There are 64 days left for the Mumbai Marathon and this year too, I will be running the half-marathon. I am a slow runner and happy If I can finish in just under 3 hours, but irrespective of what time I finally achieve, there is no short-cut to training regularly, which really just means running over medium to long distances as often as possible for as long as possible.
While it is tough to do this in Mumbai unless you are willing to brave the vehicles and the roads (and those who run in the early morning over the Parel and Lalbaug flyovers are just plain crazy), a quick look at Garmin Connect shows how Mumbaiites can be innovative, doing Mount Mary or Kalina loops or running on the Palm Beach Road, apart from the usual Marine Drive, Bandra-Kurla complex and Mahalaxmi race-course runs. But it is also fun to carry one’s running shoes along and to explore possibilities in other cities and towns when traveling.
A month ago, I wrote about a one-hour run that I did in Centre Park in Jaipur. Two weeks ago, I was in Pondicherry, staying in a hotel on the waterfront. I started on the seaside promenade at about 6.00AM, with the first light of dawn and a slight drizzle. The length of the promenade is 1.25 km and I ran up and down a few times, after which I turned into the French-named back roads of the French quarter, past quaint little hotels and shops as the drizzle became a downpour. I should have stopped, but I wanted to finish a 1:30 run and so just kept on going. I finished, soaking wet, just when it stopped raining as well and then stumbled into a waterfront coffee shop, dripping puddles of water onto the ground…an espresso had never felt as good before!
Last week, I was in Lonavala and having seen a route along Bushi dam, on Garmin Connect, I decided to try this as well. I started at 6.15 in the morning hoping to find other runners, but I was the only one. The initial road was nothing to shout about, but once past Bushi dam, as the uphill climb started, it became much better. Beyond INS Shivaji, it was cool, pleasant and quiet, and except for the odd motorbike and car whizzing by and the eyesore aluminum shacks perched over Pavna Lake, it was wonderful. After some time, nothing mattered…it was just me and the road, step by step, pulling myself up over the inclines, my breathing strained, my mind in a state of meditation-like thoughtlessness, registering nothing but the ever-shortening cycles of labored inspiration and expiration. This was the first time I was handling so many inclines and I was a little afraid when I began the run…but in the end it all worked out well.
Training by running in different parts of the country and abroad is actually turning out to be more interesting than the January event itself. And if any of you is still unsure about whether to run or not…trust me! The sweet pleasure that comes from the combination of physical aches and pains and a state-of-mind devoid of extraneous, unnecessary thoughts, is as close to achieving the bliss that yoga and focused meditation promise us. Medium-long runs are different from short, 30-40 minute ones and treadmills don’t even come close. And though listening to music helps, the mind can focus better without!
It doesn’t matter whether you are slow or fast, young or old, male or female. Just start running!