4 AM came and went, I wanted to go out and join Sundar for my usual Sunday long run. I didn’t want to test my Columbusian skills in the new city. I knew there was a twist in the tale when after locking (it’s a self locking type!) my door after taking my leave from my sleepy wife, I opened the garage and found the number lock on the chain lock too difficult to open without my spectacles. When I moved the cycle to below a fluorescent lamp, I saw that the front wheel was completely flat. I was in a dilemma, should I call somebody to pick me? I had already missed the Sundar Bus. It was already 4:40 AM. Then it struck me, I can run to the venue of the run! Would I make it by 5:30 AM, in time for the start of the run?
Though I had the detailed directions on my mobile saved as a saved message and I had done a last minute revision before leaving, I realized at the very first turn where I had to make a decision that any amount of detailed directions cannot be enough for me. The ubiquitous tea stall vendor came to my rescue. I reached near the first flyover (the T Nagar one!) and to verify the directions, I checked with a person standing at the bus stop. When I asked about the next flyover to Kodambakkam, after knowing my destination, he suggested a ride on a bus, not knowing that I was without a penny in my pocket. He said I should not take this flyover and turn right from under the flyover and take the flyover. I stopped after a good run on the flyover to check about the next landmark in the route, to realize that it was in a fine print not readable to my naked eye in the morning light! I had a run on my hands. I remembered the landmark Lakshman stuthi intersection and I found a traffic cop/bus crew who told me that it’s a straight road till the Vadapalani signal. I had a good run till the signal and another few enquiries after turning left from the signal I was at the Lakshman Stuthi signal intersection (I don’t know if Ram was so happy after seeing Lakshman as I was at finding his namesake signal today!). Having found the route, I now relaxed and the bonus was a cow tethered to a post munching at a garland (silver strands and all!). I offered her the goodies I had brought and she ate it with relish before going back to her staple. It did not stop for patting of her forehead!
To cut the long story short, I reached outside Sivan Park at 5:20 AM (for a change Hubli passenger was before time!) with MGR smiling down making a V sign for my effort! There was a crowd of runners from the youngest a few years old to some of my vintage at the other end of the spectrum. It is gladdening to see so much interest in running to find so many youngsters up and bright at 5 in the morning on a Sunday!
The loo in the park was well maintained and a young girl was religiously sweeping the walkway showing that all was well with the PM’s Swatchtha Abhiyan. Before late the man himself alighted from a vehicle. My first impression of him was, how much weight he has lost! He was half his size I saw at the start of his run on August 15th when I crossed him during my 12 hour run there. He gave a brief talk , after the customary draping of shawl by the KK runners, on his mission and met the youngsters who had gathered there. The run started after a group photo at 5:48 AM. I tried to run at his pace and found the pebbly road too much of a pain at the slow pace, I joined Satgopan Mohan, who was leading the pack and did one loop with him. I realized into my first loop itself, that no way would my bare feet last the 12 hours on this treacherous road!
After the fiasco of the run today, the story I allude to in the title kept flashing in my mind. To recapitulate the story, the fox is said to have invited his neighbor stork for dinner and served soup on a plate not realizing that it can’t eat from a flat surface ( I am sure Kumar Janardhanan had no such scheme idea when he accepted my idea to run with them today!), I therefore don’t propose to invite them over and offer soup in a tall vessel with a narrow opening like the stork! It is not easy to see the course from a barefoot runners perspective, I was regretting not joining Sundar for the run, or, be with Gerald for the planned run from Gandhi statue to Gandhi Mandapam.
After the first loop, I realized that the route had lot of turns and it would be multi-tasking for my poor old brain to keep track of the route while dodging the pebbles on the road. Mohan wanted to take a break and I tried my luck to do the second loop to catch up with Raj. I missed the very first turn and with the help of vendors found my way back to the start point after a short loop, the duration of this adventure tells me I must have logged 3-4 Km’s. I met Neville and a group of runners and we waited for Raj to reach after the first loop. We got a steady shower to wash off our sweat while we waited.
In the second loop, Praveen Giriya, joined me and offered to escort me back to the Kodambakkam bridge after I finish my run. I did the second loop with him discussing the various barefoot friendly routes (he is also a BF runner!). I decided to do a loop with Raj to catch up with him before returning. We stopped at a water point set up outside a runners house (we had earlier refused a group of young kids holding water cups for the runners!). Raj came and changed his wet footwear (he said he is running in his 6th pair from the start!). The next loop was quite enjoyable as I got to talk with Raj and share his thoughts on the run. He is tense on the outcome of Guinness authority’s decision on whether or not they will recognize his effort after he decided to take a vehicle between cities where he actually runs. He was also worried about the finances and his falling behind schedule in his mileage! Hats off to him for attempting this huge effort single handedly, but, he looks alone and the support not adequate. The biggest challenge I feel would be to keep the motivation going. All the best Raj!
I took leave of Raj and steeled myself while refusing his offer for b’fast as I had to run back. The group gave me a warm sendoff as if I had done a 12 hour run! Praveen and one of his colleague’s joined me to drop me till the bridge. This was the best run with good road and two runners who matched my pace and I could work up a sweat. Some in the traffic found this bare-chested baba funny and I got my share of catcalls. One of the guys asked them if I was their coacher! I wanted to tell them I was their follower! The Chennai crowd is quite knowledgeable about running as many commented about bare foot marathoning! I took leave of Praveen after a warm hug at the foot of the flyover after promise of a longer run soon. The rest of the route was straight forward as I had to only ask for Loyola college when in doubt. I was outside the colony gates at 9:24 AM, surprising both the guard and the police outside the Srilankan Deputy high commission about the wrong direction from which the Hubli passenger came today. I wouldn’t hazard to guess the distance I must have done today, but, considering the time taken (even discounting for the liberal breaks!), it must not be less than 30K, but, a far cry from a marathon which is my regular Sunday morning fare! We will make it tomorrow Sundar!