Oct 5, 2017

I, Charles Shobhraj

One starts running for a particular reason (fitness, health, weight loss, etc.). And soon one tends to fall in love with running. At least, this has been the case with me. I started running for reasons of health. And now run simply because I like it. Running elates me. Maybe, I am of an age when one feels proud of whatever little one achieves in terms of fitness. I tell you, there is no such feeling as being tired & drenched in sweat after finishing a run. The reason why one is back on the road within a few days (many do it daily, but not me).

Just like a seasoned thief. Who gets a high by the act of stealing. He doesn’t do it for material gains, nor out of habit. But for the very same reason that most of us run. And escaping the clutches of sleep & getting out of bed, makes one feel like Jai & Veeru in Sholay. Had I been a thief in real life, maybe I would have stolen just for the kick it gives.

Strange thoughts, but I had these during my run this morning. I had turned from MES gate towards Tulsidham, Manjalpur. And, following the rule book, was running against the traffic. There was not much of it, though. No vehicles approaching, and the opening in the median in sight, I started crossing the road. My subconscious mind informed me that I was in Baroda & looked behind. Just in time, for there was a couple on a scooter right behind me. They were driving on the wrong side, but the lady on the pillion gave me such a look that I felt like Charles Shobhraj affecting another jailbreak.

Such thoughts never last & as I finished my run, I was feeling good (and young) again.

Before I sign off, the couple were riding a white Honda Activa (GJ6 KM 9288). If any of you know them, pls ask them to wear a helmet. And, not drive on the wrong side. And, be considerate towards pedestrians & runners. And, whatever else you feel like…

Sep 20, 2017

Come, join me on this Run…

For, I need all the support I can get. Not actually a run as we know it, but one on the blogosphere. This blog has been nominated in Sports category at The Indian Blogger’s Awards 2017. The final winners will be decided by a mix of Jury opinion & Popular vote, where you come in.

You will need to go to my Nomination page on the Awards site (quite easy, just click on the image below), like the blog & put in some kind words. 20% of the score is based on the “testimonials received”. Yes, this is what the organisers say!! But knowing that you have provided all the encouragement & motivation to keep this blog running, I am sure you will not fall short this time too.

I am sure I will get all the Hydration (Likes) & Fuel (Testimonies) in this race. Come, join me for this one… 

(Pls click on the image below, which will redirect you to to the nominations page. Pls add your comment/testimonial in the box provided. Thanks!)

The Indian Blogger Awards 2017

Sep 16, 2017

Why I love running

Well, running started as another activity to keep fit & healthy. And with increasing length of the runs, I began looking at crossing the next limit of endurance. But this was not all…

Initially, I had to slink out of bed, move around quietly (in the dark) while getting ready & sneaked out of the house quickly. Lest the wife’s sleep (even the daughter’s, but she sleeps more soundly) was disturbed. You surely know how it is. One would prefer distracting a tigress when she is just sitting down for the meal. Yes, running is a tough task. And as dangerous as a daru party in Gujarat.

But getting back drenched in sweat makes one ready to face the storm that awaits once we get back to the den. The sympathy factor helped too, for a true warrior never attacks a tired, drained out foe. Also, by the time I returned the kid would be getting to leave for school & I could avoid any backlash for the offences of the morning. There’s more to this – bragging rights each time I returned from an event with a medal. Even though it was only the finisher’s medal, it made them look up in awe at the achievement.

But the bad times (like the good ones) never last. Wife had a friend who wished to start walking for fitness (you can guess what type)s reasons. So, the two of them began going for post-dinner walks. But there was no improvement. On studying their routine, it was discovered that the culprit was the pani-puri wala who kept his stall open till late! Not that I was minded this, for I was now able to watch Govinda movies & football matches on the TV. But they did. And came to me for help (I never knew I was considered a fitness guru!). Which was when we zeroed down to the culprit after some RCA. I offered them 2 suggestions – switch to morning walks & take up running. They ignored both, for the ladies have the same affinity to pani-puri wala as bhakts have for a chai-wala.

Coming back to the point, we went to Kochi (Nov. 2015), where the wife ran the 5K (more about it here: A Spicy Run Along A Spicy Coast). And liked the festive atmosphere that defines a running event. Coming back, she shared her experience with her friend. They tried a 5K at Daman Wind Marathon next year (Dec. 2016) & decided they could run longer distances. I gave them a gradual progression programme so that they could do a HM at VIM 2017. Which marked a turning point in my running life.

While she still was a Ms. Know-it-all, but I was the expert on running. I was the one who would help her get through her 1st HM. If I missed an alarm (after a late night out), she would wake me up. I was now boldly getting out of the house at wee hours for a run. And returned to a cup of tea prepared by the wife while she got ready for her run. And no lectures too!! Each time things appeared tricky, I just had to bring up her running & my mistakes would be history. I was no longer a Rahul Dravid at home, but a Virendra Sehwag.

But not for long. Having run two HM’s in successive months (VIM & SoleFest), she considered herself a veteran. At least, this was the equation in the household. While not a Sachin to my Viru, but definitely a Yuvi in relation to MSD. And then as another running season approaches, a tussle began for the prime running slot. Who leaves earlier & who gets to stay behind while the kid is still sleeping?

I realized that the post-demonetization world was transformed in more ways than one. Not one to give up easily (well, I am a runner), I tried all sorts of arguments but all were doomed. With threats of no tiffin for the office (met with a helicopter shot of packed lunches) & the kid going hungry to school (an unplayable Malinga yorker), she now decides the running schedules.


Hey, don’t feel sorry. Actually, I now get to sleep longer. And that’s something I like as much as running or a daru party. Now you know why I love running!!

Sep 14, 2017

Aiming your 1st HM? Watch Sholay!

Bollywood has been a unifying force in this country like no other. And the brightest star in the Bollywood constellation is Sholay. People of my age group (and older) would have watched it umpteen times. And like the three wise men who were guided by the star to Bethlehem, Sholay has inspired us to take life head on. Hence my advice to aspiring half marathoners – watch Sholay if you dream & prepare to run those 21 odd kilometers. Here’s why…


The best things happen in pair (at least in Bollywood) – Dharam-Veer, Ram-Lakhan, Seeta-Geeta and the Jai-Viru of Sholay. In running too, it’s always about the buddy. So, where’s your Jai? He/she is the one who will wake up early with you & egg you on during those tough runs. Pull your leg during the off days but also share the last of his hydration when you have finished yours. If you haven’t got one, try convincing your best friend (even the spouse) to start running & share the pains & pleasures that take you to the finishing line.

Find an objective too, or objectives if you can. Our Jai-Viru simply wanted to get out of prison, execute a few heists maybe. And yes, collect the reward money from Surma Bhopali. What’s the goal that running will help you achieve? Yours could be losing weight, staying fit, avoiding doctors or even the memories of your sporty self while in school.

What’s Sholay without Gabbar Singh? You ultimate target, or Gabbar, is completing the HM. When you first decide to go for a HM, it seems deadlier than Gabbar of Sholay or any of the Chambal dacoits that Bollywood has dished out. For you do not know what all lies between today & race day.

So seek & join some running group in your town/neighbourhood. They will accommodate you in their activities & provide you with your daily dose of advice, encouragement & information. Don’t be scared when you (inevitably) come across intimidating veterans who have seen it & done it all. Remember, the Thakur may not have been very communicative or appear helpful but he was the strongest support Jai-Viru had, even after the villagers had forsaken them. And you will find many maulvis who have never seen you running but always congratulate you when you post your activities on Facebook/Whatsapp.

If you now feel confident enough to take the plunge, let me put in some words of caution here. There will be distractions & hurdles at every step in your journey. Sleeping early & waking up earlier is just one of them. Missing binge drinking sessions with the gang is the toughest. And giving up on those pizza/burger meals will turn you into a villain in the eyes of your kids. There will be times when you feel like “soocide, soocide, soocide”, say, when you see those tempting Gulab Jamuns on the table. Don’t be disheartened for the spouse/host will end up saying “finish your long run this weekend & have the entire bowl of these Gulab Jamuns”. Don’t worry, running also gives you the privilege to hog on your fav sin food.

There will even be days when you beg your friends to postpone that party by a couple of weeks till after the HM. But they don’t. And you are forced to skip it. For you need to sleep early having a long run the next day. Don’t quit. Didn’t Basanti too dance in front of Gabbar & his gang despite Viru’s implorations? As they say, “this too shall pass”.

Yes, it is not an easy task staying the course during this period. But the goal will help overcome all difficulties. Gabbar killed 3 of his men when he was told they were defeated by just 2 guys. You will also come across these 3 – Lethargy, illness/injuries & work/social schedule, which make you go for the snooze option or disrupt the schedule you have planned (okay, downloaded). But if your desire is as powerful as Gabbar, you will overcome these & be back on the roads soon enough.

Knowing that Gabbar was the villain of Sholay, you will wonder why he appears a Good Samaritan in this post. Agreed, but I found Gabbar a very lovable character in the movie. What would Sholay have been, had there been no Gabbar? He was the central character in the film. So is completing the first Half Marathon for any runner. It appears tough & frightening in the beginning, but a few weeks down the line you fall in love with it. It guides each of your activity, each of your days. And when you end up with the medal around your neck at the finish line, you feel on top of the world having vanquished the Gabbar of your nascent running life.

Yes, the sore muscles & the painful joints will hurt. For some hours, or rest of the day, or even a few days. We don’t know how many days Viru took to overcome Jai’s loss. But, we believe it was soon enough & he later settled down in Ramgarh with Basanti & Dhanno. Having attained your maiden (pun unintended) HM, you too will settle down to this life of early morning runs. And looked up in awe by other wannabe HMers.

Well, now that this post is over you can go & watch Sholay.

Sep 11, 2017

How The Events Stack Up (Rounding Up)

Continuing where I left off in the previous post, I will briefly touch upon the “Overall Experience”. This covers the intangibles of an event, you may as well call it the X-Factor. It is what will make you come back again to the event. Like the beer which GRM so thoughtfully offers at the end of the run. On the other end of the scale we have RunGandhinagarRun. The route was quite flat most of the distance. The weather was pretty cool. There was no traffic whatsoever. And it was the fastest I had ever run over this distance. Add the company of Dr. Suresh Iyengar & I should have felt top of the world. But they forgot to identify the route for the benefit of (outstation) participants. Coming to the finish arena, this was the story all around. The memory remains & I don’t think I will run in Gandhinagar again.

Getting to business of this post, here are the scores of the events being considered:
   

Start Time
Hydration / Fuel
Traffic Mgmt
Route
Weather
Crowds
Post-run Meal
Route Markers
X-Factor
Wtd Score
Rajkot
5
5
5
3
5
4
3
4
4
4.42
GRM
5
5
4
5
3
3
5
1
5
4.35
Spice Coast
5
5
4
4
3
3
5
4
5
4.33
SoleFest-1
5
4
5
4
2
2
5
1
5
4.03
Daman ’15
5
5
4
4
4
2
2
3
4
4.00
VIM ’17
5
4
4
3
4
4
2
1
5
3.94
Daman ’16
5
5
4
4
4
2
2
2
3
3.87
Zendurance
5
3
3
3
5
0
3
1
4
3.33
Gandhinagar
5
4
4
2
5
0
2
0
2
3.24
VIM ’16
1
3
3
3
3
3
2
2
2
2.44
Weight
18
17
15
11
10
9
7
3
10


Let’s begin with the laggards. Zendurance is potentially a great event & not simply because they bundle a wine-tasting session with the registration fees. Only if they identify another route for the HM. Else this won’t be an event for repeat participation, as one can anyway visit Sula without paying those high registration fees. Die-hard runners can run to the vineyard for free & top it up with wine straight out of the casks. Again, Gandhinagar is an event that I will not recommend unless they have enough volunteers & clear markers to ensure the runners don’t stray off the route. They can learn a lot from VIM that has put in a much improved show in just one year.

Now to those placed #4 to #7, which form a pack. The last Daman Wind Marathon (2016) was much inferior to the year earlier. The goof up began with Bib distribution & one could feel something missing through the event. Though it will always gather a crowd as people in South Gujarat miss no opportunity to visit Daman! The others in this group are most promising. VIM 2017 surprised me beyond expectations. Firstly, by starting on time (they didn’t wait for the CM to arrive). Though the route took one out of the city, they ensured that the experience was worth it. Like putting the water shower at the toll plaza! Moving it to Jan 1st week is another step that is expected to enhance the experience. Hope they again push the CM’s itinerary after the timed events are flagged off. And SoleFest did a good job in the 1st edition itself despite less than a month of planning & execution. With more time to prepare & better weather, expect a far better event this time round (26th Nov., mark the date in your calendars). And another round of sumptuous post-run brunch.

There’s not much separating the top-3 in the list. GRM has many loyal fans who religiously attend this event. I believe, Spice Coast also has its own set of regular out-station participants. Being tourist destinations & the events scheduled during peak tourist season, these will never be short of enthusiastic participants. Though one is surprised at Rajkot getting to the top of the table. Full credit to the organisers (Rajkot Municipal Corporation) who did a splendid job & ticked all the right boxes. More so because it was the 1st time they were conducting this event. And to the Collector, who led by example & ran the full 21K himself. I will return to Rajkot, for a HM there is part of the unfinished agenda.


What is your takeaway from this post? Nothing, except pointers to what to expect at which event. Which need to be the deciding factor. For Spice Coast, though a good run in itself, is too distant to visit year after year. And despite not being (presently) in the top half, VIM is one place where I will always be found.