Tuesday, December 09, 2014

After the TWCM14

So in April this year I planned to do the 10 km run in TWCM14 and probably loose a little weight in the process.
After the TWCM I see:
1. HM in DRHM14 - Check
2. HM (trail) in CTM - Check
3. 10km in Heritage Run - Check
4. HM in TWCM14 - Check
5. Weight loss 14 kgs - Check
Along the way
1. 120 kms cycle ride to Mahabalipuram & back - check
2. Lots of fun - check
3. New friends - check
4. Better eating - check

I remember my first run with my running group. It was early morning on the 2nd of April 2014 when a few runners and beginners met and set off towards the now usual route towards CSI Ewarts. It was pure murder to say the least and by the time I managed to walk, jog, run, stumble crawl back after a miserable 3 kilometre or so I thought that it was all a big mistake. For someone weighing 112 kgs it all seemed like a big mistake. I somehow managed to make it for the next run and the same story replayed again but somehow it felt just a little bit better. By the third run, I knew a few by name and some of them actually managed to run with me at my pace like Sathyabalan and things looked up.

Then I signed up for a training programme for beginners by another runner called George Anand and during the training I met my running buddy Lakshmi Devi. Lakshmi and I were the only two of the original group of 5/6 who signed up for the training and we managed to complete it. By that time I had someone to run with who could run with me, I made up for my slow pace with longer strides and things looked better. I also started looking forward to the regular runs because by now I found that the day started better after a run.

I next completed a 6x6 challenge under the careful eye of George and the walking encyclopaedia of running in this part of the city Venugopal Arunachalam who not only shared his experiences and knowledge also ran with us during the 6x6 challenge. By now running 6 kms and running everyday made me confident and after the 6x6 I did my first long run. My longest distance I remember vividly was a 8km run and it would not have happened if I was not pulled so far by Lakshmi when I planned to turn back after my regular 2.5 km turnoff. The high after the 8km stayed with me for some time.

By now I realized that I can get inspired by other runners but I should refrain from copying them as everyone is different. So despite seeing the distances of speeds of others I continued growing slowly and resisted the urge to do more paying close attention to what my heavy body was telling me. Sometimes I have aborted runs when I felt discomfort and came back halfway, initially it felt a little humiliating but then I realized that I know my body better and as the days passed the worrying signs gradually stopped.

Then Dream Runners had opened the registrations for their half marathon and many members signed up for the 10km and the half marathon. Since I had completed a 8 km run by then I confidently signed up for my first 10 km run six months ahead of plan. Some of the others suggested that I go for the HM, I laughed it off saying that is a distant dream.

Gradually 8kms became 14kms when one day George pulled Lakshmi and me from our planned 10KM to the next milestone the Anna or Gemini flyover.  Then one day another runner called Santhosh Sam completed his first half marathon distance with a three hour plus timing. What was amazing about this achievement was the fact that he doggedly kept up with the other runners who were faster and more experienced. Soon few others also completed their maiden half and they promptly signed up for the half marathon. I resisted the urge to join them because I had not gone beyond the 14. Finally in a moment of reckless or just plain madness I changed my run category to a half marathon after having done a 17km run.

I was at the start line of DRHM14 with a lot of trepidation and doubt and I was hoping for a miracle to complete the race. I started of very fast because I assumed that was the way to go and promptly realized that it was silly, I settled into an easy rhythm and set off with the other runners. I did not use the aid stations properly because they were new to me and just sipped on the water given. I got exhausted somewhere after the 15th kilometre when the miracle happened. ME Thyagarajan turned up and guided me to the finish, guiding me to replenish myself at the aid stations with citus fruits, bananas, salts, electrolytes, candies all of which I had ignored earlier. He gently coaxed me along slowing down to my pace and sacrificing his timing and pulled me across the finish line. I had a poor timing but I had completed my first half marathon!

Things started looking up and with a schedule that involved flyovers and different routes given by Vikram Mohan I was getting better and the strength trainings done by Jayakanthan (JK), Praveen Kumar & Sprinter Naveen played a part. Due to work and travel schedules I missed a few and that showed on the weak core especially during the longer distances.

The next race was the highly recommended Chennai Trail Marathon by the Chennai Trekking Club. Since they did not offer a 10km option I signed up for the HM with others. I trained for it and felt that I should do better in this race. However the days leading upto the marathon I had an attack of viral fever and was bed ridden for a week leaving me drained. Against all the good wishes of my better half and others I ended up at the start line yet again. This was an amazing race because you run in a part of Chennai that will seldom be seen otherwise. With experience of the earlier race I replenished myself well and moved from gradually ignoring time and looking for a finish. Again I had help this time from Raghu who pulled me along to almost the finish. I improved my timing over DRHM and could have still done better if it were not for one small annoying loop in a grass bank that simply made running a challenge.

My planned 10km run happened during the Chennai Heritage Marathon because I liked the cause and it was a fun run. As it was a fun run I took it easy and had fun running with others. I picked up an injury during the run and had to limp towards the finish. However the medal and the breakfast made up for the dampener.

My group by now started cycling as the preferred cross training option and led by the enthusiastic Krishnappan T we started going for regular weekly rides and one long ride a month. The first long ride was to Mahabalipuram and back which I missed due to other commitments. When the next ride came up I signed up again without any experience beyond 40kms. It was a long, tiring ride but the wonderful medal more than made up for the aches and pains. Also the fun of riding with others ensured that it was a good experience.

So December arrived and having done 2 half marathons there was little doubt when I signed up for the half marathon this year. However work, health and other reasons left me a little unprepared for the race and I had not done a 21 km run after the CTM. The race itself was a little anticlimactic for me simply because I had done little more than I planned. However it was well organized and running with a set of friends made it a lot of fun. Despite planning a run walk schedule the euphoria and the company of friends meant I ran the first 11 kms then I switched to the run walk mode to ensure a strong finish. I was exhausted but completed it inside my target of 3 hours.

So I have done more than planned and gained a lot of things among which friends, confidence and health rank at the top. I have lost a few things also of which weight is the top priority. I have exceeded my planned 10 kgs for the year and have lost 13/14 kgs in these few months. This was done without any drastic change to diet apart from reducing sugar and junk food. Work demands me to eat out often but I am becoming more responsible about what I am eating.

There are so many more that have played a part in my running journey and I would like to thank them all for helping me grow. You can meet them all when you join Tower Twisters.  Thank you Tower Twisters, if I have missed any names here I apologize but I will thank you in person when we meet.

As the year draws to a close I am looking back at all the things I have done well and what could be done better. I am looking to do more next year and excited at the challenges ahead.

The journey has begun…

Saturday, December 06, 2014

It starts with a single step...

In April 2014 I joined a group of runners with an intention of completing the 10km run in The Wipro Chennai Marathon 2014 some 8 months later. Today a day before the TWCM it all feels quite anticlimactic and strangely the excitement of the first race is no longer there. I have already completed 2 Half marathons of which 1 was a trail marathon and 1 10 km run and I am now encouraging new comers to run their first 10km race well. What is more, the group that I run with got named as Tower Twisters and is now over 100 members strong with nearly 40 runners meeting and running regularly.

There are many reasons for both the developments but in hindsight I would like to think it is the selflessness of some members especially the senior members of the group who were willing to sacrifice their personal time so that a new comer could run. The term senior refers not the actual age of the member but their age with reference to their running life and some senior runners could be younger than me in actual age. These runners do not mind running slower to ensure that the struggling new comer is able to finish his / her run, always generous with a word of appreciation and tips for better running. All these and more with a smile and usually they get nothing in return except maybe a grateful smile from the tired but excited new runner. Something similar will happen during the actual race when dedicated runners will don the role of a “Pacer” to guide new comers to the finish in the planned time.

It has been an amazing journey and I have lost around 14 kilos somewhere on the way to CSI Ewarts school during these 8 odd months. I have had to visit my tailor to get my ill- fitting clothes altered, incidentally clothes I wore a decade ago fit me again well almost as I have dropped one size.  I am having fun as I run and I am able to chat with new runners and gently pull them along to their first landmark. In a way Iguess I am doing a lit bit of pacing too. Along the way I still get mentored by senior runners, still learn to run better, still make new friends and generally have a good time.

Another development is that now I am also cycling and have discovered that it is fun. I have completed a 120km odd cycle ride recently and I know this will not be the last. I am part of an awesome cycling group that started as an offshoot of running and is now a complete team on its own strength.  In the months ahead I will finally complete my long delayed and twice discontinued swimming classes for which a new time has started. All along this journey someone is there with a smile to take me further.

If someone had asked me at the same time last year, you know the time when resolutions are made to be usually broken if I will run a race or cycle I would have probably laughed them off. Today I will say “sure why not?.”

It all starts with a single step…

I took mine on April 2nd 2014, how about you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


During a drive to the airport yesterday my        colleague remarked positivity works wonders. He said that he has trained himself to think “I hope it will be clear roads ahead” instead of the usual “I hope there is NO traffic ahead”. The fact that we made the 19 odd kilometres commute in under 45 minutes during the evening peak hour rush gave some credence to his statement.

Later on I reflected on the excessive use of negative terms that we use daily. Red flag words like no, not, however, but, try and so many more. I call them red flag because the usage of these words triggers off a lot of unnecessary negativity in life. It does not take a lot does it to measure the words and keep them positive. A positive outlook really works wonders; the colleague said that when you are positive the universe somehow conspires to make good things happen to you.

For discussion sake let us examine two words in the above list – but and try. There are no buts about but, nobody likes it. See how negative it can be! A but is negative usually and used with positive cancels out the positivity, remember school maths? Positive plus positive is positive, positive plus negative is negative. Check the usage of but in any sentence, “he is smart but…”, in the end the majority will forget the part before the but. The other word try is a 50% word as it has a mix of positive and negative in equal parts. When someone uses the word try he offers himself the two options of success and failure, more importantly he is happy with either outcomes. Think about it, next time you say try, did you really intend to succeed? Should it not be “I will do it” instead of “I will try to do it”.

Let us get some positivity into us and spread it around, it is infectious. If the universe will conspire to do good things for us, then it is incidental.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Puzzled really...

The responses to the conviction and sentencing of the former CM range from tragic to the absurd. Tragic were the lives lost either due to suicide or due to heart attacks; absurd are the various protests, unrests and damage to public properties, fasts and now forced closure of schools.

A court has found an accused guilty of corruption and has awarded punishment that while eyebrow raising has its own merits with inflation among other things but instead of appealing against the verdict these senseless acts by a few are making a mockery of one of the pillars of our democracy that is the judiciary. I am still confused on the stance of these people are they claiming that their leader is not corrupt and the judge has made an error despite all the evidence to the contrary or are they feeling that corruption should not be punished selectively?

My personal take is that this punishment is little too much a little too late. The case was filed on the earlier version who in her arrogance and ostentatious display of wealth and power organized a sickeningly outrageous wedding that caused a lot of hardships to many. This wedding for a newly discovered and subsequently disowned foster son was probably the tipping point because it alienated the people from their now beloved leader. All these years later a more experienced and a better administrator is ruling over a welfare state and ensuring that dole has endeared her to the masses.

In this scenario the spectacle of people protesting and making idiots of themselves by not articulating what exactly is their protest aimed at is quite risky and can actually backfire on the ruling party. Do people believe that by closing schools and colleges on a day a court will change its ruling? By stoning a bus or burning few more a person convicted as corrupt becomes innocent? There appears to be a good chance of the goodwill earned by the leader eroding. The absence of a strong statement restraining the party men and others from violence and other senseless acts further dents the image of someone who respects the law.

Finally what then is the take of these protesters on corruption? Is corruption then acceptable? Can the corrupt with popular support walk free? Does popular mandate supersede the law of the land? I’m puzzled.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My second race!

The story of my second race.
I completed my second half marathon yesterday. This was part of the Chennai Trail Marathon 2014 held near the Chembarambakkam lake. This event is different from other marathons because it is a trail marathon and by trail it means you run where there may be no road just a trail.

Having signed up for this run, I was determined to train for it and I managed to complete a 21 two weeks before the event. As it was a LSD I was not looking at the time;  I did a strong first half and took it easy on the return, however I felt that I was in good form for CTM despite never running on the trail before. Few of the others in my team had done a practice run on the route earlier but I missed it for various reasons.

Work and travel ensured that my training took a backseat and then when I least expected it I got a viral infection that forced me to rest just before the run. So on the eve of the run I was out of practice and the illness had left me drained. I contemplated pulling out from the run before deciding that turning up is half the race won.

So despite the misgivings of my better half I got up at 3 am and got ready. I joined the others and drove down to the venue. We reached the venue later than planned and found that the event was running late. So we got ready for the race starting with the warm up exercises. Strangely I was exhausted from the warm exercises and had to take a few minutes to gather myself. Again I wondered if I was pushing myself but amid the photos being clicked and the conversations I found myself at the start and in a few moments the race had begun.

I started at the back end keeping in mind my planned timing and started to run. I tried to recollect the route in my mind and despite looking over the map several times the only thing that I could remember were the aid stations marked at every 2.5km interval. I decided to base my run on the aid station and to assess myself at every station.

At the first station after just 2.5 kms or so I was exhausted and replenished myself with the bananas and the mosambi. Then I thought I will continue to the next station because 5km finish is better than a 2.5km and so I set off again. By now my legs were warm and I was feeling a little better and soon I reached station 2. Here I treated myself to the chocolate and peanut candy and felt that I can actually go on to station 3 and I started off again.

The route was incredible and reminded me of my childhood days playing in my native place amidst the trees, running on dirt tracks, thorn bushes etc. There were climbs and there were drops, there were water bodies and canyons alongside, sometimes we would pass through villages where people stared at the sight of crazy people running in the odd hours of the day. However I did not have time to stand and admire as my enemy Time was running along with me and was running faster than me. The words of Robert Frost did flash by in my mind “…the woods are lovely dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep”

I crossed station 3 and 4 and by then though tired I felt confident that I will cross some more stations. Along the way there were these wonderful children living in the villages nearby who encouraged the runners with bright smiles saying “well done anna / akka” and giving high fives to the runners. I gave a high five to every one with a “thank you”, some actually said “welcome”! The smile they had after giving a high five and their delight in encouraging the runners was so infectious that I decided that I will finish this run. I must mention that somewhere on the way there was this incredibly wonderful smell of chicken curry cooking for breakfast that made me run just a little bit faster.

After 16 odd kilometres the sun was out in full force and my pace had dropped considerably I was almost walking most of the distance as again I was exhausted. I pulled myself across and reached what was for me the toughest part of the course a one kilometre or so of grass bank. Ideally this will be fun to play and having run across some horrible terrain this should have been easy but it was annoying. The ground was soft and the earlier rains had made it spongy and somehow the idea of running to a board and making a U turn to return back felt silly but that had to be done and it was also done.

At the last aid station I was informed that the finish is just 300 metres ahead. I looked as far ahead as I could see and I saw nothing. I started running and entered a small wooded section and again I was informed that the finish was just 100 metres ahead. I looked again and saw nothing and I can see fairly well without glasses. With no other option I kept running when suddenly I saw the words “Start”,  I started running a little faster and crossed the finish which was the same as the start. I got my medal and then I realized that it was worth the toil, all 3 odd hours of it. I looked at my watch since I had mistakenly switched off the GPS tracker on my phone. I was around 7 minutes beyond my self-imposed deadline but I had also given myself the chance of giving up. Completing the course was immensely satisfying because it was a mental victory more than the physical victory.

As it is said, "If you think, You can"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I lost weight! Ask me how

You may have seen this badge worn by folks and you may have fallen for the weight loss product that the badge wearer is selling.  Chances are that the product may have worked a little for you; chances are that it may not have but the person who sold it to you has definitely become a little richer off you.

I am no expert on these magic formulae that will guarantee that you lose weight but I do know that there is a way to lose weight and if you were to walk up to me ask me how just like the gentleman who has been noticing me for over a few months now and observing the changes in me over the past few months did today, I will be glad to share. (I guess I do look lighter than I did in March and so I guess I don’t need to wear a badge.)

Weight loss is not a rocket science. It comes down to a few simple things that everyone knows and yet they tend to look for the magic formula. Weight loss happens by burning fat and by responsible eating. I have shared posts on both but since people keep asking me the same question I understand that not many have read my blog! I will  therefore share my experiences again.

The first step in weight loss is to start. Start doing some physical activity that has been ignored for long. The challenge is to pick something that one will enjoy doing, be it walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing a sport like badminton, the list goes on. Boredom and fatigue can be great barriers to physical activity so if you can join some like-minded friends it gets a little easier and definitely more fun.

People tend to believe that they can starve themselves to weight loss; it may actually work for a little bit but consider this can a car run without fuel? The body requires fuel to function normally and if you are making your body do a new physical activity without the fuel then there will be a break down. The body will require nourishment and this nourishment should be healthy and measured. Some small changes like cutting down on sugar and oil make a big difference. I have noticed the surprised reactions when I tell people that diets need not be severe but smart. You will be surprised how much of weight loss starts from the mind

So here are some tips to better eating and NO it is not a diet plan:
  • Eat lesser, it may actually be enough. To make this easier let us say eat 75% of your normal helping, it can be easier when you break it down into the servings or pieces. For instance if the usual is 4 idlis, make it 3. It may seem insufficient but check it out it may just be enough

  • Avoid eating before the TV if you are not a conscious eater, by this I mean if you are not aware of what and how much is on your plate then eating before the TV can make you overdo it

  •  Cheat your mind by changing your cutlery, use a smaller plate and fill it up. Have you noticed that tiny serving of sambar rice heaped in a small bowl in many hotels satisfy you often for lunch when on other days you may eat full meals in the same place?

  •  Reduce sugar, salt, oil. Simple but very effective. The challenge is not to avoid but reduce, again if it is two spoons of sugar in coffee and you have 3 cups a day do the math. You can start with a spoon a cup and you are down 50% and the effect will gradually show on your scales. Dump the French fries when you eat out, they neither taste good nor are they useful. Ask the friendly tea shop man to serve you tea and not the usual payasam that he serves to make you return to him 

  •  Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and reduce red meat. Switch to lean meats or fish. Grill the fish instead of frying it.  

  • Dump the mass produced biscuits. Many people these days tend to swap a meal with a pack of biscuits, not good! Biscuits have excess fats, sugar and salt. One or two can suffice with coffee or tea it cannot and will not be a meal. You can try the “lite” biscuits, they may taste like sawdust initially but over time they grow on you. : ) 

  • Eat slowly and savour the food. Chew each mouthful and avoid washing it down with water. Usually we tend to overeat by eating fast. There is no fast in food. What is fast food is the speed they take to serve you. The more you take time to savour and chew the food the brain will send signals of satiation comparatively earlier which will not get lost in the TV you are watching or the paper you are reading. 

  • Drink lots of water. Water cleans the system and also reduces hunger pangs. It is the elixir of life.

The list of things that are part of smart eating goes on. These are some I have discovered and they have worked for me. They may work for you they may not. The challenge then is to start on the journey of discovery.

This post was inspired by the responses I got to a Facebook status I put up some time ago “Today someone asked me the reason for my weight loss and if I was taking any of the weight loss solutions. I think he was genuinely disappointed when I told him how I did it. “

I look forward to your responses as I will learn from them too.

Best wishes and Bon Appetit!!

Friday, August 08, 2014

How do you identify a runner?

Runners are a weird breed, they do so many funny things and if you are not a runner you will find them a trifle difficult to understand. But here are some pointers to identify a runner

Their day begins when the rest of the world is still in bed or at least pressing the snooze option in their alarms for another few minutes. They wear bright neon colour clothes that others would not be caught dead in and lace up shoes that will cost nearly an arm or a leg, well not so much but enough for others to arch their eyebrows sky high. Then they set out from their homes to set the roads on fire. Look out for some folks wearing bright clothes and funky shoes running in the dark.

You will observe the hyperboles being thrown about quite frequently in this post but I will ask you to bear with me for with runners everything is above average. They run distances that will make others swoon in shock; distances like 21 kms, 30 kms, 50 kms are regular conversation staples and note that these distances are covered on foot. Runners take pride in their PB, personal best for newcomers; this is the time they took to cover their last landmark distance and runners always want to improve their PB. You will be forgiven when you hear the terms “half” or “full” and imagine that these are related to intoxicating spirits, these are referring to a half marathon or a full marathon, the completion of which usually results in something called “Runners High” which cannot be told but can only be experienced.

Injuries are par for the course and runners know that their sport can lead to often quite debilitating injuries but yet the joy of running makes them accept that injuries will be met when they occur. To remain injury free is an unspoken hidden desire for almost all runners. To achieve this injury free life runners usually push their bodies more by strength training or gym workouts in addition to their runs. An injured runner will work very hard to get better, to run again.

Camaraderie is another notable trait that is usually visible among runners. A nod of the head, a clap of the hand or a simple spoken “good run” to an unknown runner running on the other side is good manners and mutual back slapping is the tonic that pushes one another to run a little more a little faster or a little longer. Senior runners are usually available to share their knowledge and experience with a tip or two to every newcomer taking up the sport.

Pigheadedness or stubbornness is another thing you will find common about runners. They simply do not give up, a DNF or Do Not Finish in a race or even a regular run is almost unthinkable barring a major unavoidable reason. They do not take the easy way out and push till the end despite others around telling them STOP.

Runners can be illogical. Others may delight in the medal that they get after the race but runners treasure the journey more. For them the race is the culmination of days of training, blood sweat and tears and the medal is incidental, it is the journey that will be treasured.

Despite all this runners are normal people like you and me, they do abnormal things because they are in love with their sport and love is blind. Blind to sweat, pain and much more.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

CBC Tablog 2 - Madras Week Celebrations - One aspect I want to change about Chennai nee Madras

This post has been published as a part of 'The CBC Tablog - 2.' Read previous post by Lakshmi Venkatraman here ...

If you do not know about CBC, Chennai Bloggers Club is simply the Most Happening Blogging Community of namma Chennai. This tablog is a group blogging activity where each blogger posts on one topic and passes the tag to the next. So here goes...

One aspect I want to change in Chennai? The list of changes can be long but I will stop with one phrase that should cover a few, “civic sense”.

So what then is civic sense? It can be
  •   A sense of taking pride in Chennai  and keeping it clean
  •   A sense of awareness that spitting or defecating in public is a nuisance and can be extremely disrespectful to others
  •   A sense of community living where sweeping ones garbage into the neighbour’s courtyard is avoided
  •   A sense of ownership of the utilities provided for community good and protecting and preserving them including metal manhole covers that get stolen regularly
  •   A sense of awareness that walls are private property and defacing them for commercial or political or even obituaries is extremely annoying and completely unwelcome
  •  A sense of responsibility that throwing stones on MTC buses the lifeline of the city or damaging them for any grievance will not help anyone including themselves
  •  A sense of duty to mother nature in saving the scanty green cover from the preying anti-socials
  •  A sense of outrage when well laid storm water drains are converted to free drainage systems by unscrupulous individuals
  •  A sense of despair when the pride of Chennai the Marina is hijacked by vendors and anti- socials who under the guise of livelihood deny a clean beach to the common man
  • A sense of quiet understanding that traffic rules are as much for personal safety and for the safety of the others around

The list goes on…

Civic sense is therefore how we care for our living spaces and our work places, having said that Chennai is the birthplace, living place, working place or even the final resting place for many of us…

I am very happy to pass on the baton to Kalyani Vijay,  an IT graduate, intuitive, a chocolate addict/craver, voracious reader/bibliophile (recently), an amateur blogger. She loves looking into anything and everything from something jocular to non-nonsense stuff. She started blogging slapdash, but now it has become a part her life (thanks to her love for reading/writing) https://kalyaniram.wordpress.com/ kalyaniram.wordpress.com

Picture courtesy: Google Images - Madras war cemetry

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What an Idiot!!!

One look at the profile pic and you will know what is to follow. However it is a story that merits a telling, so here goes…

After just three months of running and a rather ambitious decision to run a half marathon I was having a lot of self- doubt s on the eve of the race. There were only two objectives for the next day:
 1. To complete the race
 2. To complete within three hours

Simple as they may sound, for a beginner like me who had only done 17 kms as the highest distance in the three months and with no previous race experience this was a sizeable challenge. My excessive weight, weak knee, a history of a slipped disc were some of the deterrents from my running but having run for three months I wanted to challenge myself. Another minor detail was my dislike of running by the beach, in my limited experience the route by the beach tends to be more humid than the routes I am used to running regularly. However there was a bridge to be crossed and I decided to cross it the next day.

The day dawned for me at 2.30 AM, I left home at 3.30 AM to pick up my running mates and reached the venue at 4 AM. If someone had told me a few months earlier that I would be doing these things I would have probably laughed him off but at 4.30 AM I joined 2000 odd runners warming up for the race. I met up with my pacer and informed that I wished to run with her. A pacer I had learnt a few days earlier is an experienced runner who will guide new runners to complete on a fixed time. So I found a pacer who promised to help me finish under 3 hours and I was reassured.

The drone mounted aerial camera was a novelty and excited many of the runners and suddenly the race started. It was a procession initially and then the professionals made a clean break for it. The other runners started a procession that stretched for a long way. After bumping into many runners I made a break for it and opened up some gap before settling down to my steady pace. I am yet to develop speed and am happy running at a slow steady pace and I decided to stick to my plan irrespective of what others were doing around me.

There were six aid stations (I think) on the route and the volunteers were really cool. Cut fruits, electrolyte drinks, water, pain sprays, water sprays, candies were all available and initially I was taken aback with all these but after some time the value of each of them hit me hard in the sapping humidity. I saw many “runners” walking, though it is possible that they were attempting the run-walk method to complete the race, since that method did not work for me I kept running.

I noticed few of the runners pulling out or stopping for various reasons including the inevitable photo ops. I felt bad when I saw one runner who decided to turn around just a few hundred metres from the half way mark. Whether he wanted to cheat or just end his run I will never know. I did hear that some runners took shortcuts after crossing the mandatory timing junctions, but since this is essentially a race with oneself I do not know who cheated whom.

I kept the pacer in my sight till about 9 kms when my inability to crank up speed made me fall behind but then I ran into an experienced runner from my group. He was originally running with another group of new comers however due to inadequate practice he had decided to just have an easy run. When this runner called MET saw me he decided to take it upon himself to pull me through the race and became the angel in disguise. 

With constant encouragement, running tips and guidance during the breaks in the aid stations he pulled me along till the 19th km when he told me that  I was on course for a sub 3 hour finish. I was pleasantly surprised that despite my slow pace I had managed to make good time when disaster stuck. Exhaustion hit me hard and I felt dizzy, MET asked me to walk for some distance when I realized that even walking straight was a challenge.

I completed the last stage walking slowly and all chances of a sub 3 finish faded away with every passing minute. The encouragement from all the volunteers along the way, one family that served water on the road to the runners, a band arranged by the organizers on a mini truck all kept me going. At the entrance to the school where the finish was one another runner said it is only 200 meters ahead and do not give up now. Maybe it was his words or the drum beats and the music I started running again and made a dash for the finish 19 minutes after 8 AM. At that moment I saw the delight on the face of my team mates who waited for me, the happiness of the leaser of our group who ran the few yards with me and MET who looked happy but a little disappointed with the timing. At that moment however nothing mattered except the feeling of completing the race. At that moment I understood the term “runners high”, I collected my medal and what happened after that is a blur to me. This I knew was a beginning.

Any idiot can run a race, but it takes a special kind of Idiot to run a half marathon. Today I am proud to say I am that kind of idiot.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

iRun Ver2.0

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

Simple and even silly as it may sound, pause and think -when was the last time you really did something for the first time. I noticed that these days I am doing new things and I am really happy that I could do them planned or otherwise. Having done some new things now I look forward to doing more and it all started with a head ache.

Sometime in February I woke up early one morning with a splitting headache. The usual response would be to pop a pill and get back into bed but on that day I decided to go for a walk. I still am not sure why I decided to walk but that became a landmark moment. I returned after the walk with a clear head and felt very active. I started walking regularly gradually increasing the distance, and slowly started running. I was
warned that with my bulk, running was best avoided yet I took small runs by myself. I came across Chennai Runners on Facebook and searched for a chapter in Anna Nagar and in April I found a group.

I am running with this group for over three months now and have started doing drills, workouts and my body is getting used to the challenges. I wake up without an alarm at 4 am and never fail to sleep by 10.30 PM the previous night. I have joined a training programme for runners and have signed up for a plank challenge and though I was intimidated by the challenge I have completed nearly a third of it and I am surprised at the way I feel these days. I have joined running drills by professional runners who guide, monitor, mentor and train you to do more with minimal injuries.

I should let you know something about myself, I weighed 112 kgs when I started, I had suffered a slipped disc and have a weak knee. Running was banned by my doctors who said that I will not be able to do it. Today my running has increased my self-confidence, I have lost 8 odd kilos and I am working on losing some more with a target of getting into two figures by September. I feel lethargic on days I do not indulge in physical activity like a walk or a run and these days I avoid my scooter for short trips.

From being a newbie who was struggling to run and falling behind the others I am now able to do my planned distances at a steady pace. I have started eating better making simple changes like stopping the use of sugar in my coffee and tea, while almost avoiding desserts and fried junk food. After a few days I realized that I don’t miss them at all and if I am tempted one spoonful suffices to satisfy my craving.

My longest distance has been 17 kms and with the motivation of the other runners I have signed up for the DRHM (Bib No: 21378). Conventional wisdom was to sign up for the 10 km but I have gone ahead for the half surprising many including myself. When I look back at the start when 3 kms left me breathless to where I am today I look back with gratitude the contributions of those who gave me the confidence to sign up. In no particular order – George who did the training and the invaluable 6X6 run which did wonders to my stamina, Venu Sir who is a guidebook on running form and is always willing to offer tips on running better, my running mate Lakshmi who pulled me unfailingly for the next landmark, Vikram who organizes the runs, JK who does the drills and the others whom I run with each week. Each person has contributed to help me improve and have a part in my running regularly.

They say that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and for many of the journeys mentioned above I have taken more than the single step. The challenge then is to avoid burnout, injury, boredom and worse lethargy. I was able to push myself a little more due to the support and camaraderie of the group I run with. Mornings have become a lot of fun and I wake up each day looking for the next challenge.

The group for those who are interested is called Tower Twisters, (there is a story behind the name) and can be found on Facebook. The group usually meets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays for regular runs from the Bougainvilla Park on 6th Avenue, Anna Nagar near the K4 police station. The usual meeting time is 5.15 AM and the runs begin at 5.30 AM. Saturdays are devoted to LSD (Long Slow Distance) runs, like the one I completed recently. Usually the Saturday runs end with a group
breakfast that builds camaraderie and delights in the successes of each other.

The exhilaration at completing a new challenge, the happiness at doing something for the first time is what keeps us going. Why don’t you do something new for the first time?

P.S. I have bought a cycle and have started cycling, another thing off my to-do list.