For all the years I have known myself, I have wanted to do many things like being able to sing, dance etc.
But I never wanted to run. I hate running. I can't run. I had mixed feelings regarding people who run- pity plus indifference. ‘Tsk tsk, whatever dude’. Sane people run when chased by dogs.
‘Congrats!’ I effused to my friend who completed the Marathon.
‘You can do it too,’ obligatory punctuation followed.
‘Why should I run? No marathon shit for me! In the end what have I achieved? Breathlessness? Naah! ’ I tried to sound positive and sensitive to what he had achieved.
‘Try a half marathon,’ my friend would besiege assuring me that I could definitely do it considering my fitness level and so on. As pandering as it was to my ego, I couldn’t see myself indulging in such a mindless activity.
‘Half Marathon? Yikes! Why would I ever do half of something when I can very well do the full? I would rather run a 5K than something that is called ‘half’ of something. So demeaning!’
‘Call it a 13.1 mile race then.’ He was postively giving me a headache.
‘Bah! It doesn’t just sound cool. I would rather bump my head on a railroad track.’ I despised running.
Just a day (24 hours) after this conversation, I signed up for the half marathon on some whim proving that I can't stand up for what I stand for. I had discovered runners high. I couldn’t stop running and couldn’t explain my predicament to the other non-runners.
Between my training sessions, I had to make a two week trip to India. And I had to run.
The first day my mom was shocked to see me up at 5 am, tying my shoe lace. The last time I woke up at 5 am was when …ermm.. there was no such recorded incident. It was required as it gets too hot after 6 am. Before she could stop me, I was out of the door running in the community feeling on top of the world. This would be great. Being used to run in long stretches on a trail along a river (in my backyard) with squirrels and deer scrambling past, in Bangalore I was encountered with roads that led to other people’s gates. I would have to make an abrupt U-turn just to face another dead end. I was running in a freaking maze- in the dark, bumping into the same house again and again. Out of nowhere, seven neighborhood stray dogs congregated and ran after me. There suddenly seemed to be a point in my running...and running fast! I somehow found my way and bolted into my house, breathless, just after scaring the living daylights off an aunty walking with Nikes and a head scarf. I just barely managed 15 minutes and had enough for the day.
My mom was wringing her hands in fury, ‘What is wrong with you? Why are you running like a mad woman? What will people say? We have to live in this neighborhood you know. You didn’t even have breakfast. What if you fainted?’
Day 2- I decided to run outside the gated compounds of this colony to keep my sanity and my mom’s name intact. So I snuck out early and ran along Bhanerghatta road towards this Shiva temple I knew to have a long secluded road. As I ran, people stopped what they were doing and their eyes followed me till eternity or till the awkwardness stopped (whichever came faster). I almost got run over by a few autos. Avoiding running over some kids sleeping on the ground, I leapt into a garbage dump. If I was training for hurdle race, this would have been so worth it. The secluded road did give me a few jitters when strange people appeared out of nowhere. But I managed a good run that day inspite of the locals wondering what ‘Goddess’ got inside me. I got back home to a livid mom.
‘Where were you? Its 2 hours since you left! I sent your mama in search of you. Stop running. Or if you have to, you better not go before the sun rises! It’s not safe.’
Day 3. Out of despair, I called up a few elite runner friends in Bangalore and got their advice on options. ‘We usually drive to Turali (which is 1 hour away) and then run along this beautiful stretch uphill. Sounded good to me. Plus I would have human company.
‘Can you pick me up from my place?’
‘South Bangalore eh? Then we’d have to wake up at 3 am.’
‘Holy Bambolee! I don’t think I can get permission to leave home that early. You see my mom is more used to me staying out till 3 am. She is having a hard time dealing with this. Plus the watchman would think I am eloping. Too much drama. ’ I was bummed and thought about Pittsburgh fondly when I could run in abandon anytime I wanted.
Day 4. My mom piled on pooris and aalo subzi on my plate and insisted I eat before going off to the gym. The gym, we decided, would be ideal given the situation. I sauntered off whistling towards the community gym letting my mind wander over the feeling I was going to get after the workout. There were at least dozen men in the gym and the swimming pool just sitting around in their hunches staring at me, some brushing their teeth with neem twigs. I smiled and they all just froze mid activity. They were caretakers and not gym users. I walked into this empty gym with rusting equipment. I opened the windows to let some breeze in and walked over to the treadmill. Hmmm….no treadmill. I looked around in vain and went out to ask one of the guys about the mystery of the missing treadmill.
‘Woh andar hai memsaab’ (It is inside)
‘Accha, Dikhta hai kya?’ (Is it visible to naked eye?)
The guy (who is apparently the caretaker or manager of the gym) walked in and scratched his head.
‘Kya bola apne?’ (What did you say?)
‘Treadmill on which you run.’ I did some running action to drive the point.
‘Agar aap kehte hai, toh nahin hoga.’ (If you say so, it probably isn’t here) ‘Aap dumbbell kar sakte hain memsaab’ (You can do dumbbells)
‘What do I do now? Can’t run outside, can’t run inside.’ Crestfallen face met puzzled face of Bahadur Singh.
Bhagna zaroori hai? (Should you run?)
PS: In spite of the Universe trying to conspire against me, I finished the Pittsburgh IKEA Half Marathon on Sept 6th in 2 hours 34 min. I wasn’t the last person to finish. There was a 10 year old. Yippee! Now if I had dogs following me, I would have had much better timing for sure.