A running affair

Marathon mind

A running affair

I first discovered long distance running when I was in Calcutta in 1994. Our campus had several lakes. I had never run seriously before but for a 23-year-old in the midst of serious change, it was what the doctor ordered.

I quickly discovered that running was very difficult. It took me five months to be able to run a mile (1.6K) continuously. That’s a long time to be failing. The first time I ran the whole mile, I think I smiled for the next two days.

Running taught me the value of failure. A year later, in a job in Bombay, I quickly discovered that a career and running are not good bedmates. My running fell in frequency.

Act of solace

Thankfully, it never went away. I have often found that when I am in a place where I need time to myself, running is my solace. So in Bombay, whenever I was in the midst of anything that caused me to ponder, my shoes and me went out for a ride. I would often go running with an intractable problem in my head and the running would, almost magically, make it more malleable.

I discovered the value of solitude through running. However, over the next few years, my running diminished to nothing. It only re-started when I moved to Bangalore in 1999.  It was like going back to an old flame. Sure, like many people, I started running to lose some of the kilos that five years of excess had added to my middle. But the fact that it un-addled my brain was a welcome bonus. In a year or so, I weighed less than what I had for the last half-decade and felt better than I had in years.

Running got me fitter. But soon, just like in Bombay, the rest of my life began to take over. Starting a company and getting married takes time out of you. Running, which is always a personal, selfish indulgence will migrate to the bottom of your list with ease. Predictably, that happened with me. 

Then in 2005, our company started a running club called Runners for Life (www.RunnersForLife.com). The first 10 km run that we organised made me breathless, tired and strangely happy. What’s more, there were many of us rediscovering the joys of running. Plus, a long-distance run is great at lowering inhibitions. I met a lot of people who had great experiences in their lives and wondrous tales to tell. Through running I have met a lot of very impressive people and now count many of them as friends.

Part of marathons

I began to run with great regularity. My first half marathon came in a few months after that and my first full marathon (42k), where I walked large chunks, came the year after.  
I found that when running regularly, I was more centred. It quietened my mind and gave me focus and energy that I did not have otherwise. Running calmed me.

Over the next year or two, ‘Runners for Life’ (RFL) started organising more and more events. Strangely enough, the more races RFL organised, the less I was running. In the few years that followed, my running diminished to non-existence. My profile, and a new-found love of beer, told the story in pictures. Last year, I had a knee injury that acted up and I promptly used it to as reason to cease running altogether. Bad move.
I was paying the price with a brain that wanted to go everywhere at once and succeeded in going nowhere at all. My resting heart rate, once a very respectable 62, hit the 70s just as I was going to hit the 40s.

The absence of running taught me how much I needed it to stay sane and healthy.
At the end of last year, I decided that it was time. Over the next few days, I started running again. ‘Runners for Life’ had a stall at the Mumbai Marathon and while I had not entered the race, I ran the half marathon on a borrowed bib. I just finished the recent Bangalore 10K in a time that is not great. My goal is to run a sub-two hour half marathon (21K) this year and if I do that, I can aspire for more next year. 

Through running, I have discovered that it is okay to lose some battles, as long as you stay focused on the war.

I often find myself comparing running a company with long distance running. In both, you will sometimes have good days and bad days, good seasons and bad seasons, success and failure. In both, you need to play the long game. And in both, you will learn what you are all about. In both, you will quell old demons and think you have laid them to rest, but they will come back to haunt you again.

Running has taught me a lot about me. So my love affair with running continues. She (and it is definitely a she) is a possessive spouse. Ignore her for long enough and the rest of my life starts crumbling. Treat her well, and the music begins to play.
 
Hopefully, this time around I will be more faithful to my old flame.

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