Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Life at half and six miles an hour

Our dude walks by, not in others' business poking his nose...
when he witnesses something quite unprecedented.
A man, against a wall his own head banging. (how gross!)
The banger is not a pretty a sight; in fact, he is bloodied and dented.

"Pray, why, tell me why, do you do this? I think it is mad and crazed.",
asks of the other man, our dude, trying to appear composed and sober.
The other man (who by now we know is not our dude) replies, amazed,
"Oh, you don't know how great it feels when this finally gets over!"

This is my version of the story of the masochist, narrated to me by a then close friend. The hairline of our friendship has long since receded from the forehead of my life, leaving me one friend shorter, which is a pity since he was great company. However, he did tell me a few things which I remember, and one of them I have tried to present above in my own words to convey the general idea people have of me when they come to know of one of my greatest passions in life -- distance running.

I have been running since I was 12 years old (not continuously, though, I hope you realize), when I moved back to my hometown after living in another city for three years, an introverted, shy boy without friends who didn't like going out to play with other kids in the neighborhood. My mom had to literally force me to make new friends, and one of them introduced me to the phenomenon of running (he was in class 12th at that time, and he seemed to me so old then, and I used to wonder how awkward it must be to be in class 12th. Then I reached that stage, and college guys used to seem so old. When I reached college, working guys appeared so old. Now I am working...). Anyway, getting back to the point (and we shall drift a lot from the point today, kiddos) -- I love running. I have been running since I was 12 years old (not continuously, though, I hope you realize, again) and it is quite an addiction. At that age, finishing 800 meters was quite an achievement. After all these years of running, the first half mile is still is an achievement! Yes, the first 800 meters is the toughest -- the body is still not warmed up and the mind is still thinking of that chair which the body idiotically got up from and put on running shoes. Anyway, after the initial disobedience shown by my mind, I usually end up running eight kilometers or more, depending upon how good I feel on a particular day.

I moved to Pune in 1996, started working in Koregaon Park in 1997, and have been running in this area since then (not continously, though, just to remind you). Koregaon Park, inexplicably more famous for the Osho ashram than me (even though I fell into the fountain outside the ashram while running one day, in full view of no less than 200 people) is a runner's paradise (except if you dislike fountains). There are five lanes (each being close to 800 meters long, very convenient for measuring the distance in miles) between North main road and South main road, and run parallel to each other. If you run up and down each of these lanes once, you end up running almost ten kilometers. All lanes are largely free from traffic of any kind, are lined with beautiful trees of various shapes and names, and are full of couples breaking up. That is another thing I have noticed -- couples always come to Koregaon Park to break up. More precisely, guys always bring their soon-to-be-exes to Koregaon Park to break up with them. I can't even count the number of times I have seen guys looking around consciously while the women weep into their dupattas / handkerchiefs / hands (or, on a few occasions, whack the crap out of the guys with their cellphones / helmets / hands) and that's not because I am bad at counting. Anyway, the point again, is that Koregaon Park is the best place to break up at. Sorry, wrong point. Koregaon Park is the goddamned best place in Pune if you are a running enthusiast and you want to know how many miles you have run on a particular day. So much so that, when I quit my day job and started out on my own, there was no doubt in my mind where to establish my office -- Koregaon yaaaaay Park.

Anyway, human beings are not happy without furthering their hobbies to absurd levels. I am no exception, and I decided to run the Mumbai half-marathon this January, something that I had been planning to do since 1996. I barely missed the Boston open marathon in 1997, when I was visiting New Hampshire (I am not sure of the year, in case you happen to be a psychotic statistician who just can't tolerate people mixing up the years) much to my own relief, because I thought I was not ready then. I was wrong! Running is like meditation, because.... Ummmm, I can't draw an analogy between the two right now, but just take my word for it. I started running four miles in the evenings, driven on by the unbelieveable natural beauty and because that was the distance to my friend's apartment who was studying at Dartmouth university at the time and who used to drive me back to my place in her car. On one of the days, she went out and I had to run back home. That's the first time I ran more than four miles in my life, and I never looked back since then (except for a couple of times when a car came up to right behind me and honked). No, seriously, I even ended up running 12 miles in New Hampshire during that trip. Yes, the point. The point is that I had been wanting to run the half marathon since then (running a half marathon is probably a runner's equivalent of losing virginity -- you just can't stop hoping people would ask you about it) and finally did, on 16th January. I managed 13.1 miles in just over two hours, and hence the title of this post.

In order to gear up for the half m., I started running in October 2004, after a long gap of almost a year (remember I told you that I had not actually been running continuosly since I was 12 years old?). I decided to run the h. marathon (and start running again, in general) for two reasons -- I wanted to quit smoking, and running is actually quite good to build the strength of back muscles (and mine had caved in after a rigourous game of Badminton in August, and I was hospitalized for a week, which was terrific because I was served food in bed, could watch TV the whole day, everyone I know was sympathetic, I didn't feel guilty about missing work, and didn't have to shave). I think I managed to succeed on both counts. I was smoking almost six cigs a day before I seriously started running again, and I haven't smoked since October 25 (insert your own halo over my imagined face here). Back muscles are not doing too bad, either.

OK, I totally have to go now. My wife's waiting to be picked up from Shisha where she had gone for a dinner with her colleagues and some guests from US, I ran quite a distance in the evening and haven't eaten anything since then, I am sleepy, and this post has gotten way too long. I will write about the marathon event some other time. Hope you enjoyed the post. If you didn't, quit complaining and get a life already!!!


At 12:00 PM, Blogger eM said...

Wow, you run and all... that's so cool :) I personally think legs were meant for pressing on an accelerator (oh wait, that's feet). Okay, legs are meant to look decorative when you prop one against a wall and half-close your eyes and exhale a stream of smoke.
Certainly not to RUN with!

At 3:49 AM, Blogger Senthil said...

We should immediately go and have a beer so you can tell me how you fell into that fountain.

At 4:21 AM, Blogger Anurag said...


Some secrets go to the fountain, I mean the grave, with me. But, for a beer I will tell you my entire family history... You decide the place, I decide the brand (Castle Lager), and you are on.

I really like your icon. Linus rules.

At 4:27 AM, Blogger Anurag said...

eM, yes, you got the use for feet right. Four months back I would have totally agreed with you about the use of legs for smoking, but I am a reformed convict now, and I deeply regret my past.

At 10:09 AM, Anonymous CHARU said...

Hey!! This is the first time I learn about your smoking :P And we are supposed to be close :O Anyway, I am VERY proud of you for kicking the habit.

I dimly remember the foutain incidence - I am sure I have that email saved in one of the folders in my inbox.

Keep blogging - I might get to know you a little better. I feel we have drifted a little apart over the years. (Feels good - huh?? :D) I like your style. Might get motivated enough to blog myself.

Also, the thing I am proud of you the most for is, you never gave up being physically active despite the hurdles you faced. It would have been easier to give up and just complain about how everything just kept going wrong for you. Keep it up bro! I am VERY proud that you ran the half marathon. Feel just a little tinge of motivation coming on ;)

Take Care,

At 3:35 AM, Anonymous Chandoo said...

This is some blog. Mighty elaborative on how you reached the half and six miles an hour. I started running recently. Right now at a mile per day (though i run for just 15 mins). Looks like i have a long way to go before making such a post in my blog.

Keep blogging.


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