Thursday, 30 July 2015

To Sir with love

I am running out of excuses for postponing my tapering for the 24 hour run. I guess one more day would not harm, in any case the issue in the 24 hour run is stamina and not speed. The weather being sunny during day promised that the gear would dry by the time I leave tomorrow for the event. I needed the run to enjoy the freer roads I anticipated during the run.
The State government has declared a holiday today for Dr. Kalam’s funeral. He must be turning in his grave, he wanted us to work extra and here we are mourning him. Even the commercial establishments have voluntarily come forward to shut shop for half a day. The outpouring of grief could be gauged from the innumerable posters and impromptu mourning mandals set up all over the city.
I started my run at 4:28 AM, I crossed at least two locations where the framed photograph of the departed leader was kept with flowers for paying respect. I passed by with a silent prayer for the departed soul. It seems as if Dr. Kalam having asked us to work instead of holiday on his death has relented and spontaneously decided to come to take leave from his fellow countrymen. I stopped near the slum across river Couum almost near Marina and paid respects with flowers kept under the photograph.
The sanitary workers, walkers and the beggars were in full attendance following the departed leader’s advice in letter and spirit. Cyclists and runners in large number were out in large numbers. I see from facebook posts that the various chapters of Chennai runners have organized special run/walks in memory of the departed leader. Beach wore a festive look with Dr. Kalam smiling from various places.
Today Dr. Ram​ was back in action and he gave me good wishes for the 24 hour run. I was ahead of the army runners platoon and I promised myself not to accelerate unless they made the first move to overtake. I was running on the other side of the divider on the Mount Road. I had to go by the foot tappings and labored breathing to anticipate the push. I kept the pedal on the gas just enough to stay ahead of them till the point where I turn back and they turn into SIvananda salai.
I again met the jawan who keeps telling me to take a break, today, I pre-empted him saying that I would not be coming over the next three days (this is a partial truth, as I would be running in Bangalore). This seemed to satisfy him.
A traffic policeman stopped me on Rajaji salai before Fort St. George, I thought another advice to not run on the road! He told me I look very happy while running and asked me what I get out of it. I said it cannot be explained, it can only be experienced. I don’t know if he thought me snobbish, but, my coming back for more of the same everyday surely cannot be a case of faking it.
The bus shelter next to Fort St. George entrance (the seat of power) usually has a lady sitting with her son in school uniform. She comes to drop him for the bus and I invariably find her helping him with homework. Today I thought of Kalam who laid great emphasis on primacy of mother’s role inculcating values in children. Today the duo was not there with schools having declared holiday.
While on the subject of kids, there is this young girl who usually is returning with her father near the war memorial when I am returning after the second loop. The father usually prompts her to wish me and she does shyly. Today she gave me a big wave and a wide smile without his prompting. I stopped and patted her head and got her name, Bhavashree studying in LKG. I have decided to nurture Dr. Kalam’s constituency for friends and get energy for my runs from their smiles.
 The return journey was mainly leave taking as I would not be running at least for next three days. Finished my run at 7:46 AM. Now for the 24 hour run which I expect to be like a festival. Will tell you all after I get back, wish me joy in the run!

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Biscuit’s atonement

                If Biscuit’s behavior yesterday was like Sreesanth back-chatting to Alan Donald, his conduct today in the face of extreme provocation by Tiggy (discerning readers would remember, my colleagues Rottweiller) who loudly protests Biscuit’s encroachment of his territory from his balcony, was Dravidesque to Mitchel Johnson’s taunts. Clearly he was contrite and was making amends for his previous day’s fall from grace. His love for the canine brotherhood extended to the playful stray couple who were performing pre-nuptial dances. Today Biscuit was as bashful in his entire morning walk as to have put a new bride in her in-laws place! Wish I could convey to him the outpouring of support from the internet community as if he were the aggrieved party in yesterday’s exchange.
                I met the 71 year old friend (his name I got to know today is Venugopal) and conveyed to him the growing fan club for him from amongst my readers. It turns out that the other early bird is Mr. Ranganathan (who addresses me by name) is the elder brother of Venugopal. As I was gossiping with them, Kakinada express parked abreast and was rearing to go.
                No cow in sight today to take my humble offering of banana peels. Hope ache din comes soon for people too when we do not find people to receive alms. It sure felt awkward carrying back the banana peels back home.
                Today’s thoughts were on the commonalities between Gandhinomics and the philosophy of Uncle Scrooge. Whenever I am in doubt about what Gandhi would have done when faced with an expenditure proposal, my simple mantra has been to think what Uncle Scrooge would have done, the path of least price. I have confessed to my wife soon into my dalliance with Gandhi-ism that I was a simple stingy soul who has started fashionably calling himself Gandhian. The larger beneficial impacts for the individual and the world at large will be a subject matter of a separate blog later.
                Today’s run took 3:18 hrs for a 32K run. Time to taper for the 24 hour stadium run at Bangalore on August 2nd. Let me see how long I can postpone the taper!

Radhakrishnan, Gandhi, Shastri and Nehru all in one

The outpourings of messages and posts from the highest to the lowliest on the demise of Dr. Kalam reminded me of the first chapter in the Louis Fischer’s autobiography of Gandhi where he describes the tinge of sadness and gloom in even people who had not met him. Many of the incidents reported were known, but, the eruditeness, extreme simplicity, hardworking and his affection for children made the sadness of his sudden departure the combined effect of reliving the deaths of Dr. Radhakrishnan, Nehru, Shastri and Gandhi all together once more.
The morning assembly of the school children behind our block where the children enthusiastically recited from his life events and quotes brought fresh tears. The children sounded very sure of themselves when they promised that they would bring his Mission 2020 and of making India a Developed Country, what more would their departed friend have wanted! The mature words of the headmistress sounded hollow compared to the energy displayed by the children, the missile man was bang on in picking his team for the future of India!
His concern for the standing guard in the pilot vehicle in what was his last trip poignantly recited by his assistant (he must be a blessed man to have got so much time to spend with this noble man!) brought a lump to my throat. Normally, humble beginnings either leads to excesses or at least denial of the humble past. His proud ownership of the same humility and simplicity is surely a lesson to simplify life further!
His having exhorted his loving countrymen to not declare a holiday on his death but to work extra, how could I bunk my run today (My taper was to start from today, officially!)? My wife disagrees and says that this is another one of my ingenuous ploys to run again! I made an honourable compromise, I decided to run at a leisurely pace for my usual distance.
I left for the run at 4:30 AM after some dilly-dallying. The weather gods were kind today. A man stopped me at Lighthouse asking why my partner was not with me today. He was meaning Sundar Purush​, he stated that he was the guard posted at the gates of Taj Coromandel hotel (No wonder I couldn’t recognize him minus his uniform!). I told him that we run to different timings now.
Army men deputed a few fleet footed runners today to deflate my ego. They ran past me and put in a huge lead effortlessly, thankfully Ram​ was not there to witness this. I did not even try to match their pace. Today’s run finished at 7:51 AM, not very slow, I guess! I am not sure if I can get in a run tomorrow, day after has to be a rest day.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Tapering for the 24 hour run

Tapering is the practice of reducing the distance run leading up to an event so that the body and mind is fully rested for the event. To me tapering is like the prescription for fasting as a means of cleansing the system before the big feast. I do not like it.
My thoughts are dominated by the upcoming 24 hour stadium run in Bangalore. Twenty four hour run is an unknown territory for me for I have never run more than 13 hours (Bangalore Ultra and the Nilgiris Ultra). The biggest unknown is the sleep factor, guess will take it as it comes.
Today’s thoughts were on when to start tapering for the run. If I look at the duration of the run of 24 hours and budgeting 4 hours of run per day, six days of taper is called for which would mean starting tomorrow itself, but, that is too early. I would be a nervous wreck by the time I get to the start point.
The other factor is the rainy weather making my running clothes wet. To have at least two sets of dry clothes for the 24 hour run, I should taper from Thursday at least. This is subject to change in case Sun god shows mercy after 8 AM so that he spares me the heat during the run, but, comes in full force for drying my clothes (Am I being too greedy!)
The memories of the 12 hour run at the same venue when I had to rush in by flight after attending my daughter’s convocation late at night for the run to commence at 5 AM next day is still fresh. My wife was to follow by train and the delayed run meant she came only by 3 PM.  She still blames herself (not exactly, actually me, for the Indian Railways getting the train late!) for the severe cramps I was laid low with for more than an hour. It is a different matter that I rose from the debilitating cramps thanks to the able ministrations of Kavitha​. I came back to run for the last two hours and finished on a high.
I exorcised the ghost of the cramps in the Mumbai 12 hour run two weeks later. All these thoughts were rushing through my head during my run today. I am all the more concerned because my motive power (read wife) would not be able to supervise my run owing to some work at home.
Though, I do not have any distance target for the run, but, only that I should be able to run for the duration and finish on my two feet. There is, however, an unfinished agenda when we could not complete the 100 mile run from Mysore to Bangalore last year. If I stay strong and the landmark is anywhere near sight by the time I am into the 20th hour, I plan to take batting powerplay and go for broke. Now, I have seriously stuck my neck out, would it have been better to stay shut and let the action speak for itself! Now, the deed is done, I just hope by saying it out loud, I commit myself!
Today’s run was a different kind of Khadi-Khaki interaction. Normally, I cross the army contingent from the opposite direction, but, today as I turned from the war memorial into the flag staff house road I could see two groups of jawans running. I was not trying to overtake them, but, stayed close to them for the stretch till where the Mount road meets Sivananda Salai, where I turn back after my 16th Km. Without making it a competition, I finished ahead of them by the time I finished. It was flattering to see that Ram​ on his bicycle (recovering from injury!) witnessed my burst towards the end and he passed me with a word of encouragement.
Today again a jawan who crossed me on the Rajaji Salai on my second loop commented that I should take periodical rest with a smile. It was like a sign from heaven and my wife would concur in glee that I should seriously think of tapering.
Thanks to the burst of running with the Khaki, the Khadi finished 32K in 3:17 hours today.

Monday, 27 July 2015

It rained cats and dogs yesterday night

                It was as if Lord Varuna, ably supported by Vayu wanted to read me the riot act for the indifferent week of running. And, what a performance it was, a light and sound show to remember for some time to come and plenty of water delivered to the starved city! Pity, it was in the dead of night with only a few scared canine friends of Biscuit doing an encore. Water was scattered haphazardly much like overenthusiastic aid workers dropping cloth bundles to the calamity affected! Back from the inspection of wet outfield, Biscuit claimed the foot of the bed for warmth and security.
                While I got up at the usual hour to make amends for the bunked run on Friday and Sunday, Biscuit caught up on his beauty sleep. He had plenty of virgin territory washed by the overnight rain to claim as his own by marking with his Morarji Cola! Thankfully, he was quick about it.
                I had some work to do in covering the puddles of water on the floor with cloth rags lest somebody slips after getting up. It was 4:38 AM when i was at the gates. It was tough to negotiate the waterlogged and pebble strewn narrow road with the vehicles showing a sense of urgency.
                I could get in a full marathon in 4:21 hrs the Saturday last. The salient feature was a horde of policemen encountered on the stretch between Napier bridge and the RBI (they were assembling opposite Fort St. George). While some exchanged smiles and salutes, I must confess, some snickered. The best part was when a lady constable (no, she is not the one who on an earlier occasion had asked me my age near War memorial!) raised her voice and said ‘Can any of the laughing men run like me (Jai women power!)?’ An interesting Khaki-Khadi partnership is in the offing with so many of the city policemen introduced to the Hubli passenger in one go.
                The War memorial is decked up for the upcoming Independence Day celebrations with army-men practicing their drills. They invariably exchange salutes as I pass them multiple times during my run.

                Another check post for me in addition to the Saravana Bhawan hotel is the BPCL outlet on the Cathedral road. I get a standing ovation on my way back always and today I was surptised to be greeted on my way out. Chennai seems to be growing on me.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Life breath

                I have realized now that Biscuit (he needs no introduction, but, for those who do not know him yet, he is my 7 year old Labrador!) sells. I have this from a careful analysis of number of ‘likes’ the facebook post featuring him gets as compared to other mundane stuff like my running. To pander to his fan following, I have an interesting episode to narrate;
                Biscuit normally has a peaceful stroll in the mornings as he is the king of all he surveys, the stray dogs look on enviously at his bright red leash and make way before he even looks in their direction. Any new challengers are quelled with a raised tail and a deep grunt, the maximum use of force he is called upon to show is baring of fangs. Today, Tiggy (his Rottweiler neighbour!), was having a restless night. Tiggy, paced his enclosure in the balcony on the first floor while Biscuit walked majestically right under his flat. What ensued was nothing short of the flag ceremony by the Indo-Pak soldiers with both showing elaborate war antics, Tiggy restrained by a iron grill on his balcony on the first floor and Biscuit firmly restrained by the leash with both my hands. Pity there was not much audience for the wonderful performance put up by the two but for a few disinterested stray dogs. They seem to be mouthing, ‘Nautanki Saala’.
                Biscuit having had his reel space, let us now turn to the item on the agenda today! I will talk about the importance of breathing properly for running efficiently. Most people who come up for advice about running long, the latest being a gentleman who ran a little along side me before thrusting his visiting card on the beach yesterday saying that he wants to run long like me and that he would get in touch later. I stopped and said we can talk now. I asked him what makes him to stop his run. He thought a while and said that he runs short of breath.
                We can enough food to last a marathon and with training even enough water to go for a marathon without a break. But, what we cannot carry is oxygen the life breath without which the fuel cannot be generated. There is lot of doubts on whether one can breathe with mouth open. I follow the principle that for something as essential as oxygen, it is not important how you get it, what is important is that you get enough of it.
                What used to happen with me during a run in the initial days was that in my concentration to get the form, stride and cadence right, I used to be sometimes irregular in breathing or be shallow in breathing. When this led to shortness of breath, to compensate, I used to go full steam into breathing forgetting the other basics of running. Over time the synchronization of breathing and stride happens and then running becomes natural. I told the gentleman to concentrate on breathing long and from the tummy (like Baba Ramdev says for pranayam!) and see if he can increase his period of run. For recreational runners, the run should be measured in time and not the distance covered. If one starts increasing the period of run, speed and stamina build up over time. This is like a Over The Counter prescription, runners wanting to be professionals are requested to seek guidance from good coaches!
                There is another significance of deep breathing, it is said that each one of us is born with a certain number of breaths for life. One’s longevity depends on how deeply one takes each breathe.  Dogs pant in short breathe and they last only 1/7th of a human life on an average. I keep advising Biscuit to take it easy and breathe long. I am sure with even the PM of the country popularizing Yoga and Pranayam, Biscuit would get it right soon.  

                Last two days I had the usual quota of run and now timing has stabilized, today I clocked 3:18 for the 32K, slightly faster than the 3:21 yesterday. My mental exercise from tomorrow is to visualize myself in the 24 hour run which is just about a week away.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Age is just a number?

                Before I get into the mundane of my running, let me update readers on Biscuit’s (my 7 year old Labrador pet!) exploits since his last sharing print space with me. If I thought that my training him into Vegan ways would make him any Gandhian, his violent scramble with our nrighbour’s four year old Labrador a few days back has made us, his family ashamed in front of the neighbours.
                The immediate provocation my daughter, under whose watch he stooped so low, was that Simba, the agressee, was trying to get friendly with my daughter. The fact that Simba was without his leash and Biscuit could have been impelled by brotherly love are but small consolation for the shamed family members. He knew that he had made a mistake when I found him avoiding my eyes for the entire duration of walk that day after I returned from work. Thankfully, Simba’s parents did not report any major injury and his usual barking performance made us feel better. Hope Biscuit learns restraint and does not become a repeat offender.
                I had a back to back marathon over the weekend and to break the monotony and rest the aching bones took a day’s off today. Monday blues without the dose of endorphins is worse than what Swami of Malgudi days would have endured to get to his school after the weekend.
                The running theme for the Saturday’s marathon was various people wanted to get my age. The first was a policewoman riding pillion near the war memorial, who asked her rider friend to slow down, enquiring of my age and congratulating me for the strong run. Immediately following this, when I was turning around after the first loop near RBI, the lady friend (who squats on the pavement opposite RBI) who usually wishes me every day, commented to her partner that I would come back once more. I corrected her that being the weekend I would return twice that day! The gentleman patiently waited for me and asked me on my third loop as to what my age was. I must engage with him more the next time to decipher as to how he has reduced the whole thing to my age. I had to use sign language flashing one hand with five and second hand with three fingers to convey him the magic number.
                The run that day was completed in four hour and twenty one minutes when I reached outside the colony gates at 8:44 AM.
                Next day, I had to home by 8 AM as I had to see off my daughter for her class. I planned to do as much as possible to beat the curfew time of 8 AM. Biscuit despite being given a count of three did not take my offer of the morning walk at 3:15 AM, preferring the air-conditioned sojourns of the bedroom. As a result I was at the gates at 3:28AM.
                The traffic was very sparse and I was toying with the idea of a full marathon before the cut off time of 8 AM. I was expecting to have a one on one with Mahatma Gandhi considering that I reached at 4:09 AM. Consider my disappointment when I found one gentlemen limbering up. He wishes me by name (do not know if he is ToI customer or the vernacular reader of the article about me!).
                As I crossed the Queen Mary’s College, I stopped to feed a cow which must have been surprised to get banana peel for starters instead of dessert, I spotted the gentleman with a bandana, who used to look the other way when I used to wish him on the run. He is a regular who is normally running in from Napier bridge when I am going the other way. Today he wished me and enquired as to why I was so early. I told him jocularly that I want to beat him to the beach one day in the morning. He said he wants to run fast like me. I said speed is one thing which no runner is satisfied with. Even Mo Farah thought they were slow. He then told me that he has been running for the last 40 years and used to run from Lighthouse to Parry’s and back, a distance of 15K. He said that he has reduced now with age and asked me to guess his age. He on his own proudly mentioned that he was 71 years young. I told him that we are supposed to give up all our attachments with age and reducing diet and distance could be the right thing. I guess it is easier to preach! If the pavement dweller was yesterday impressed at my 53, I got my recompense in the form of the 71 year old of 40 year running experience. How is that for keeping one humble and firmly grounded!
                To complete my lesson in humility, a young runner came alongside near the war memorial and after praising me glided past me effortlessly. My tired legs and pampered ego was no match to the youngster till I reached RBI. I was back at home at 7:49 AM with 11 minutes to spare.

                I was recently visited by an 81 year old sprightly man with a shoulder bag full of paper cuttings and medals. He spent an hour with me boasting of his perfectly intact teeth, spectacular spectacle-less vision. I was telling my wife who is into collecting articles about me and medals that I dread turning into an old man having to chew the cud of the past. I hope I continue to run, even if progressively slowing, without having to being reduced to only talk about running to live on!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Aaja Meri Gaadi Mein Baith Jaa!

Though I have been running fairly regularly (barring a few days) since my last visit to the internet, I have been keeping off blogging. I can live with one addiction, running, it cannot be that I start get withdrawal symptoms due to not blogging after a run! So, what brought on today’s foray to the net? There was a running theme through my run today which called for a post.
Started the run at 4:28 AM. Going by my encounter with Sundar​ a few day’s back, I must have been pretty close to his time of passing my house. Even though the roads on my route have  still not having been done with the botox treatment (read tarring!), largely, smooth roads and not much diversion is called for.
A new stray dog, which has still not presented its credentials to me on joining my beat, barked at me near the start of the Uttamar Gandhi Salai and I was still low on endorphins to take a sympathetic view of its indiscretion. It was too lazy to either follow me or take any further steps, and it went back to sleep after having registered its protest. Youngsters riding double/triple on bikes after the morning rituals for Ramzaan also got a grumpy response from me to their cat calls. I was behaving like Bertie on the morning after before having had one of the Jeeves Pick-me-ups!
The clouds have been doing lip service to the water problem of Chennai by delivering a token spray in the middle of the night. What would I not give for a full session of run in the rain. Nothing like the Hubli Light and Sound show of lightning and thunder with fierce rains in this part of the year. The run till Lighthouse was largely uneventful barring the usual lot of cyclists, runners and walkers exchanging courteous waves.
I had to miss my run yesterday as I had to go to the station in the morning to pick up my wife returning after a day’s visit to Bangalore. I was therefore surprised when one among a group of army men on their morning walk asked me as I passed him, ‘Baba, kabhi toh aaram kar liya karo’. Clearly, he was not marking attendance regularly.
On my way back from RBI, an auto-rickshaw slowed down beside me and the driver asked me to get into the auto for a drop to Lighthouse. I asked him if I look tired, he said ‘No’. He asked if I am practicing to be a Boxer? When I told him I am running for the joy of it, he did not look convinced.
Finally, after finishing my Marina beach stretch, when I was starting on my return leg near Gandhi statue, a friend (name unknown) asked if I would like to take a ride in his car till the Saravana Bhawan outlet. I usually greet him there on my return trip after the water break. I politely declined, but, switched on my smile and increased my pace a bit so that I do not attract any more offers of lift looking at my tired face!
I would like to believe that these offers of lift are more out of affection and claiming kinship with me than a reflection on show of tiredness on my face. The real test would be the back to back Full marathons planned for the weekend. Hope I can do them without offers of rigging from my well meaning friends!
I reached home at 7:45AM, a 3:17 32K, surely not a limping pace to attract calls for stretcher!