Why I run (or something like it).

Photo Courtesy: Joshua Karthik

I hate running. I hate the rather cumbersome tasks that precede this hateful activity itself. That of, amongst other things, tying shoelaces sleepily and hurriedly, as I stumble out of the house at 5:35 am, barely making it in time for a 5:45 meet-up with fellow Striders. A bunch of other equally troubled people. As we warm up, stretch and start pounding the streets next to a calm sea, it laughs at us, every few minutes, sometimes high-fiving us with its crashing waves. One step, then the next, then the next, clumsily stomping ahead. The Garmin clocks another kilometre. There’s graffiti on the street walls, there are dogs that chase us on bad days and keep us spritely company on good, the odd homeless person, the birds, chirping, looking down, cackling in unified mockery of these obsessive fools at dawn.

I hate running. Someone once told me, to him, running was the mandatory warm up before they were allowed to play hockey in school. It led to ‘something fun’ afterwards. How can one even entertain the idea to run without the reward of the fun sport at the end of it. I laughed along. What did I know, I never played hockey or any sport for that matter. I, with the terrible hand eye coordination and not a bone of athletic prowess in my body. I still gawk, if someone calls me a ‘runner’. What is that even? I’ve only been doing this for a year and a half. And I’ve only been physically active, for the past 3–4 years, when midlife crisis came crashing my life, prematurely in my mid twenties. When in a (weak!) moment, I finally resolved to get rid of the ‘what if’s and ‘If I’s and the ‘I can’ts. This whimsical pigheaded side to my personality is the only explanation to my family, as to why I subject myself to this self flagellation of an activity called running!

I hate the blisters, I hate the perpetually broken toenails, the body ache, I hate my tired bones that just crash on the bed each of the running day. Here’s why I still do it:

When you run long distance you get time to think. Dwell. And when you do it repeatedly, monotonously, four times a week, at some point, comes an inflection. Which brings with it clarity. It unclogs blocked thoughts. And most days, it’s not even pregnant and meaningful and trippy like that. It’s just plain and simple. It’s a meditative motion, with fluorescent laces lighting the way. At the literal crack of dawn. There’s purity. There’s beauty. There’s joy. There’s company. Of an old couple hobbling hand in hand, smiling at you. A familiar dog walker. Of fellow runners. Of your heart beat. That makes you grateful, for life.

Running is the most selfish thing you do. You are your own critic, you are your own competition, you are your own coach, you are your own champion, your own motivational guru. At times, if you’re lucky, you’d have fellow runners who’d share this load. But sadly they can never share the actual running with you. That you gotta do by yourself! It is as solo a sport as solo sports can be, if I may dare call it a sport. There’s no joy in watching another runner across the road, unlike a sport like football, tennis or lo and behold, my nemesis, cricket! Running doesn’t necessarily teach you group dynamics lessons and it certainly doesn’t let you cash in on your skills like probably art or photography may. Running doesn’t care if you’ve left a sleeping baby at home. A half done presentation. Matters of the heart. Although, a restless mind always comes along to your run! It likes the gush of wind, perhaps. It always leaves my company for his, thankfully. Running is procrastination’s best friend. I’ve always used running to run away from things I want to figuratively run away from. To run away from my noisy mind.

But almost everybody who doesn’t run will count the horrors of running on the road, on the treadmill, on the fields, long distance, anygoddamnwhere. “Your knees will give way, your ankles will wear out, do you know about that unfortunate person who had a cardiac arrest at SCMM”

They don’t know that I run because I see improvement. Slow and steady, but clear, tangible improvement. In my physical form, in my mental makeup. They don’t know I run because it’s therapeutic. They surely don’t know I run because it makes it so easy to feel happy. In the simple things. That for a few hours each week, it makes it okay to not care that I don’t care. That it makes me ‘feel’ truly alive.

Fellow runners would never tell you how bad running is for you. Because this, right here, is our little secret!

(PS: Blame the damn endorphins of the morning’s run for this unsolicited verbal diarrhoea!)