Friday, February 17, 2012

Running Woes & Solutions.

Six days of Boot Camp are over. 

My last post was about me coming out of hibernation, starting to run again and my joining Boot Camp. Nature, which seemed to have been at war with me the past couple of months had of late ceased hostilities allowing me to thaw a bit, took my coming out of hibernation as a personal affront and sent back the cold with a vengeance. The mercury plummeted and with minimum temperatures hovering at about 5 degree C, running in the morning was definitely and most certainly out. My spring threatened to last just a day, making way again for winter. 

Well, if nature could play tricks, I could be obstinate. Taking full advantage of me being the boss, I decided that afternoon was a good time to run. Starting at 11:30am, I decided to stick to my route of the first day, which would ensure a 30-32k run. This would be my route every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. On Sundays, the same route could be extended to make it a 50k+ run. Monotony would not set in, I believe, because there are quite a few other long runs and events planned throughout the year. 

As I started running, the dog attack was instant. Only this time, the dogs on the street were not the problem. It was those in cars, on two wheelers, those driving rickshaws. Tolerating the snide comments peppered liberally with expletives, I ran on. What was the point in reacting anyways? At about the 10k mark, I was flagged to a stop by a girl on a two-wheeler. She asked me what I was running for. "For whom, you mean?" "Yes." "For myself." "No, no! I mean to ask, what is the cause you are running for? AIDS, Communal Harmony, National Integration..." "AIDS I do not suffer from, last month's blood donation confirmed that. I am an unapologetic atheist, so the question of communal harmony doesn't arise. As for national integration, I have run to 3 states in one run, so that would count as regional integration rather than national integration, no?" (Which reminds me, I have to speak to Kavitha about rechristening 'Nilgiris 100' to '3 States Ultra' because Nilgiris 100 sounds quite insipid... but for now, let me get back to the post.) "See Sir... what is your name?" she asked. "Vishwas" "Okay, Sir" I wonder why she asked my name if she wanted to continue addressing me as 'Sir'. "I am an intern with Radio Mirchi." Was that a euphemism or maybe, a warning which actually meant, "Stop your buffoonery and answer my questions seriously" I almost asked her, stopping myself just in time. "Are you training for something?" she asked. "Yes," I said, "The event is a 30/50/100 mile run in the desert in Rajasthan organized by Globeracers. Starting in Pokhran, close to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, the race will run through salt flats, cenotaphs, sand dunes and rocky terrain. It is a tough race to say the least. And given that the race is being held in April, when the temperatures would be in the 40s, we're looking at a potential suicide mission. I will be doing a 100-miler there. "Umm... Sir, there was a marathon in Ahmedabad recently. That was of 40 kilometers." "42.2k" I interrupted her. Ignoring the correction, she continued, "Here you are talking of running for 100 kilometers." "No," I interrupted her again, "I am talking of running for 100-miles. That is 160 odd kilometers." "That is quite some distance, even to travel in a car. Are you sure it is possible to cover such a long distance on foot?" she asked. "There are just about six 100-mile finishers in India and you are speaking to one of them. She then was curious about the time it would take. "About 7-8 hours?" Obviously she knew zilch about anything even remotely connected with running and she did not mind her ignorance being fully on display. "I would be happy if I am able to do a sub 30:00, which is completing the race in less than 30 hours." "What???!!! You mean you will run for 30 hours at a stretch???" "Yes. That is how the race is. Such races are called single-stage races." At that point she decided that she was talking to a complete nutcase. She asked for my phone number and said that she'll get back to me. With that, she left. Needless to say, she never called back. 

The remaining run of 20-22k went by as expected. Snide remarks and jeers, peppered with expletives since i was encroaching on what was essentially their space by running on the road. But that apart, there were two major issues I had to contend with. The first major problem I had to deal with was handling hydration. I wasn't carrying water with me and so had to stop at every about 2k for water. The second problem was that of honking by impatient drivers. The honking gave me a splitting headache. I just smiled to myself - I could say, tongue firmly in cheek, that people in Ahmedabad were quite horny. However, since I couldn't change the situation about the honking, I would just have to either grin and bear it, or I would need to run in the morning. 

Realizing that it was much better running in the morning, the cold notwithstanding, the next runs have been early in the day. It is still freezing cold for me but the running manages to thaw me out, making things bearable. So at about 5:00am, while most of the city is still sleeping, I leave home. I do not carry a light though reflective strips on the front and back of my tee-shirt take care of the safety angle. (Talking of the tee shirt, it is a bright canary yellow tee with green sleeves with Shivaji Park Marathon Club emblazoned in red on it on the front and back - it is a very high-visibility tee-shirt. I need to check from Yogesh if they have these tees in stock and if they don't, I might consider flicking a couple of them from Yogesh).

Running into the darkness, getting enveloped by it and not being able to see a thing around me paradoxically leads to clarity of thought. By now, my legs know the entire route and know what to expect and what to be alert for and at what places. 

The dogs have quietened down. They realize that this runner is crazy, one who only seeks passage and has no intention of usurping their territory. The dogs realize that even if they do not give me the rights of passage, I shall take it in any case. They realize that honorable compromise is much better than absolute defeat; the dogs get to retain their ego and I get my passage. 

My running and my thoughts, both get interrupted at 6 places in course of the run. Since the stops are inevitable, I have designated 6 specific places. Let me explain. 

I tend to drink lots of water on waking up. And as I begin to run, the water demands to be unloaded. Some 15-20 minutes after I start running, I come across a wall on the other side of the road which has painted on it "Urinating not allowed here". My take is that defiance early in the day boosts confidence. So I go right ahead and do my thing. From the stink, I can assure you that a lot of people share my sentiment on defiance. Public conveniences are not very easy to come by in Ahmedabad. People probably want to raise a stink about it and they seem to be doing so very effectively. I add my contribution to it. 

Having contributed to a social cause, I run ahead where I come to a public convenience. Don't get taken in by the name. It is for the public, definitely, but opens at the convenience of the caretaker. And the caretaker believes that no sane person would want to use the loo before 7:30am, so the loo remains closed when I want to use it. Right next to it is a hoarding exhorting people to strive for a Green Gujarat. There is a small plant close by which I have adopted. I propose to nurture it back to the best of its health with a regular dose of urea, water and other salts. 

Then, a little before Sola Overbridge, there is an open field which I make full use of. I have had thoughts of borrowing from what I have seen at the Bandra-Worli Sea Link during SCMM and have given a thought to climbing the overbridge and doing my thing right from top of the bridge onto the railway tracks below. Then, I have also thought about the electricity lines that might be passing from under the bridge. A news item in the next day's newspapers screaming, "Runner Electrocuted While Peeing From Overbridge" with me as the protagonist certainly doesn't appeal to me and so I have refrained from doing that. 

Running ahead, I reach the Gujarat High Court where my bladder begins to nudge me again. I do not know whether peeing on the compound wall of the High Court would invite 'pee'nal action or worse, contempt of court, so I hold my bladder till I cross the premises. Immediately next to it is the compound wall of the Sola Civil Hospital. Difficult as it is to hold on, I debate my choices: should it be the wall of the High Court and risk legal action or should it be the Civil Hospital which will put lives of other patients at risk? I decide to somehow hold on and keep moving ahead. Right after the Sola Civil Hospital is the Gujarat Medical College (or some such name). By the time I get here, my brain is, for want of a better term, totally pissed off and I let loose on its compound wall. 

I run further and stop for water at the 12k mark. There is a proper facility there and I am back to being a well-mannered gentleman. I am sure everyone will appreciate that the earlier actions are necessitated by lack of facilities. Then, a little past the turnaround point, I go into the bushes. Once done, it is a comfortable run back home. 

Maybe the next time I meet an intern from a radio station and she asks me what I am running for, I should reply, "For having public conveniences every one kilometer on the highways. That will perhaps give my running a cause, legitimacy, sincerity and maybe even popularity. Won't it?

Talking of causes, my next post in the coming couple of days should be about The Quadro12 Project


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