While yesterday Mumbai airport looked like Delhi with people sporting sweaters, blazers, coats and shawls, for the last three days, even the streets have started looking like Delhi, with people wearing earmuffs and monkey-caps. I hope the cold lasts for some more time…not because I have a sudden yearning for Delhi, but because it makes running even at 5.00 in the evening pleasurable, despite sunset being an hour away.
This week has seen another running controversy rear its head due to a New York Times article that discusses a recent study based on runners from Harvard whose injury incidence over the last four years was analyzed and correlated with their running pattern. The study found that those who run heel-first have twice the rate of injury if not more, as compared to those who do front-foot running.
Let me tell you how important this is!
I wrote earlier about how I had shifted to front-foot running before the Mumbai Marathon, while still wearing cushioned shoes. Overnight, my running speed went up and I was able to shave off 15 minutes from my 2010 half-marathon time. More importantly (though this was also partly due to extensive training) I had no cramps or residual leg pain after the run.
Immediately after the half-marathon, I shifted to a pair of Vibrams Five-Fingers. They look a little unusual because of the “fingers” into which the toes go and many people, especially kids often burst out laughing when they see you the first time…the “feel” of the Vibrams is worth all that unwanted attention. The Vibrams have a non-cushioned rubber sole that simulates barefoot running and forces you to switch to a front-foot style. Since the shift, I have become faster, and that too, without any increase in the effort involved. If you do plan to shift to front-foot running though, please do it slowly, one km at a time so that your muscles and body get adjusted to the new forces gradually, reducing thereby the chance of injury.
Running this way has become so much more interesting and pleasurable that I now run on the streets as well, on weekends, and pretty much go wherever my fancy takes me. One Saturday, I started out at King’s Circle and landed up 2 hours later in Colaba. Another day, I found myself near the Chembur Golf Club. On Republic Day, I went along all the arms of King’s Circle and back, to total a 12kms run.
You realize when you run early in the morning how well lit the main roads are. You could run at 2.00AM and you would still be able to see the road well. The only rule to follow is to run against the traffic; what I find insane is how most people prefer to run with the traffic…which means you will never really know when someone comes from behind or from the side and hits you. When you are facing traffic, you are on high-alert and can take whatever steps necessary to avoid errant vehicles if you think they are coming your way. I also successfully use my elbows and arms both as shields and as weapons especially when people start blundering blindly into your path without looking.
If anyone says that there is no place to run in Mumbai (as I have in the past in this column), then that needs to be qualified. After 8.00AM it’s tough to find places to run in. But between midnight and 8.00AM, the whole city and its well-lit main roads…are one big running track!