I have dreaded running, all my life. The breathlessness, stomach ache and above all the growing distance between the runner in front of me and the resultant loneliness. Invariably, I came in last or finished amongst the few stragglers and was cheered on for completing the race. ( Prize distribution always started minutes after I completed the race).
The self perceived humiliation made me dread running farther and it would stem in me shying away from running and therefore, improving. Though, when by myself on a stretch of road or track or in hours of darkness, I had in all these years always wanted to give my self a chance to be a good runner (even a satisfactory runner would be great).
In a remote area in North Bengal in India, I had an opportunity, plenty of it, to run in darkness and all by my self without worrying about finishing last. Over a period of a year, I steadily changed three applications on my mobile which got me to train to finish 10 kilo-meters. The quest started with me jogging for 10 kilo-meters in 65–70 minutes and over 12 months later and many kilo-meters of running, I reduced timings for the same distance to 50 minutes. The feat did me a whole lot of good.
Eventually I was transferred to New Delhi and here started my yearning to “Get On With It — Running”.
14 August 2016 — Physical Endurance Run
With fear and trepidation, I reached Dwaraka for this 10 Km run, having registered online. On reaching early morning I was surprised to see the organisers already going about their business of registering runners. I felt out of place since majority were young lads queuing up for the event. Eventually, I did get my number ( 32) for the event and then sat down in the car for next one hour, while the crowd steadily build up.
On Saturday, I had overeaten while sight-seeing around New Delhi and since I had been practising and done the distance ( 10 kilometres) in under 50 minutes, I sat confidently. However rumblings in the stomach kept growing partially out of anxiety and more because of my irresponsible eating. Just prior to 15 minutes to the start I could hold on no longer and decided to abort the run. About just then I noticed a toilet in the nearby Metro Station.
I made it to the start line after all the instructions had been read out and countdown commenced. I still had jelly feet and wanted to withdraw when I noticed a bald man which reaffirmed that men my age were in the event — even as these thoughts were in my head the race started and I reluctantly lurched ahead.
Fellow participants set-off at a good pace. We ran till the turn at 2.5 kilometre by which time I got myself into the run, avoided water, since I felt good, but sweat was building up. On the return to the start I kept trying to overtake fellow runners and catching up with the gang ahead and by half way mark and end of the first lap I was completely soaked up in sweat. The humidity was very high and I struggled thereafter, to the finish the race, which happened with a slow jog. I had not consumed water and was completely drawn out and therefore, barely could line up for the medal which I missed collecting. Eventually seeing my haggard face a marshal brought over eatables and my certificate. I swore at my stupidity of trying to become a runner and I realised my mistake of entering into a race. I further vowed to practise prior to taking up running, if ever I decided to race again.
Profusely sweating, and with heavy legs I dragged myself to the car just in time as the heavens opened up and it started pouring. In the confines of my room I quickly ate my breakfast and went to sleep — a tired and restless sleep.
My timings showed a pathetic 52 minutes ( taken manually ) for the distance and it did no good to my confidence. Confidence in running went ebbing further downwards.
Consequent, to this my first disastrous run, I looked up the net and realised eating too much of sweets a day prior to the run made me feel thirsty and slow. The humidity, my excessive sweating and belief no water was required for short distance of 10 kilo-meters further aggravated the matter and these factors combined led to de-hydration.
I continued to cycle and run on alternate days and workout in the gymnasium with free weights. By the weekend I was itching to give another try for a running competition of 10 kilo-meters.
21 August 2016 — PUSA Hill Side Run
Online, there were many runs for the weekend after Independence Day. After my trouble with my first run and bowels, I was uncertain about participating in another run, till this run caught my eye since it was approximately five kilometres from where I lived. Online booking was not exactly functioning so I reached the place and saw numerous runners but no organisers. Anyway, got talking with other participants and singly the organisers got coming and set up the start on the main street with whizzing traffic. This was a 12 kms run with the turn 3 kilometre away and one entire lap was with a gentle downward slope.
Though the day dawned clear, humidity was high and by turn one I was profusely sweating. This time my stomach felt much better as I had not indulged in mindless binging. Weekend sweets however, seemed to keep me thirsty. After the sun came up, the second round to and fro once again was a fatigue-filled, just-finish-the-bloody-race jog. Any attempt to overtake or catch up with fellow runners was once again opposed by heavy legs and violent short and shallow breaths.
I did cross the finish line and time announced manually (BIB Number 113) was a figure around 59 minutes which made me feel good since it worked out to a kilo-meter in five minutes and that is what I was aiming at. Feeling not too fatigued, I did manage to collect my medal and eatables this time around. I had brought a change of clothes to get myself rid of completely wet running gear.
Consequent to this my second run, I looked up many articles on running and eating. I also spoke to fellow gym-goers and realised my mistakes as setting up too fast early in the race and eating too much sweets a day prior to the race. Also, not fuelling my race with something to eat in the morning was a big negative considering the fact we were required to line up ( assemble) and the race itself took upto three hours in the morning. I set about correcting these mistakes and feeling great set up for my next race — Duathlon in Noida; a 10 kilo-meters run followed by 35 kilo-meters of cycling.
In the preceding weeks, after two miserable runs, I did a serious re-look at my eating habits. In my eagerness to build up muscles, I was concentrating on protein diet, while for my races write-ups were suggesting ingesting more carbs. I had mistakenly assumed all sweets are carbohydrate dense food little realising they possibly were the cause for my excessive thirst.
Exercises, continued to be running and cycling on alternate days and hitting the gymnasium for free weights. Since, I did not suffer muscle pain or stiffness I believed there was no reason for me to change my exercise regime.
Mentally though it was my stubborness to continue participating in competitive events despite the failures.
11 September 2016
Once again having failed to book myself online — I made an attempt to obtain a ticket to this cycling — running event, impromptu. Again, I was flustered attempting to register amongst youngsters and repeatedly having to answer if I was participating or was I collecting the “bib” ( Chest Number) for my ward.
Having stayed over at my sisters place at NOIDA, I ate a couple of fruits ( apple and pears) and also ate sweet curd. Besides, I carried a pear with me, which I intended to eat while cycling.
I lost my way to the start point and after two attempts Google Maps did find the correct place. I quickly assembled my cycle, tested it and placed it on the ramp. Just then the lights in the area blew up and we were thrown into darkness. Wandering around I reached a group of runners and to my amazement without any prior announcement over the public address system the runners set off for the Dualthon.
Like previously, pre-event jitters always gave me a crappy feeling prior to the start. Absence of toilets at these events, made me hold-on but I was irritated with this feeling which I could contribute to milk or over-eating or just week gastro-intestinal system. In the past I had read about milk being a reason for this churning effect. For the next event I decided to ditch milk for my early morning tea. Once the race was underway mercifully irritation vanished and I had no problems or requirement to hit the bogs.
I set up into a slow run. Having made the mistake of running fast first halves, in my earlier two races of almost similar distances, I deliberately ran slow and eased up behind a runner who I felt was running my pace. In the mindless early morning traffic with volunteers guiding us we ran in a cool breeze. There were certain junctions the placards were not set up and the volunteers looked the other way, thus confusing me at road intersections, otherwise the run felt good.
I am not sure as to why this 10 kilo-meter run felt nice. Either the early morning fruits provided requisite energy or it was the slow initial pace which helped me finish strong.
I quickly changed and put on my toy helmet. Ate a pear and set off on my bicycle. In such a race, where there were events of only cycling, only running and dualthon, it was difficult following any person or working out in a group. So, I continued cycling, looking for directions and volunteers and other fellow competitors. This was the first time I was introduced to timing chips and mats. That I hit the timing mats on the return legs was reassuring. The cycling again, I found it easy sticking to my desired pace, probably due to my fruit intake and the cool, early morning breeze. By sunrise I was well settled and on the bicycle had overtaken a couple of riders and subsequently was overtaken by half a dozen riders, who I believe only participated in the cycling event.
Happily I finished the race. Got an excellently crafted medallion for the event ‘ NOIDA MEGATHON’. Their refreshments too were of high quality and by the time I wound up my events their was a festive atmosphere in the NOIDA stadium area ( runners / cyclists only had earlier finished their events).
Eventually my BIB Number 5035 showed an exaggerated time of 1 hour and ranking in category as second which I believe was for the run only. As per my own watch timings I had taken 70 minutes for cycling 35 kms and less than an hour for the run. I felt elated for long as it was for the first time I had done physical activity for over two hours. The cycling distance had been reduced from 40 to 34 kilo-meters and that too was motivational at the start of the event. Despite the chaotic start this event ended happily for me personally. For once, after three races I felt elated and boisterous.
That evening I booked myself for four events online, and having survived over two hours of physical activity I attempted to register for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon — to be held in November 16.
18 September 2016–7th Champions Run
This run caught my fascination since it was organised at New Delhi’s, iconic Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium, a monument I had heard and seen pictures since 1982. While after the, DUALTHON, in the exuberance I did register myself online for a couple of events, this run again I could not find the suitable link online and a day prior, I landed up at the stadia and registered myself for the run.
Thus far, I had taken part in smaller events which was confined to localities. However, the Champions Run, in its 7th edition consisted of a larger contingent of participants and was again a chip-timing run.The crowd in the early hours of the morning had me excited and I felt bowel emptying would be required though I could not find a toilet to do so, so I skipped the warm up Zumba and lined up for the run itself.
Fresh after a great Dualthon, I believed I had sorted my running technique and therefore, set off slowly. The plan was to do a slow first round and a faster second lap. Having started from the rear it was great overtaking fellow runners all the time. The larger crowd too had its plus points in the sense I never was alone. The first round was uneventful and my old uncle looks prompted volunteers genuinely running to offer me water. I thanked them and avoided filling my stomach fearing the dreaded side-stich. Enroute a couple of girls running at a fairly good clip were chatting away non-stop. Amazing. In overtaking them, I was breathing real hard, and here these two girls were running, talking nonchalantly and enjoying the run. Towards the end of the second round, I finally took a bottle of water from the boys who so generously had run to offer me water in the first round. I found it extremely difficult running and drinking water and barely took a sip before continuing running.
One gate led to another and I could not find the entrance to the stadium. As I was nearing the timing mat which was at three kilo-meters from the start point I by then realised I had missed the mark for the finish. So I stopped and so did a kid behind me. We then started walking back and eventually after none of the volunteers could guide us in, we found a way to get into the stadium and walk back to the finish line from the wrong direction, turn, jump over a hedge and walk across the finish line. The medals were immediately put around our necks, though I felt humiliated and undeserving.
In hindsight, I must have missed the turn into the stadium in my eagerness to take water from the boys who had offered me a bottle in the first lap. And with the large crowd who had merged ( first and second lap runners) I could not distinguish the final turn. I was left totally disappointed as I had run a fairly comfortable race and at a good clip. I was really looking upto the timings which eventually I never got hold off. Euphoria ended up to naught.
Running had a tremendous effect on my mindset. Little niggling pain in the body, self-doubt and pessimism all seem to vanish. A bit of cockiness did appear but then a disastrous loss of route was a great leveller and I was back to training for the next event.