“Be in a easy condition” – er, yes, sure, why ever not…

Bright and early this slightly-chilly December morning, I met up with Doc (our coach) and 2 of my running girls for a nice slow-ish run around Panscheel Park.

Since Sonam, Sameeksha and the group Auntie (c’est moi) are running the Mumbai Marathon in –  gulp – less than 40 days***, it is high time we got back into shape.  We have all relaxed a little after the Delhi HM, and so this morning was our first proper post-ADHM run.

Panscheel Park, a well-maintained DDA Park, was new to me, and for those of you who don’t know it either, it’s worth it.  For the nice looping around wooded running track.

And for the brilliant signs which accompany the exercise zones that are scattered around the park.

Sonam and Sameeksha gamely tried out all the equipment for us, and so as well as a good attempt at getting-back-into-half-marathon-running shape, we also had a hilarious work out.

Check the signs for yourself.  Gotta love the picturesque English :

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The girls decided this was what “jump hurdlers jump” meant, though it seemed insensitive to point out they were absolutely not jumping of (sic) with 2 feet :

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I love the sign below, and even though we had all forgotten to bring our logs with us (go on, read it again) the girls interpreted the instructions as best they could :

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After all this exercise, and a good 7.4km run, we all deserved some rest :

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The good folks doing yoga, below, were clearly in tune with nature and in a (sic) easy condition.

Early morning yoga in local park, New Delhi, India.

 

*** I lie.

The Mumbai Marathon is not in 40 days.  It’s in 39 days and counting.

I got so spooked by the second counter whizzing down while I watched, that I quickly left the website.

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Oh no! Disaster! Apparently I didn’t run the whole half marathon…

Well, if the venerable “Times of India” is to be believed, that is.

And I quote :

“The half marathon, covering a distance of about 21km (fair enough, it’s actually 21.097. But it doesn’t take much to verify your facts these days.  Google it, mister…) started at 7.30 (no, it didn’t.  The last batch set off at 7.11) and ended by 9.30 (dunno, I had finished my race by then, but it certainly seemed to me that there were still a good many folk running at that stage, so I very much doubt it finished then…). It covered Lodhi Road, India Gate, Rajpath and CONNAUGHT PLACE, among other areas.”

Oh no!  Can you credit it? I missed Connaught Place, folks.  How on earth did that happen? How could I be so stupid?

Yes, yes, obviously I didn’t miss CP, because obviously CP wasn’t part of the route. But it all goes to show how sloppy, sloppy, and did I mention sloppy, the level of reporting can be here.

OK, we get it, a half marathon isn’t cricket, and so isn’t actually considered to be sport with a capital S.

And since it’s not cricket, I suppose the theory goes that it’s therefore not of that much interest to most people, but damn it, can’t you at least get your facts straight?  All they had to do was go onto the ADHM website and get all the info they needed.

And, of course, there remains the $64000 question…

If the press can’t even report a half marathon correctly, what else are they getting wrong?

How much of my morning news should I believe?

And, before I sign off for the evening, I have the following observation to make : as an elderly participant, I am distinctly miffed that I didn’t get the treatment reported in the same newspaper:

“Despite presence of celebrities like cricketer Gautam Gambhir and actors Bipasha Basu and Vinod Khanna, the elders were the star of the event.  They were greeted by bystanders and even by on-duty volunteers with cheering claps.”

Huh?

You know what, I am beginning to wonder if perhaps I wasn’t at a different event altogether, and that there was something for the wrinklies happening at Connaught Place.

What a brilliant half marathon that was (Pity about the salty orange, though)

And so, after many early mornings spent pounding the streets of Delhi, today I ran the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in a good time (clipped 4 minutes from my previous HM).

A fabulously well organised event.  Not as crowded as I had feared –  I reckon we were hundreds in each starting group, rather than the threatened thousands.  Great weather.  Not too much of Delhi’s infamous winter pollution.  Wasn’t even as cold as we had all feared when we assembled at 6.15-ish.  Quite a lot of good folk out cheering, which was lovely.

All pretty amazing, actually.

I won’t bore you with the technical stuff (though I only have my own GPS time for now, since the official timings and splits are not yet out**) but will rather share with you the few photos I took with my mobile.

Walking to the venue before sun up.

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A Japanese running group warming up, in a very organised manner.

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Checking my starting time (Zone C)

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2 of the beautiful young women with whom I run –  Kathakoli and Samiksha.

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And the group “Auntieji” (c’est moi) with Katha –  we were in the same starting group and ran together as we set off.

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Note to self.  Choose nicer location next time, rathe than outside the portaloos…

We were barely 4 km into our race when the élite men (Africans to a man) came rushing by in a tight knit phalanx of speed and focus.  They were, of course, heading back to the finish line, when we had 17km more to go…

A good 10 minutes later, the élite women passed us, and I managed a quick video (yes, probably cost me time, but I speed-walked while I took it, hence the wobbliness)

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Once we crossed the finish line, we collected our medal and bag of snacks (I gave my food to a grubby tiny girl sitting on the pavement).

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To get back to the car, I had to cross the overbridge and before a cop stopped me filming any more, this was my view from up top –  half-marathoners on the right and the 6km Great Delhi Run setting out on the left.  That was where this journey began, last year, with my running group and our run.  And today, we did a half marathon.

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I met all my running girls, although some of them only briefly –  Sonam, Katha and Samiksha.  We spotted Anita just as she was entering her start zone, and I ran past Shweta on Raj Path.  All present and correct.

I met Chetan Mahajan and his wife twice (they ran a seriously fast race).  Many people greeted me by name, because our new running group T shirts have our name on the back.  And how kind and friendly people were.  Every time I slowed down, someone would ask if I were OK, a level of concern that you otherwise never experience in Delhi.

I saw Rahul Bose, the actor, running, close to Jantar Mantar.

What else did I spy as I huffed and puffed through Lutyens Delhi this morning?

A man with only one leg and a prosthetic limb running, carrying a rather large Indian flag.  Way faster than me.  Now that was very humbling.

Barefoot runners.

A man with only one arm running.

A very old man (even by my ancient standards) running hand in hand with a rather buff man in a lycra body suit.

I was overtaken by an elderly man wearing a kurta pajama and those plastic shoes that yer average Haryana villager wears.

All in all a brilliant morning.

Pity about the wretched orange*** which cost me a faster time, I know for sure.
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 ***I stupidly took a slice of orange with salt as I ran past one of the stations, when I was feeling a bit jaded.  2 segments of orange was all it took for me to feel nauseous.

WHY do I do this to myself?

I have been through this on Kilimanjaro (Gatorade), on Kangyatse earlier this year (mango juice), on my first half marathon last month (Gatorade)…and yet I took the salty orange…

 

** While writing this, the official results went up online and my time was indeed 2:11 so am very happy.

Running leads you in many different directions…

Yes, I know, talk about a self-evident truth.

Obviously if you run, you go in a direction, I can hear you all muttering.

But what I want to share with you tonight, before I toddle off to bed nice and early, so I can be ready for the half-marathon tomorrow, is that running is leading me in some unexpected directions too.  Beyond feeling good/getting fit/exercising –  all of which are fabulous enough reasons for running in themselves – but beyond all these, running is, well, taking me off in other directions.

 

Take Chetan Mahajan, for example.

I met up with this lovely man for a coffee on Friday, for an exploratory chat about his extraordinary story.

And all because of running.

Let me explain.

After being kindly allowed a late entry into the Delhi Heritage half marathon a couple of weeks ago, I now follow that running group (RWM) and Chetan posted on their FB page that he had some T shirts to give to runners.  Intrigued by the mention of the word “jail” in his Facebook post, I followed the audit trail (yes, obviously I googled him) and discovered an amazing story.

 

Wrongly arrested in Jharkhand and slung into prison, Chetan would spend a month in Bokaro jail, until he was released and exonerated of all charges.  He wrote a book about his experience and now works with Amnesty International to highlight the plight of under-trials who are kept in jail when they should be released.  There is provision under the law for them to be released, but since many prisoners are poor or ill educated or both, and invariably without connections, these poor folk languish in jail when they should be out on bail.

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I met up with Chetan in Starbucks in Connaught Place on Friday – there are 2 of them, by the way, and I went to the wrong one, but that’s another story.

A more charming, low-key, down to earth man you could not wish to meet, and between telling me his story, and giving me tips for the half marathon tomorrow (he’s a super experienced runner) and giving me one of the famous T shirts, he had me thinking.

Running had led me to this.  Discussing under trials.  Thinking about Indian prisons.  Making a new friend.

I shall read his book, “The Bad Boys of Bokaro Jail”, and then, I hope, meet him again for a longer, more wide-ranging chat.

And all the while, you thought I was running just for exercise!

And on this happy note, let me leave you with a sound clip from one of the songs on my ultimate running playlist which will, I hope, power me around Delhi tomorrow.

Good luck to all you fellow runners out there.

Jai ho!

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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