Saturday, November 26, 2011


This evening was different.    I had increased my chance to run in Mumbai Marathon, courtesy a good soul.   I was feeling happy that I reached home early.   I was hungry.  Post some snacks and tea, the hunger contained, I planned to hit the asphalt.   Was feeling powerful and eager for a run.

I looked around my stable- there were the good old Nike - Blue ones.  I call them the Old-man-blue.  Old-man-blue came to me from a Nike store in Bangalore in May 2009, and was the right partner for me to tackle my over-pronation - I had suffered bone contusions and was out of action for about 2 months.  

He have served me for more than 1100 km so far.    We ran together in the Chennai Marathons, ECR marathon, Auroville marathon, Bangalore Ultra, Sunfeast 10K's between 2009-2011.

He become ugly, soaked in the red dusts of the Bangalore Ultra trail, and never recovered his charming white and blue again.

About 2 months back, the ol' folks of my stable - both pair of nikes had lost their soles ( souls?)... The black cushion at the palm of the right shoe peeled out (for old-man-blue during a run), the red one ( who I call lady-in-red) during my travel to Chennai.

The lady-in-red stayed back in Chennai, and is currently in my brother's custody.   Old-man-blue  lay in the dark recesses of my shoe rack.  I was trying to visit a Nike store to repair for more than a month, but could not.  I went to Reliance footprint instead and ended up buying a pair of Asics (which I call the new-kid).  

And suddenly, it dawned, that our good old cobbler in the neighbourhood could fix.  I took old-man-blue to this shanty of a shoe-garage, and Missus-Cobbler, pursed her mouth and said, it would cost 70 Rs.   She said, the black cushion will be pasted and she will stitch them to be stronger.   I was skeptical, but nevertheless, put the old-man-blue on the operation table.   The lady, chewing paan all the while, said - come back in half an hour.  

 After the new-kid took me round for a 30 minute run, I visited the shanty again.   Missus-Cobbler asked me to wait for another 15.   I was waiting like a worried relative outside the op-theater.  

10 minutes passed.   Missus-Cobbler called out - and showed her works-woman(!)ship to me.   Old-man-blue was looking good - pasted and sewed up with black thread.   Ugly, but he could walk or run with me after all.

And today he joined me for the 5k.   We both exploded into a good start, slow middle part and a classic finish.  

As I write, old-man-blue smiles from his place in the shoe rack - always on the top - ' I am still around for many more miles'.   I wink at him with tears in my eyes.  Old-man-blue!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The midnight run...the invaluable teacher (aka) lessons learnt...

I called my wife on Friday evening, and told her that I had decided to take the midnight run - anchored by Raj Vadgama, the elite Ultra Distance runner.   It was an impromptu decision, considering that I had nil mileage during the last month and about 18 km last week.

Second thoughts crept in during Saturday.   I had a half a day at office, but anyway I let the feeling seep in my mind that I was going to run beyond my Lokhandwala trainings of 10-14k runs.   Vacillation- Should I or Should I not?    The Saturday movie and the Sunday Night sleep beckoned.  I had worked 15 straight days, putting in 4 sleepless nights.   This option look tempting.  

I called Raj and asked what speed they would run - they said 7-7.5 km per hour. I was still skeptical.

Post lunch, I slept for an hour.   Sun went down.  My new Asics were out of the shoe rack, ready to hug my feet after a month of idling.   I went out shopping for a pain-cream, tapes and energy drink.   I tried to sleep the Saturday night movie off, but could not.  My family had an early dinner and were off to sleep.  

I applied vaseline, taped my middle toes.  I pushed a sense of dilemma again crept in.  Silence at home, Tom Cruise was delivering his dialogues in the 'Days of Thunder'.  When I was about to leave, the feeling continued. I asked my wife, should I ?  She laughed and pushed me out of the door.

On the way to the rendevous point, Sanjay Gandhi National Park, dressed in the Bangalore Ultra Marathon which has the phrase-'It is tough, or you'... When I wore that, I sneered with cockiness... 'I have seen that distance'.    

At the point, one by one, people assembled.   Each runner had a feat to talk about.  NDTV Greenathon - which is a 550 km - 11 day run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai,  Bati Lakes - 100km... I felt inspired and humbled.  We clicked pictures.   The fact that I was running with India's best runners still did not occur in mind.  That was to be my nemesis during this run.

With Piyush Shah
We did the routines, and started.  Feet hit the asphalt... about 1 km in the race, I was behind.   Raj was shuttling back and forth;   The assist-car, Raj's own, shuttled between the lead runners and the laggards.   Into the 5 km, there was already half a km gap.

I decided to sprint and catch up, and then realized that I should run within my limitations.   Around the 10k mark, nearing the Jogeshwari- Vikhroli Link - the gap between elites and me was almost a km.   The poor driver asked whether I needed a lift !!!  I told him that I am taking it slow and easy, and waved them off.   A costly mistake. 

With the runners, the assist car disappeared.   I soldiered on till the 16k - when my left ITB started talking.   I responded by walking.   With dehydration kicking in,  I switched to walking breaks for about 20-30 meters.  Had a cup of tea.   The chai-wala gave me some coins and they started clinkering in my pocket.

Couple of dogs were interested.  One dog growled, but was shooed by a inquisitive cop.  Some youngsters said - saaheb, kuch race hai kya?   I said  'it is a practice run'.   They responded by wishing me well.  Every now and then,  seeing me running alone, the regular tramp who inevitably occupies the bench of every bus-stop, laughed, sneered and waved.

I crossed the Vile parle crossing, Santa Cruz, Kalina and was reaching Vakola, when the ITB screamed.   I realized, that I should be near Bandra.   But few other factors weighed in - the next stretch would be without assistance - only the side rails of the express way or a parked taxi - with its driver snoozing would be company till the finish - it is a lovely stretch to drive your Etios, but not for running alone.   Calling the assist car would leave the elite runner group alone for atleast 20 minutes, as they should be about 2-3 km ahead.   I was beginning to feel cold because of my walking routines.  

The night view near Santacruz
And the temptation... hindsight, may be I should have resisted.  An autowala trailing, said - 'saaheb, jaana hai kya?...' I said ' YES'!!!   I texted Raj that I was quitting ( it is so shameful, while typing this bit, I admit) and then off took the autowala!  I reached home in 35 minutes.

Raj, in between called and said they had just reached Bandra.   I was indeed 2-2.5 km behind.   I said the cramps were bad, and so I had called it off.   I wished him well and he thanked for joining the run.

How great and humble, he and others were!  I will surely run alongside them whenever I can - well, atleast in the starting line !  :)

While, at home, I showered, stretched and slept, Raj and co were on their way to another glorious run in South Mumbai.

I woke up, today morning with the sun beating down from the french window.   As I had breakfast, I recounted the last night events - and made a mental list of lessons learnt.
  1. Put in enough miles per week, else Auroville is going to be tough
  2. In group runs, plan better.   You should find runners of your kind, speed and limitation.   Else, you will bring the better ones down.
  3. Hydrate, Hydrate.   More you hydrate, better you deal with cramps.
  4. Avoid the vices of life - spicy food and sundowners - they can add up and act up.   A vow to watch was made.  
All said,  the last run was the best in a long time, almost a year.   Just run! Each run is a teacher.

-The One

Pics Courtesy The One...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

From Auroville to Auroville...a racing sabbatical...

The last time, I ran past a racing flag, was in Auroville- Feb 13th this year.  I ran a half.   2010-11 represented stability - I could plan a trip and execute it.   During this period I ran 5 half marathons.  

From April aka the 2011-12 season, I have been this ship in the tempestous sea, with a broken sail.   My quest for growth led me to Mumbai.  Mumbai is a great place to run, there are more than 15 local races - and to cap it all, the Mumbai Marathon, the only Indian event on the World Marathon Calendar.

My appetite to run a race simply died.  It has taken a long sabbatical.    Why?  Lack of planning.   I cannot get up at 5 am any more - that is the time I feel most tired.  The alarm snooze button has become the most regularly used device, apart from my blackberry and toothbrush.   My shoes started unusual about it and finally gave up on me.  Both my pairs of Nikes tanked.

The distances to travel to meet customers are too much in Mumbai.  So you end up reaching home late, and tired.  The motivation to put on the shoe is difficult.   Add to that,  the kid wants this, and the wife wants that.   The evening sundowners add to the woe.   Finally, the virus found a temporary home in my bronchi.   Alas,   I run only about 20 km a week, and about 60 km a month.   I am not my type.  

I need to run a half during training, and then do regular 30's.  My plan is to run only full's next season.   No races this year.   Well - may be I will end my racing sabbatical in Auroville?!!!

-The One

Pic courtesy Auroville website

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ask the Toenail...

Well,  it is late into the night, and have a short week ahead.  But can't resist finishing this.

Got a black toe after today's 10K.  Reason - my Asics, as I find, is one size less.  My Nikes were one size large, and were bliss- no black toes.

Ain't the shoes mistake.  Well, it is mine.  A black toenail can tell stories. 

I lost three of my toe nails when I started running about three years ago.   First reaction, pain and panic. 

Most people ( including me :) ) don't bother about their feet, till the first black toenail appears.  Feet are to walk, but when they are used to run - black toenails are almost always the first incident.  It is like the first dent in your new car.   Your feet were looking beautiful, and suddenly running spoilt the looks. 

You consult your seniors in running - they laugh it off.   Well, I get it.   For a runner, feet is utility material and not the jewels in the box.   They are to be used - to RUN!   Blacktoes are sign of USE.   SCARS of the RUN.   I was proud - after losing three black toes, and collected them as medallions.

Once you become more experienced, you understand the fundamentals or Common Sense, as they call it. 

WEAR happens because of FRICTION.  To reduce friction, either reduce contact or lubricate.   So, you buy one size larger shoes, and take care to apply vaseline.   Result - no black toe.

When beginners talk to me about chafing or black toes, I tell them it aint a medallion, but it is plain wear and tear.   Reduce contact or lubricate.  

My black toe laughs at me.  

Says, I will wither away.   Where was your COMMON SENSE? 

I say, you are my fourth medallion. Each run is new, and a learning.  So I hide behind the beginner's bliss. 

COMMON SENSE - Not applicable... Toe Nail - RIP...


Pictures Courtesy Internet

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Bakri-Eid 10k- One step at a time...

More liters in the belly than the kilometers on the road.   Life is listless when it lacks purpose. 

Movies?  Facebook?   Shopping with family?  The only thing exciting is playing cricket with the kid these days.  Others are miserly distractions.   

Add a 30 day back-breaking cough and lung-choking cold... hit by financial and work related challenges...

From boring to suffering...

Sometimes the objective is to just sail through the storm... one needs lot of grit and gumption to dig deep down to win the battle, ride the wave.   One after another.   Take it one at a time.   We don't know when the war would end, or when the shore is in sight.  

Hey, this sounds very familiar - if you are a long distance runner.  A step at a time.  Break the course into shorter objectives.  Achieve one, and then another, and then another.  Each step, relentlessly put ahead, is closer to victory.  The finish line is far away, but the hope is that each step puts one closer to the finishing line.

The run becomes more challenging when you are denied.   Like today's Bakri-Eid's run.  

High humidity.   I decided to do a 10K - not a long distance by most of our standards, but well - considering this is a comeback phase after the bout of cold, was a reasonable objective.  

The denial objective - no water, and no stop.   Well, the run was lot easier.   Strategy - run slow first, pick up speed - but always breath through the nose.  The first 5k was whirlwind - done in 32 minutes.  Around the 7k point, had to slow a bit and breath through my nose.  

Reminder  -  No stop.  No water.  Around 8k - sweat started tasting sweet,  slight cramp developed below the ribs. 

Breath deep, run slow.  

Around the 8.5k mark, felt easy - but had slow down to almost 10 minutes per km. 

Easy, buddy?   Nope.   Can you?  Yes.  

No water.  No stop.   Uphill finish for about 800m.   Voila,  suddenly breathing was easy,   no more thinking of water, only the finish line.  Finished the last 1k in 5:50.  10k in 67 minutes.

Finally the first sip of water is the reward.    Neither it is great, nor is that bad. 

What is special about a training run?   Nothing.  Just that it reminds you of the basics

One step at a time. 

- The One

Pictures courtesy Internet