whatever was in its saliva and could infect me.  Doc cheerfully informed me that since it was a surface wound, it would hurt even more than a deep one, because many more nerve ends are affected.  Great.  Just great.

This morning, I went out for my usual run, taking the same route and the wretched dog was lying inside the compound gate (where he usually is most days, lying down next to the guard) so I didn’t get a proper look at him –  could just see his legs and his red harness.

What I did note this morning, however, was just how many people carry sticks on their morning walks.

But these are all for the strays, right?

Not for a dog on a leash, with the owner standing right there.

So, folks, as you did for the blog post about stray dog attacks, I would welcome advice on what to do in such circumstances, and whether you feel I handled/mishandled the situation.


I’ll spare you any more gory injury photos, but FYI here is the prescription, which you might find helpful –  though, as I said earlier, I wouldn’t wish a dog bite on any of you.


But, should it happen :

a) check that the dog is vaccinated against rabies.  If it’s a stray, then you know your answer straight away.

b) get your shots immediately.


Oh, and by the way, to all friends who are part of our #100days challenge…late at night, back home from the doctor’s, I ran 2km (v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y and oh-so-boringly) round and round and round and round my roof terrace, all injected up and medicated.

But I ran.

Your daily running inspiration starts right here…

If any of you have ever watched in awe as the elite runners zip past you at the speed of light, then this article from Britain’s Financial Times is the perfect read for you, this wet and windy Sunday.

Well, it’s wet and windy and overcast and very humid here in Delhi.  (And yes, indeed, perfect weather for a run!  Just heading out in a mo.)

In the very little “serious” racing I have done, ie 2 x ADHM and 1 x SCMM, the elite runners were African to a woman/man.  And mainly east Africans at that.

To read the story of Geoffrey Mutai is little short of inspiring.  Born into poverty, as a youngster he had to work at back-breaking jobs to help feed his family, who are all dead against his desire to run.

Thank goodness for us all, Mr. Mutai and his determination win the day.

I love this quote, below, which sort of puts the whole marathon running obsession into perspective :

“For most people in the western world, running a marathon is the ultimate challenge – it’s the product of months of aches, blisters, fund-raising and the obsessive Instagramming of muddy trainers. Chris Brasher, one of the co-founders of the London Marathon, often called the race “the great suburban Everest”. But for Mutai, and for many like him, the tough part was arriving at the start line.”

And as I head out to run in the rain, I leave you with a wobbly-filmed moment from ADHM 2014, as the elite women swept past us.

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Slowing down to film this may well have cost me 3rd place in my age category.  Can you credit it?  I came in 4th – boo, hiss.  Lesson learned.

What did YOU see on your run today? #3 is from South Africa

I have a lovely, terrifyingly accomplished friend who lives on a farm in South Africa’s Western Cape. A championship rider who also runs and writes a blog and is writing a book. And of course she loves dogs.

Yes, quite.

What’s not to like about Sarah Arnot?

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On her morning runs with the adorable Seamus, Sarah documents the amazing floral life of this gorgeous part of a gorgeous country.  She is especially fond of fynbos –  a unique heathland vegetation that really only occurs in the western Cape.

Hence the name of her blog.

This is what Sarah saw on her latest run.  An endangered flower no less.


“The first Leucospermum lineare of the year.

This lovely pincushion, known as “The Vulnerable” and a member of the protea family, is endangered.”

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your running photo of the day.

And please keep sharing with us.

The dog ate my running shoes

Actually, he didn’t.

(But, as an aside, he does so love my smelly post-run socks).

So, no my daft Golden did not eat my running shoes, but this was my attempt to turn “the dog ate my homework” into a legit excuse as to why I didn’t get get up and go running early this morning as planned.

And the reason is?


My shoes were still soaking wet from yesterday, that’s why.

I did get up pre-dawn.

It was not raining. (It is now, though, at 7am. Fair chucking it down.) But it was damp and humid and grey, and my lovely running shoes were still v-e-r-y damp, despite having had several rounds of the newspaper treatment.

You know, scrunched up newspaper inside the shoes, to soak up the damp.

Like so:


I love reading running blogs, but the trouble is, 99% of them are written from a phoren perspective***, and there are times when their advice and hints and tips just do not carry through here to our deshi situation.

• Like letting your wet shoes dry naturally in the sun.

Er, what sun, exactly, during our monsoons?

• Tumble dry them.

Nope, not risking my luvverly new(-ish) shoes in the tumble-dryer.  Worried that the heat would damage the soles.

• Hang them in front of a fan all day.

No, actually, I am not going to dangle them in front of a fan all day, thank you very much…fire hazard/cost of electricity/daft dogs rushing around the place.


So, yes, good old stuffed-up Times of India it was.

But they were still damp  – hardly surprising given our 94% humidity today.

So.  The solution?

Looks like it has to be to go out and buy a second pair of shoes.

Unless any of you good folks has a better idea?

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***And yes, how right you are.  It was precisely for that reason that I started this blog 🙂  To take an Indian look at our running world.

What did YOU see on your run today?

In the Aravali Biodiversity Park, I saw a dog having a kip on a charpoi (string bed) lovingly covered up by his owner, one imagines.

The owner of the shoes, perhaps?



So, go on, then, what did YOU see?

email me: and I’ll share the memorable moments of your run with all those fellow runners out there.




100 marathons in 100 days

Let’s hear it for Chen Penbin who has just finished his 100th marathon in 100 days.

What an achievement.  Too phenomenal for words, so I think the only thing to do is to let the man speak for himself :

“We can achieve what we want!” is what he yelled as he crossed the finishing line of his 4219.5km run.

Congratulations, shahbash from India, Mr. Chen.  This is an inspirational moment.


Here is a link to a report in the Shanghai Daily (where, quick aside, my son lives, and is currently battening down the hatches before Typhoon Chan-hom makes landfall.)

Mr. Chen was also running to gain support for China’s bid to host the 2022 winter Olympics.

What he says, below, could oh-so-easily apply here in India – the combination and contrast of great beauty and terrible pollution…

“I ran all the way from south China to north, I saw beautiful views, and I saw terrible pollution. One day when I ran at Zhangjiakou’s Chongli, I saw blue sky and white clouds. I finally realized why I’m running for Beijing 2022, it’s because I want to keep this beautiful sky for ever!”



Yes, Mr. Chen.  Let’s all try and keep this beautiful sky for ever.

Once agin, congratulations!



How do you make time to go for a run?

In an ideal world, we would all have that precious hour or two of “me” time, when we could head out for a run, on our own terms and at our own convenience.

Off we would go, and no-one would be affected by it, no compromises would have to be made, and no one would grumble about our absence.

But, of course, we do not live in a perfect world.  Far from it, and so carving out the time to go running isn’t always easy.

I have it very easy compared to most of you younger people.  I am a freelance writer and photographer (translation, I am “vela”) but basically my days are (sort of) my own, so I can (sort of) run when I wish.

The “sort of” restrictions arise mainly from the very fact of living in New Delhi:

a) the weather

b) the traffic and pollution

c) safety

For those of you who don’t live here, for many months of the year Delhi is hot hot hot, and there is no question of running in such fierce heat.  So that leaves the very early mornings or late at night.

What do I mean by hot, do I hear you ask?

Oh, upper 30Cs and low-mid 40Cs for weeks at a time.  That hot enough for you?

With those kind of temperatures, you have to be out and about very early, to try and beat the worst of the heat, which is why I prefer early mornings.  Somehow the day never seems quite as hot, nor quite as polluted, first thing in the morning as later on – that’s probably an illusion, but mornings seem cleaner here in Delhi.

Late at night, as well as the residual heat and the accumulated petrol fumes hanging in the air, there is the additional fact that civic infrastructure is poor here, with dodgy streetlighting and badly maintained roads.  The few times I have had to run at night (like yesterday – more anon) it wasn’t as relaxed as in the morning.  Conscious of the darkness, worried about tripping up on the potholes and – of course –  not venturing into the parks for obvious reasons –  yes, all in all, night running is not brilliant here.


What if that’s your only window of opportunity, between the school run and work and commuting?

In that case, night running it will have to be.

Better a night run than no run.  Obviously.

So, you take care –  wear clothes with reflective strips, wear a head torch if the lighting is really bad, and –  ‘fraid so –  you probably have to compromise on the route.  Stick to roads that are familiar and as well lit as possible.  Yes, it might mean more boring running, but one has to be safe.

But all of this you all know already, I’m sure.


What I find needs to be mastered –  especially in the Indian context –  is a degree of ruthlessness, that means you prioritise your run, no matter what.  I wrote a post a little while ago, asking whether running makes you anti-social. I like to describe it as being focused.

But it’s not always easy.  Family makes more demands on one here than in the west, that’s for sure, and it’s a delicate thing, isn’t it, learning how to tell relatives that you need to go to bed ‘cos you need to be up at 5am, and that yes, actually, my run is very important.  As important to me as your chitchat is to you.

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I allowed politeness to over-ride things the other night when friends unexpectedly dropped round for a quick drink -> staying for dinner -> late late night -> just couldn’t get up after 4 1/2 hours sleep -> evening run -> and this is the most important bit of this anecdote – since my run got topsy-turvied, I felt out of sorts all day.

Until I ran.

And then I felt great.

As I ran in the dark, I got to thinking that under what circumstances would it have been socially OK for me to ditch my guests and go to bed?

Had I announced that I was turning in to get up for an early morning flight, that would have been fine.

Had I said I needed to study, that too would have been fine.

Had I said I had a deadline for an article…that, too, would have been OK, I suspect.

But I just know that saying “I have to go to bed now, so I can get up and run tomorrow at dawn” would have been misconstrued, and yes, would probably have sounded very rude.

So what to do?

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Toughen up a little, I suspect.

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