“I’m running in the rain, just running in the rain. What a glorious feeling…”

So today in Delhi it rained.

As in it poured down, monsoon style.

Which meant that the hundreds of participants in the 3 races at the F1 circuit early this morning who all got soaked to the skin and still ended the race smiling and grinning are –  I accept –  all lunatics.

Your blogger included.

We were just 3 from our running group –  a sadly diminished crew from this time last year when we nearly all ran our first 10km – but hey, it’s quality not quantity, right Suparna & Sonea?!

2 of the girls ran the 10km and I did the half marathon, clocking my fastest time to date, so clearly there is something to be said for running in a downpour and with a stiff wind.

Running around a Formula 1 track is pretty special, and even the rain couldn’t take that away –  though I didn’t stop to gaze and wonder, the way I did last year.

I have mentioned before how nice runners are, and today was no exception, with everyone being upbeat, no-one cribbing, and everyone cheering fellow runners along.  When I was heading back to the track, the end very much in sight, I was crossing runners who still had several km to go (sorry, hope that doesn’t sound like bragging.  It’s not meant that way) and so many of them, battling rain and wind and several wet km still to go, were cheering and applauding and “good job”-ing – how generous is that?

Lunatics AND nice people.  A winning combo.

I saw even my own dear family’s eyes roll in disbelief when I said it was fun running in the rain (and oh it was, it was) so I won’t bore you all too much.

Those of you who were there this morning know what I mean.

It was fun.

Soaking wet, but fun.

I can feel your eyes glazing over from my desk, you know, so here you go –  a few photos, of us all wet.  But oh so happy, especially Sonea, whose first run it was after months of injury.

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And here’s the half marathon route.  You have to imagine the rain.

And the smiles.

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And now what?

Despite today’s cold and wind (& did I mention rain?), the summer is almost upon us –  after Holi which is next Friday, the weather will start hotting up – and that’s pretty much it for races until the winter.

Ah well, back to training it is.

Running in the most polluted city in the world

So, India has finally overtaken the Chinese.

Yaay, yippee yaay, do I hear you cry?

Please don’t cheer, because all that India has done is win the top spot in the most polluted city in the world stakes, with Delhi (where I live) now being, apparently, more polluted than Beijing.

Hardly an accolade to be proud of.

Most of the time, however, I simply don’t buy into this alarmist news.

Yes, our winters are shrouded in fog, but we have been told for so many years that our annual winter fog is because of those pesky farmers in Punjab burning their stubble.  Are we to believe, all of sudden, that this annual rural ritual has morphed into killer pollution?  Pollution that is –  we are told – knocking 3 years off all our lives.

Apparently, living here is the equivalent of smoking one pack of ciggies a day, and for a violent anti-smoker comme moi that is a bitter truth.

And to top it all, I am out and about running through this city every day.  Deep breathing all that pollution.

On Sunday, for example, I ran through Lutyens Delhi –  the elegant heart of the city –  but the sky was a deep blue, there was a slight breeze and it was wonderful and beautiful.  It simply didn’t feel in the least bit polluted.

This morning, however, was a completely different kettle of fish.

I ran the exact same route, but the sky was so grey and murky that you couldn’t even see Rashtrapati Bhavan, and there was a nasty “taste” in the air.  So much so that I actually cut my run short.  And with a half marathon this Sunday for which I am ill-prepared, cutting short a training run wasn’t part of my game plan.

Half way down Raj Path, I looked back –  no India Gate visible

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Nor was Rashtrapti Bhavan visible through the gloom.  This is from the closest point you are now allowed.  Security concerns no longer permit you to approach the railings as before.

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And I thought…now what? Having just been bitten by the running bug, do I have to stop because of the pollution?

As I pondered this tricky question, I also reflected on the filth that litters this city, despite all the “Swachh Bharat/Clean India” publicity.

As usual in Lutyens Delhi, there were battalions of sweepers out with their brooms, sweeping dust from one side of the road to the other, and gathering up leaves, and roundly ignoring the plastic and polystyrene that litters the place.  Guess it must be the Indian version of Jobsworth.

Not a stone’s throw from India Gate –  the heart of splendid monumental Delhi – this was the scene:

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If it hasn’t been so mucky and foggy this morning, you would be able to see India Gate just behind this stinking pile of garbage.

Next to the garbage a man was peeing.

Obviously.

And (for once) there was a public loo not even a minute away  –  as I crisply informed him.   I no longer care if it is appropriate to berate a man with his flies open and peeing in public, but someone has to try and shame these blokes.  This bloke, however, was least bothered, and just grinned cheerily back at me.

Someone also has to tell the sweepers that garbage bins (they actually have functional ones in Lutyens Delhi, unlike we mere mortals) should not be thus.  Upside down.

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And yes, obviously, I turned them the right way.

Other than this, there were loads of monkeys everywhere, ditto stray dogs, ditto people taking selfies at India Gate, ditto soldiers in full camo gear which is a little disconcerting at 7 in the morning.

Never a dull moment.

But this pollution does worry me.

What are your thoughts?  Share them?

Which sports bra?

Although I am going to review a sports bra here –  the one I use for running –  I really would appreciate feedback and input from women readers, please, not only for this bra but other makes, too.  It would help to make this post more inclusive.

Please?

So, ever since I started running in September 2013, I have experimented with different sports bras, and the one that suits me best is the Nike Dri Fit.  It is firm without being too constricting, and it seems to last and last.  I bought 2 last February –  so 11 months ago, give or take –  and they have been washed constantly, yet show no signs of wear and tear.  I then bought 2 more in October, and other than the thick wedge of labels which I had to cut out of all the bras (are so many labels really necessary, Nike?) I have no complaints whatsoever.

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See what I mean about the labels?

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I couldn’t actually find these bras in Delhi so bought them overseas, but I would love to hear from you if this style is indeed available locally in India.  Hope so.

And as I said at the outset, I welcome your recommendations of other bras.

Putting Adidas Revenergy Boost running shoes through their paces

At the end of September 2014 I bought a pair of Adidas Revenergy Boost running shoes, and 3 months later I think a reasonable enough amount of time has elapsed to review them.

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I am a newbie runner, meaning I am not super knowledgeable about running shoes, but these Revenergy Boost shoes suit me down to a T.

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The soles are lovely and bouncy (I’m sure that’s not an acceptable technical term, but you know what I mean) and still are after 3 months of almost daily use.  I only wear them to run, so they are not being worn all day, in other words.

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Just one thing.  After exactly 2 weeks, the inside heel areas started to bobble (see below) & so I contacted Adidas to ask if this was normal.

Adidas shoes 16.10.14Had to chase them and chase them for a reply, which when it finally came told me rather peremptorily that this was not at all a reason to exchange or replace the shoes.

OK then.

Just seemed soon for wear & tear.

2 weeks = 14 days = 22 hours of use, give or take an hour.

Otherwise, absolutely no complaints.

I bought my shoes in Delhi, and they cost me Rs9599.  I paid for them and told neither the shop, nor Adidas when I complained, that I blog and write reviews.

Will I buy another pair when these are worn out?

Yes, I think so, despite a poor after-sales experience.

What is Siri Fort Sports Complex, New Delhi like?

I have just returned from my first ever visit to the Siri Fort Sports Complex in Delhi, and at first I thought, “How can I review it after only one session there? Hardly seems fair.”

And then I thought, “Hang on, I will happily write a review of a restaurant after only one meal, so same difference.”

I used the jogging track, running with one of my running group, as we try and get fit for the Mumbai half marathon.

I was seriously impressed at this clean, quiet, green oasis, right in the heart of the city.  Ample safe parking. Blissfully quiet. After running on city roads, what a treat to run on a good track. Very clean, even the loos.

Slightly bored indifferent staff, but that is par for the course in India with any government/municipal initiative, always coupled with the obvious dread of perhaps having to speak in English with an old foreigner…as it is, this old foreigner can speak Hindi, so that was OK.

Got myself my day pass with only minimum explanation required that yes I am a foreigner, but yes I live here, and that yes I am PIO and…all OK in the end.  They even knocked Rs2 off the price, since no-one had any change.  Sweet.

As I was cooling off after my run, I was challenged by a security guard for not having said day pass.  “Gave it in at the desk over there,” I huffed, bright red in the face.

He went and checked at the desk, and dismissively told me, “Thik hai.”

“Oh,” I asked him, “so you think I would tell you a lie?”

“No, of course not madam.”

“So why didn’t you believe me. Do I look like a liar?”

“No madam, of course not”,  and he saluted, so that was that.

 

Very impressed by what I saw.  It was pretty empty at 3 when we started running, but as the afternoon wore on, and I guess schools finished, lots of children were rolling up, mainly for tennis practice it would seem

I can envisage more runs here, and a post run coffee in the Barista outlet.

Am seriously, unequivocally delighted that my tax rupees have been so well spent.

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Well-tended lawns and flower beds, and gardeners hard at work this afternoon.

Brilliant running track.

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Intriguing sculpture (below).  Guess the message is to get off that couch and into your sports gear.  Could’ve been our logo for our “Couch – 6km” programme last year.

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A slightly puzzling sign (below).

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Only sad note – rubbish “hidden” behind a wall, right next to ticket booth, and a “Swachh Bharat” poster.  No litter otherwise in the complex, which was such a treat, so this was unnecessary.

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Pick it up, fellas, don’t chuck it underneath the hoardings, behind a wall.

How do you replicate Mumbai in Delhi?

That was the question on my lips early this morning as I sat shivering in 7C whilst checking the Mumbai temperature –  27C at 6.30am.  (Is that possible?  Or was my weather widget so frozen it couldn’t think straight?)

Be that as it may, the fact remains that in 10 days I shall be in Mumbai to run a half marathon and it is going to be hot & humid.  As opposed to miserably cold & foggy.  Bring it on, say I.

But one has to do a certain amount of preparation, and so today I piled on the warmies and ran at midday, hoping to feel hot and sweaty and something akin to 27C.  Replicate Mumbai, in other words.

Nope.

Didn’t work.

There was such a bitter wind whipping along Raj Path that I regretted only having a long-sleeved thermal + a fleece + a bodywarmer + a hat, and not another fleece.  And a pair of gloves.

So, no worries Mumbai mere jaan, there is no way you can be replicated up here.

Having said that, there is still something to be said about running around India Gate and down Raj Path and up Raisina Hill…who am I kidding, it is utterly fabulous, and easily one of the best things in this city.  I got so spoiled over the summer, running at dawn on my own around India Gate, that it’s a bit of a shock to the system to have to fight your way through the crowds of visitors taking selfies.

As you can see from my GPS track log below, at the end of this post, I couldn’t run the full length of Raj Path.  Rehearsals are already taking place for Republic Day, and today it was the turn of school children marching to some very jolly Bolly music.  The announcer on the PR system –  all the way along Raj Path we got the details of who was where and who should be where and who needed to hurry up – was using my kind of Hindi :

“Sab teachers and in-charges ke liye ek meeting hai…

I ran up Raisina Hill, the incline leading up to Rashtrapati Bhavan, which has to double up as Mumbai’s Pedder Road in my training.  Been stressing myself by reading reports of the half marathon route, and everyone, without exception, makes mention of Pedder Road.  And how one has to factor in walking up it and thereby losing precious minutes.  So Raisina Hill it will have to be every day for the next 10 days.  Trying to replicate Mumbai agan.

After the pomp and circumstance, the Bollywood music and the icy wind, I made a detour via the little Masjid Zabta Ganj on Raj Path, an 18th century mosque that I have discovered through running, and have run past many times without ever stopping.

Today I did, and see what I found.  A fantabulous ceiling, for one :

 

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The usual clutch of little boys who could say “Hi” and “My name is” and that was that.  They were intrigued by the fact I could speak Hindi and traipsed around after me, instead of swabbing the floors of the mosque, which is what they all seemed to be doing when I arrived.

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Just think of all the years of driving past this little mosque, and only discovering it on foot…

Raj Path is being spruced up in preparation for 26 January (and, of course, President Obama, who will be the chief guest) and lots of access points are now blocked off.

As you can see.

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Love it.

I ran past a crowd of men listening to the sales patter of a man selling…well, you tell me what he was selling :

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The original fish oil salesman.

We encountered a bloke like this in Simla last year and since he told me that for Rs50 a slice of the backbone of a ??? (oh I forget what fish) would cure me of all my aches and pains, I duly stumped up the money and have left the talisman on my desk ever since.  I was supposed to tie it on a piece of string and wear it.  I think I now shall.

Here you go, I know you don’t believe me :

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I am going to get a piece of thread and start 2015 fully protected.

Perhaps it will also protect me from the kind of asinine idiot like the bloke below who waved at me continuously, clearly thinking I was interested in him rather than the fish spines dangling in front of me.  Egotistical twerp.

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So there you go.  Delhi is not really like Mumbai at all, but one does one’s best.  And tomorrow I shall wear an extra layer of warmies.

 

Here’s the track log.  All 11.2km of it.

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Swachh Bharat 30.12.14 (Trying to find a lighter side)

There really isn’t actually a lighter side to rubbish at all, and I am in no way trivialising my own recent crusade to play whatever little part one can in the Swachh Bharat campaign…but this classic vignette caught my eye as I was out running this morning.

Rubbish skip that clearly hasn’t been emptied for a while = poor garbage collection is a big problem here.

Rubbish strewn on the floor = perennial problem.

Cow happily chomping on a plastic bag while his mate rootles inside the skip = seizing the moment.
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Ah well, at least someone is enjoying the unsightly mess.

Swachh Bharat. 29.12.2014. Particularly depressing.

If there is a symbolic heart to Delhi, I would imagine it must be India Gate, the impressive war memorial and a centre piece of Raj Path.

So you would expect such a prime spot, which always has an impressive honour guard, to be spotless, right?

Especially since we are less than a month from Republic Day & the visit of President Obama…

Especially since the government is pushing its “Swachh Bharat” campaign & constantly regaling us with photos of ministers and VIPs wielding spotless new brooms, usually in front of a small heap of leaves…

Well, you would be wrong, wrong, wrong.

I went for a run at lunchtime today to India Gate & down Raj Path, which is all a-bustle with Republic Day preparations, and this is the reality on the ground :

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You can see India Gate just peeping out from behind the trees –  so this is not even 100 metres from our pride & joy, our national memorial to the country’s war dead.

More of the same.

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I ran past the 2 gawping men who asked me, bemused, why I was taking photos of rubbish, and just on the corner before India Gate –  so, let’s say, 50 metres from the monument, this is what greeted me :

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Don’t know what to say, really.

Well, he might never tell a woman to F*** off again

So there was I, this chilly December lunchtime, out for a run in Lutyens Delhi.  The pampered, protected heart of our nation.  Supposedly.

As I ran past the National Museum on Janpath –  totally in the pampered, protected heart of our nation etc etc –  I noticed 3 teenage boys ahead of me.  Thin.  Greasy hair.  School uniforms.  Backpacks half open.  They looked at me, whispered, then turned round and faced me, 3 abreast, blocking the pavement.

“Time,” they all said.

I ignored them, so they came a step closer.

“Time,” they repeated.

Another step closer, and they all said “Time” in unison.

I went to side-step them and one of them then made a fatal mistake.

“Fuck you” he said, and they all paused, waiting to see my reaction.

In Hindi I yelled, “WHAT did you just say?”

And then they started running.

Bad move boys.

I might be old enough to be your grandmother, but I can run.  I chased them down Janpath, much to their apparent horror, and as I ran  –  eventually –  past 2 cops I yelled, once again in Hindi, “Stop those boys”.

Now in this city, with its recent history of sexual attacks on women, you would hope that 2 cops seeing a woman chasing after 3 youths might be galvanised into action.

Not a bit of it.  And this is slap bang in the heart of tourist Delhi, remember.

One of them said “Purse” as I ran past, but didn’t move a muscle otherwise, and I made an on-the-spot decision to ignore these Keystone Cops and chase after the boys, who ran into one of the large colonial-era Lutyens bungalows.

I presume their parents work there, but they obviously realised that I meant business and would follow them into the quarters, so they ran back out, and we continued for a few more minutes till they slowed down, puffing and panting.

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One of them started saying, in Hindi “We didn’t do anything” over and over again, to which I said “So why are you running away then?”

He instantly did a namaste and said “Maf karo auntie, maf karo” over and over again.

“It was just words,” he kept saying.

I slapped his greasy head at this, and yelled  –  oh how I yelled, hoping to attract a passer-by’s attention, but to no avail – “So would you use that word to your mother (twist of his ear) or to your sister (another twist of his ear)?”

“Auntie maaf karo. Maaf karo. Me sorry hu.”

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And then I ran off (my split time for that km was excellent, I might add).

I wasn’t in any physical danger, despite the lack of police help and passer-by-indifference –  but it was the way the 3 creeps ganged up, that made me see red.  That could have been my beautiful daughter, or anyone else’s beautiful daughter.  If they were brazen about cheeking off an old age pensioner, in broad daylight, just think what they might have done to a young girl.

And I reckon that a slap to the head might knock some sense into his brain.  Perhaps prevent him growing up into a full blown creep.

No further moral to this story, other than the obvious –  running came to the rescue.

Swachh Bharat. Trying to be fair. 28.12.

Yesterday, I told you about the much-needed campaign that has been launched to clean up India.

Much of the blame, in my eyes, lies in people’s inability to think in a civic fashion, namely this is my street/neighbourhood/city/country and so I should do my bit to keep it clean.  The attitude seems, by and large, to be rather a case of it’s not my problem/someone else will pick it up/someone else should pick it up/it’s someone else’s job to pick it up/what are servants for if not to pick up.

Apologies if that sounds harsh, but I have heard this refrain from people I know and like and whom I would never expect to think like that – which all goes to show.  I remember being chided by a friend after a polo game, when i picked up my styrofoam tea cups to throw them away.

“What on earth are you doing, picking that up?  Leave it all, someone else will do it.”  Verbatim.

But, to be fair, there are times when one can also blame our poor infrastructure and civic amenities.

There is a waste bin on the street right outside my house.  I have blogged/tweeted about this useless bin over the course of the 9 years we have been back, all to no avail.

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This time, the blame lies fairly and squarely in the court of the people who take my tax money and deliver precious little in return.  I promise you I won’t go off at a tangent, tempting though it is, to moan about street lighting and dug up roads and non-existent pavements…this section of my blog is about Swachh Bharat and Swachh Bharat only.

So you tell me, oh government-walas, how on earth can I keep my street swachh if this is the state of our bins?

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