Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Thoughts That Run Through My Head When I Run

It all began with a comment during the Nilgiris Run in December last year. “You know, when you run, your feet fall like this.” Kavitha said this while gesticulating with her palms facing downwards to show how my toes pointed outwards and away from the other foot. “No wonder you pull the ligament in your hips on the long runs.”

I tried to smile and summarily dismissed what I had just heard as something unworthy of even second thoughts. And so rested matters.

But its different with Kavitha. She just says something, points things out and lets it be. She doesn’t nag; she simply expresses her opinion and that’s it. And because she doesn’t irritate me into agreeing with her point of view, it doesn’t give me the opportunity to dig my heels in, let out a howl of protest, take a firm decision to not do what I am being told to do or throw other such tantrums. I don’t know if Kavitha has come across the magic formula to deal with a difficult person like me but on hindsight, she somehow manages to get me to do her bidding without shoving it down my throat. And I guess that’s how things will remain till I find a way out of this situation – of somehow drawing Kavitha into an argument, digging my heels in, letting out a howl of protest, taking a firm decision to not do what Kavitha tells me to do or throwing other such tantrums. Having said that, I must admit it feels nice that I have the freedom to do what I want, even if my Chief of Crew doesn't necessarily agree with me.

Upon joining boot camp, I had a brain overcast with thoughts as I ran. The disaster that the past year was, the runs that weren’t, the DNF at Hyderabad, the personal issues to tackle head-on, the professional problems that needed to be addressed, the running related matters that had to be taken care of, my social activism…the list was endless, the problems to be sorted out all queued up. The first few runs would be on a full mind and I knew I would feel quite light (at least not feel as weighed down as I was feeling) at the end of the first week’s run.

Ten minutes into the run, my mind stopped and the legs continued running. Why was I running? Certainly not to run away from problems. Certainly not to find solutions to the problems I was facing. And as I ran, I realized I was once again running for all the wrong reasons. I realized there was no celebration of running in my runs anymore. And there and then, at that very point, I decided that running would be nothing if it wasn’t a carefree trot. Running would be nothing if it weren’t a source of unbridled joy. Running would be nothing if it weighed me down with the problems that weighed me down when I was not running. And if at the end of each and every run, my mind did not say “YIPEE!!” to me, I was running wrong and needed to check my premises. Finishing strong was something I had heard, finishing with a smile was something I strived for.

As if on cue, the sun threw off its blanket of darkness and emerged on the horizon. Was that a sign? No, not really. The practical me did not believe in such old wives’ tales. Then the sun winked at me and smiled. A smile that turned it all pink which gave way to a hue of orange. Okay, so that was a sign after all.

I had been so busy looking at the sun that I wasn’t looking at the road at all. Not the best of things to do while running on the highway, so I looked at the road. Then I looked down to see the road where my feet were falling and all I could see was my paunch. The road simply wasn’t visible. Maybe, I should invent a contraption like a bar which could be attached to my head. The bar would have a mirror at one end and when I looked into the mirror, I would be able to see my feet exactly where and how they hit the ground. Right then, I stumbled and almost went flying. Thanks to all the gymnastic moves I had seen on TV, the Akshay Kumar and Jackie Chan movies I had seen and memorized, I did a double sommersault, a half twist, a backflip and landed on my feet, saving myself from a fall. After that, all that kept playing in my head was ‘Humpty Dumpty…’

On the second run, the cold brought back memories of the Nilgiris Run. “You know, when you run, your feet fall like this.” Kavitha said this while gesticulating with her palms facing downwards to show how my toes pointed outwards and away from the other foot. “No wonder you pull the ligament in your hips on the long runs.” I bent over my paunch to look at my feet and made an effort to see that fell straight. It felt strange; something new. No, it wasn’t painful at all. Just strange, new and different. So I continued to run that way, watching every step. Then it started to pain. The lower back. But of course it would. What else was to be expected if a person, while he was running, bent over his paunch to look at his feet and ensure that he got them to fall straight? Then I realized I must also have looked extremely stupid running while bending over my paunch to look at my feet… And if that doesn't sound embarrassing enough, I was struck by even higher knowledge. That I did not need to see my feet to get them to fall straight. I just needed to consciously place them straight as they came to touch the ground.

And I continued running, always conscious that my feet landed straight, straight, straight.  The next few runs went by in the same way. I was conscious of my feet falling straight. The soreness in the ankles also made me conscious; so long as it did not pain, it was okay but I needed to keep a watch.

This went on for about two weeks after which I only needed to check once in a while that the feet continued to fall straight. Never disappointed, I would now try increasing my pace, I thought.

In between this and in course of the run, some thought was spared for serious issues like where to pee. The importance of this cannot be overstated, especially if the run passes by places like public conveniences that are missing or are closed, a railway overbridge with electricity cables passing under it, the Gujarat High Court, a civil hospital, etc. I have already blogged about it in detail earlier so I will not dwell further on this.

However, after I blogged about it, I couldn’t help wonder how akin I was to dogs who marked their territory and their route and sniffed their way back home. Then I thought about dogs in general, how they lived a dog’s life, really, their mindsets, their outlook, their philosophy, etc. A dog’s philosophy towards life??? Yes, a philosophy which suggested, “If you cannot eat it, if you cannot play with it, pee on it and walk away.” What a wonderfully cool philosophy to have! Damn! If only I could live my life that way some day. He who said, “It’s a dog’s life” probably did not know his ass from his elbow and therefore, did not know what he was talking about.

During all these runs, I have realized that my mind is a superlative DJ. There is a song that is always at hand for any situation. If I trip, "Humpty Dumpty" starts to play on its own. On days when it is chilly in the morning and people are sitting around bonfires, my mind automatically starts to play “We didn’t start the fire”. On days when I cannot think of anything, I think, “Why this Kolaveri Di”. Emerging from yet another man-dog face off, I always find myself singing, “Who Let the Dogs Out”. I could go on and on…

Of late, I have started to not just think, but use logic as well to give my puny brain some exercise. Before reading further, let readers be warned that theoretically, when a person runs, the blood supply is more to the legs than to the brains and so the logic may be quite… well… illogical. (And actually, I now have a logical reason for the way I behave – its all because of the ultraruning I do.) No wait, I’ll leave that for the next post. So that's something to look forward to. 

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