Monday, 31 August 2015

When Faith overran Passion on Marina!


Biscuit has made his intentions clear, his younger days of night out on the streets are over. If I need his company, it better be for warm down after my run rather than before the run. I will take some adjusting with nobody to blame for my hitting the snooze button and curling back in bed. I bunked today and am man enough to take the responsibility! I must learn the maturity from Biscuit to take a break from run more stoically and not mope over it.
The lethargy today could be the after effects of back to back marathons over the weekend. The situation was compounded by the lack of rest on Sunday as I had to play chauffer for better part of the day.
I had a Eureka moment during the run this Sunday. It is normal for me to be the target of catcall by youngsters riding double/triple on their fast bikes. I respond to them either by waving/smiling or sometimes by wild gesturing in anger depending on the state of mind and body. When I was called to attention by a transgender person politely inviting me for a cup of tea, I disregarded him and continued in my run. After a few minutes it struck me that my apathy/antipathy to these people is no different from the youngsters who jeer me because of the way I dress (differently from other runners). I turned back and politely told him that I do not drink tea (did not complicate the matter with the excuse of Veganism!). I realized that tolerance or acceptance of difference is not as simple as putting up a rainbow on facebook profile photo!
Many of the runners from the city having gone to Hyderabad for the marathon, the number at Marina in their yellow top uniform were smaller than usual. I witnessed a sea of light maroon (I hope my colour blind eyes got the colour right!) dressed men and women walking on the Marina with a purpose. There was TV crew interviewing the walkers. It turns out that these are devout on their annual pilgrimage to the Velankanni church. Some of the younger ones in these troupes also sniggered at my attire and barefoot, I was more broadminded in my response to their action.
My thoughts during the run were on my decision to avoid organized and paid events. I feel goal setting or participation in such events were for me seeking validation for my commitment to running and the pleasure of meeting like minded runners. Now I find enough runners and appreciative audience in my daily runs and I find no need to travel for it. Met Venkat Venkataraghavan​ on my run on Sunday and our discussion (or more like my monologue!) was on the topic of participation in events only.
A regular pavement sleeper was sleeping with gay abandon with his feet pointing in the direction of the Venkateswara temple, as if, challenging the devout in us to move it to the direction where there is no Lord! M S Amma still had not decided the track for the day to be sung to awaken the Lord from his beauty sleep.
There was company all through my three loops of running with Chennai runners upping the ante for the forthcoming Chennai marathon. I met the power puff girls ( Sita Viswanathan​ and Harishankar Krishnaswami​) twice on Saturday and from the time between the two meetings and the locations, it must have been a very long run. They were running strong!
When I was waiting for the signal to turn red at Gandhi statue, three Muslim gentlemen of middle age stopped to talk to me. After the usual questions of my age, diet and distance routine were out of the way, they asked me if I do not need to carry water on my long runs. I told them that I drink at AVM kalyana mantapam if I feel thirst, as I was that day. I told them that while it is nice of them to admire my stamina, what I found amazing was for them to be able to give up food/water completely from Sunrise to Sunset for a whole month every year. Faith is always one notch above passion! They agreed, but, said they had God on their side in support of their effort!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Garib(i) Hatao!


                Biscuit, my seven year old Labrador to the uninitiated, has been going through a mid-life crisis. He seems to question the virtues of morning and evening walks. Or, maybe, it may not be something that serious? The weather gods have been kind and a shower or two in the wee hours makes him see the joys of cosying up in the bed rather than roaming the staid colony with not much of a night life! He has been able to affect my discipline and I have had a few days off myself.
                Since my last post on Friday last, I have been able to run my usual quota on five of the maximum seven possible. The most remarkable run was on Monday when I had a good drizzle all through the run. I remembered the query most people have when they stop me in my run to ask if I do not feel thirsty during my run. I just had to stick out my tongue to practice rain water harvesting! I was reminded of the Japanese running monks who are stated to reach such exalted state of living that they were able to hear the ash fall from the incense stick and are able to draw moisture from the atmosphere when on fasting (goose bumps!). My aerodynamic head post the Gandhi-cut last week and rain cooled body made the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable. The beach pavement was very slippery and I took to the road to have a better grip.
                On another day, I saw a bunch of policemen with lathis rudely waking up the pavement dwellers from their sleep to clear out. I was encouraged by the smile from the leader of the police team to ask what this sprucing up was in aid of. I was informed that the Honorable CM was to pass by and the place was being sanitized. I remember telling him the story of ‘if you cannot remove Garibi, the sensibilities of the empathetic leader can be assuaged by the removal of Garibs’ I do not think he got the black humour, but, he did go easy on the stick and climbed down to using his throat power alone. I have seen similar action of sanitizing the posh Chanakyapuri area during the President of USA’s visit and most parts of Delhi during CWG games to save the visitors the blushes! Our God’s own country has descended with missionary zeal to cleanse the place of the Men’s best friends to make the tourists feel secure!

                The start of the Marathon season with the much awaited Hyderabad Marathon next Sunday after the summer vacation after the Auroville has the runners abuzz. Wish all the runners all the best on the Hills of Hyderabad!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Down but not out


After a forced break of four days, the juicy reason for the break to follow later, Biscuit and I walked out to a slight drizzle. The weather gods had clearly spent themselves out and the scene was like a bedroom after a teenager’s loud party. We were clearly hell bent to recommence play and the stray dogs peeped out anxiously from the security of under the parked Government cars like the padded up batsmen to go in after a rain interrupted play. Colony roads after rain were clearly no match to the Hubli Golf course after rains and Biscuit headed me back in quick time after his hurried ablutions!
After missing the run on the Independence day due to mobile malfunction (must confess it was actually because my wife switched off the alarm before I could wake up to it!), Biscuit has to take the blame for my oversleeping as he forced me to walk at midnight (His tryst with destiny at the midnight of Independence Day!). When I was walking Biscuit at 6 AM next, a gentleman entering the Railway Club (whom I do not recognize) rubbed it in when he asked ‘why I did not go for a run today’, thankfully Modiji had enough on his I-day address otherwise the Hubli Passenger’s failure to run on I-day could have made it to his ‘Mann Ki Baat’! That I had to fast from my running when my friends were running for 12 hours at Mumbai Ultra was adding insult to injury!
Given the disappointment surrounding the Saturday miss, that I would run on Sunday was as much a given as a India comeback in the Colombo test, and, I did not disappoint! It was a hot and humid day which welcomed me at the start. It was an early start as I had some personal work requiring me to be back by 7:30 AM.
In my first loop of the Island ground, I stopped to talk to three men who were talking among themselves about my regularity as I crossed them. They turned out to be the residents of the slum on the bank of Cooum at the start of Mount Road and they said that they were working on the stage set up for the I-Day event opposite the Fort St. George. They settled the issue of the number of loops I run opposite their place of work. The quietest of them wanted to know if I do not get out of breath, to which his colleague itself answered that I am in full control of my breath as I run slow. He advised me to carry a water sachet. The respect and affection of the common people is really flattering. I later crossed them in my second loop outside Fort St. George.
Just when I was all puffed up with all the adulation, I did a Shibani​ when I was turning back after reaching KM 20, the intersection of Mount Road and Sivananda Salai. I refer to the incident of my fall as that not because I had scratches on my knees, hands and shoulder, but, because I could get up and complete my run like she did at Bangalore stadium run! I seemed to have proved the adage ‘Pride goeth before a fall’.
Since the injuries did not seem as serious as my previous fall on the Marina which required stitches on my sole, I was able to observe myself a bit detatchedly this time. The first reaction after a fall is to see if anybody has observed me fall (this I call the check for hurt Ego!), luckily not many on the road at that time and a few there were had more on their mind than laughing at my fall! I had tripped on the reflectors which protrude out in the middle and edge of the road. My left toe had indulged in a Mukka-Laat with a reflector. I checked for damages, there was blood welling up on both the knees and the shoulder had an angry bruise. The sole of left foot had been stunned by the impact. There was no break in the skin, but, it was the most painful.
I tried to run slowly, after a few steps, I was able to manage a steady run. I decided that I would complete the regular route and If I could keep running without a stop, I would reach home the fastest to lick my wounds at leisure. The bleeding points screamed when sweat started to course through them. I was conscious of every person crossing me on the return trip. Nobody seemed to have seen my bleeding knees. I got a wash at my watering point. Luckily my friend, the guard at Saravana Bhawan was not on duty as I would have had to make a lot of explanations. I reached home and the walk from Gate to the house made all the aches and pains grow multifold. My wife and Daughter must have been pre-occupied or I was brave, I could hide the injuries till evening when I made a voluntary confession before she found out and imposed a longer curfew/grounding This injury also gave me an opportunity to test my healing speed after going Vegan. The legendary stories of Scott Jurek taking much more serious injuries gave me the courage to stay away from reporting to a Doctor. It took me four days to heal enough to be able to go for a run again today!
I used this break to catch up on my spinning (longer sessions) and reading. I have nearly completed P Sainath’s book ‘Everybody loves a good drought’. I was telling my daughter that had I been a twenty years younger when I read this book, I would have become a naxalite instead of a Gandhian. The sensitivity and empathy with which the author has dealt the cruelty the conventional ‘Development’ is wreaking on the bottom of the pyramid is heart wrenching. I can never look at my runs with any pride knowing underfed people do much more routinely for eke out their daily needs. All the talk of Carbo-loading before a half marathon followed by a Beer thereafter  looks childish when I read about a girl weighing less than 40Kg lugs 40kgs of firewood for 30 kms twice a week on treacherous trails for keeping her body and soul together. The best thing about the book was the humour and heartwarming stories of courage and resilience of the common people in the face of natural and manmade extreme adversities! I really agree with the author, if only our people get their basic requirements the sky would be the limit of their achievements!
Today’s run was done at an easy pace in a pleasant shower. Even though I had to carry wet clothes on myself, the run was very enjoyable. I was missed by Ram Rajagopalan​ in his morning spins and today we exchanged notes about our injuries. I got a good pedicure for my feet and the soles were washed clean by the wet roads. I avoided the slippery sidewalk on the Marina and ran on the Beach road. The attendance among the runners and cyclists was really thin. When I finished the run in 3:26 it was the satisfaction of starting after a break and promise of more over the weekend!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Dress rehearsal


                The mandatory Biscuit Puranam first! All this pampering is getting to his head. Today he refused to come out of bed for his morning walk despite calling twice. Third time just before giving up like the third and final boarding call when I entered at 4:10 AM, he deigned to look up at me and showed no intent of coming out with me. This must be the only second time in his whole life that he has done this. For the record, he is perfectly okay, had his normal meal and is behaving as if nothing has happened. Maybe, he has taken Dr. Kalam’s (or was it Chetan Bhagat’s!) advice not to take life seriously and that it is okay to bunk classes once in a while!
                Biscuit’s bunk made me feel uncomfortable, I am not much of a warm up guy, and the missed walk made me feel at the beginning of my run like a cold start. Added to this my right thigh has been playing up. Both yesterday and today, I was hell bent that slow run it shall be before the right leg agreed to co-operate and pull its weight. The engine started operating twin stroke somewhere before Gemini flyover.
                After reading Scott Jurek’s book, Eat and Run, I learnt that even though it is okay to breathe through nose/mouth or both, but, for a truly relaxed run, one must attempt while breathing through the nose only. Having decided to run only 32K and the starts of 4:26AM yesterday and 4:12 AM today meant, I could have a real relaxed run!
                I had the company of my RPF (Railway Protection Force) constable for my run from Lighthouse to Labour statue. He enquired about my absence the previous week and I was able to boast to him about my 24 Hour run in Bangalore. He was suitably impressed and there was no attempt by him to race me. As a result both of us had a steady but relaxed run.
There was heavy mobilization of Traffic policemen on the Rajaji salai opposite Fort St. George, the seat of power till the RBI. Today one half of the road was neatly stripped of the top layer, much like Hanuman with his chest torn open to show its devotion for the popular CM. At the RBI end, one of the traffic policeman came up to me and after the usual questions about age, mileage, tried to advise me to run on the edge of the road. Before I could give him the reply, his senior came up and gave the answer (that I usually give, it must have now been included in their training school!) and said that everyone knows me and it is okay as long as I keep close to the divider. I hope he does not get in trouble with his seniors!
As I was about to get on to the Napier bridge after my second loop yesterday, a policeman asked if I would come for one more loop. He was relieved when I said that I was done for the day, as CM was expected any time, so I can claim that Amma cut my run short yesterday.
Today after a long time I took the island ground loop including Sivananda road thereby avoiding the dug up Rajaji salai on the second loop from Napier bridge to RBI and back. The Sivananda Road stretch has been well laid out and is very pleasant to the feet.
I have been thinking to write about these two people one lady runner and another one a cyclist for a long time. The lady runs dressed from head to toe in the Muslim attire and effortlessly, the guy wears the saffron dhoti and rides equally comfortably. They seem to make a statement that we all are united in our quest for the morning dose of endorphins together. She definitely makes me feel very under-dressed!
Yesterday, the BPCL outlet on Cathedral Road had gotten into I-day mode with instrumental music playing softly. Today, the music had fallen silent. I hope we get good patriotic songs to run on!
If I had thought I had befriended the traffic policemen ilk, I was mistaken. I was pulled up before Gemini flyover with the insistent guardian of law asking me to take the edge of the road yesterday. It was like a punishment for my then tired soles. The argument continues…

If I took 3:21 hours yesterday, I really had an easy one at 3:33 hours today. Looking forward to the I-day run tomorrow, hope the Khaas Aadmis leave some room on the Marina for us Aam runners. I shall be running thinking of the blast my runner friends would be having at the 12 hour run in Mumbai! All the best, Mumbai 12 hour runners!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Trying to get the rhythm going


                Must start with the customary and popular ode to Biscuit’s antics. Bowing to public disapprobation, Biscuit has gotten back to the traditional diet of Rice, pulses and vegetables. But, he is far from giving up buttermilk/curd. The familiarization process with the new additions to the colony canine population continues. Despite the overnight showers having forced the Biscuit baiters to the security of undercarriages of parked cars and garages, the intrepid black dog did register his protest which Biscuit disregarded with √©lan. Tiggy, could not be bothered out of his recommended daily dose of eight of the best! Biscuit is finding the concrete jungle of a colony a little cramping for his majestic walks, as a result, he is being economical with his daily walks. I on my part keen on the early start for my morning run have not been forcing him enough. The squirrel and crow have struck a compromise of a virtual ‘No war pact’ effectively cutting down another avenue of some aerobic exercise. If you call his shouting jugalbandi with neighbor Simba any exercise, that is all he is getting!
                Yesterday I had the ignominy of having to pull out of the run after a few steps due to a thigh strain. Wife had to be summoned on her mobile to let me in without waking up the household. It was a 4 AM start today and testing of the right thigh in the early part of the run signaled some tenderness, but, nothing which would not be masked by a few swigs of the friendly endorphins.
                Watched the vendors of Chukku-kaapi (a concoction of dried ginger, coriander seeds boiled in water, a healthy coffee!) pedaling back home after keeping the guards awake through the night. My respect for these good Samaritans has gone up after their losing battle against the popular liquor outlets of TASMAC has received a boost with the entire opposition in the state demanding prohibition. Some of these vendors have started recognizing me and we exchange greetings, but, they know they have no hope of marketing their produce to me!
                This incident from previous day’s run got missed out. I witnessed a policeman violently shaking an auto driver by his hair asking for his papers. The policeman seemed insulted at the amount offered by the auto-driver. It looked like a case of negotiations for the EWI (Equated Weekly Instalment!) having broken down. I stopped to intervene and was surprised to see both the victim and the aggressor getting together to assure me that nothing was wrong. I felt uneasy for quite some time. I asked a few dapper looking walkers (regulars and my waving acquaintances) if they could intervene. Sadly, this was happening right under the nose of S C Bose statue. I do not seem to have the courage to confront wrong doers, I guess copying Gandhi’s attire alone is not enough!
                Today’s start was later than affording me a chance for a full marathon, but, gave me the luxury of a leisurely 32K with lot of time to linger over the newspaper and bath on return.
                Usually, a big van ferrying chicks to their doom crosses me every day and I am only able to make it out from the stench of their feaces. Today, the vehicle was parked near the war memorial, the tired and cooped up hens next to the war memorial decking up for Independence day made a somber and ironic spectacle. In my endorphin heightened state of doing good to all and sundry, I was tempted to request the driver to let them off and not be a party to the mass slaughter. Better sense prevailed!

                The overnight rain, clouded weather and a light breeze made the run very pleasant. But for the late start and the fear of a busy road in the return direction, I was tempted to carry on for a full marathon. I settled for a relaxed run to reach the colony gates at 7:29 AM. Good news is that the I-Day celebrations at office are scheduled at 10 AM, that should give me enough time for a leisurely full on that day! Personal work on Sunday means I have to miss the Independence Day 12 hour run at Mumbai. All the best to all 12 hour runners on August 15th, will run here thinking of you all!

Monday, 10 August 2015

A runner to every Chennaiyan!


Some footage to Biscuit, my seven year young Labrador, is overdue. He has been a bit moody and is picking on his food the last few days. So, back to Pedigree it is for him. He is also quaffing on Curds like a reforming drunkard hitting the bottle with a vengeance after an unsuccessful attempt at quitting. A family of young dogs (four of them) with no adult has recently moved into the colony. They are giving vocal ground support to the atmospherics Tiggy (Biscuit’s combative Rottweiler neighbor from the other colony, familiar to the faithful following their epic exchanges!) provides from his first floor balcony. Biscuit has been giving them all a tolerant silent treatment. Biscuit has recently made friends with twin girls whose idea of friendliness at present is approaching him from the rear and placing green leaves on his back. They have got to the extent of brushing off the leaves without touching his body. Biscuit is giving them time to approach him at their pace!    
Back to my running saga, probably I wanted to satisfy myself that there was nothing serious with my foot. The moment swelling and pain went down and one day of rest without painkiller drove me back to test my limit on the 6th August. After that I have been guilty of being irregular in my morning runs, I can only blame it on the long gap after the 24 hour run and the accolades getting to my head. The only other drug as heady as the endorphin is the ‘likes’ on facebook!
                I must have been a little low on motivation to run the usual daily distance after the marathon 24 hour run. I have been able to turn in two standard marathons one each on Saturday and latest today! The missing run on Sunday (blasphemy for any runner worth his salt!) was also Biscuit’s doing. He got me up in the middle of the night on a false alarm and after sniffing around for a while let me get back to bed after half an hour. In the process I missed the alarm and woke up too late. Sunday, usually a day of lazing and hogging turned out to be a day of guilt tripping while gorging on my Anatole’s delicacy (read my wife!).
The Saturday run was in a cloudy, but, breezy morning and I turned in a 4:21 full marathon. I was kept away from taking rest after the run as there was an official engagement between 1PM and 4 PM. The Sunday fiasco of oversleeping could also be partly due to insufficient rest after FM on Saturday!
Fully rested on Sunday and bloated with hogging, I decided to get even today. I started early at 3:48 AM intent on completing a full. This would be fresh ground broken as I haven’t been able to run a full marathon on a working day after moving to Chennai.
A pavement dweller sitting on the divider at the start of the Uttamar Gandhi Salai opposite Hotel Sangeeta called me to help him guide a truck driver who wanted to reach Mount road. After seeing him off on his way, my new found friend wanted to shake my hand. He told me that he has read about me in a magazine (reach of the vernacular medium!). I tried to be civil to him and enquired about his amputated foot. He mentioned it was due to accident, but, refused to tell me his age. I must tell my wife not to bother about my running in the early hours, I seem to have friends from all walks of life!
Today, a divider occupant near the slum at the start of the Mount road, took time off from his ‘Dum pe charcha’ with is friends and asked me why I was late. I told him I was running longer due to my bunked Sunday. I have now realized this is people’s way of showing off to their friends that they are friendly with me. He told his friends to try and run with me. I told him what I tell all others who try to pull the leg of their friends by daring them to run with me, You first throw the cigarette butt away and join me for a run, your friends will then most likely follow your advice!
Today my thoughts during the relaxed run was the book I am reading now, ‘Eat and Run’, by Ultra running legend Scott Jurek. Though I am not even a small candle to his exploits, I am surprised by similar results of quicker recovery and lesser soreness after run I have also been experiencing after turning Vegan. We, however, seem to differ on going barefoot. His prescription stopping short at landing sofly on midfoot/forefoot and practicing mindful running. I am in the process of first reading, will do an encore more leisurely!
With no competitor to rush me, I ran a very leisurely pace. I tried breathing in and out only through nose. I still finished in 4:23, reaching the colony gates as late as 8:11 AM. If good weather persists, may be able to turn in more full marathons on working days too! That way, I may stop missing Hubli runs, maybe!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Ring a ring o roses


 I must have been 12 or 13 years old when we were told that a man is going to ride a bicycle for 7 days at a stretch without stopping the cycle or getting down. When I first went to see it, the image of a lean and thin man going around on his bicycle (not the jazzy cycles the exercising people use today!) around a pole holding up a small tent with the loudspeaker beating out popular movie songs (the repeated playing of ‘Jeevan Chalne ka naam’!) is ever fresh in my mind. I am told the youth was motivated by cash collected in the box kept in the pandal for treatment of his sick relative. We used to go and see it every day morning before school and evening after school. We were particularly fascinated by how he took bath and changed clothes (also, biological breaks!), which were managed without bringing the cycle to a halt and with his accomplices covering him with a tent of old bedsheets for privacy.
 When I provoked Dharmendra​ and Nagaraj Adiga​ Sir after the 12 hour stadium run in Bangalore last year for a 24 hour run and I agreed to go for it this year, I was looking for a motivation for doing the run, i.e., going round in circles for 24 hours. I have stopped participating in events for timing or for money (not that I am any express material, the sobriquet of Hubli Express given to me by my admirers notwithstanding!). I took up this challenge chiefly for the following reasons;
 The event would give me a chance to take on the goddess of sleep (look for the original story of Lakshmana with the able support of Urmila his wife in Ramayana and how he overcame sleep to slay Meghanath!) even if for one night. Interestingly, my better half (who could not come to aid and abet me in my foolhardy venture!) has been complaining of feeling sleepy as if she has run 24 hours and,
The unfinished agenda of 100 miles we set out as a team to conquer from Mysore to Bangalore and failed.
The indoor track on which the run is conducted is barefoot friendly. The farthest point you are from an aid station at any given point of time is not more than 200m. This means one can run without carrying any baggage!
The famous hospitality and care of team @Nagaraj was always a factor to make anyone to do anything howsoever crazy!
Having done and dusted the 24 hour run, I must say that most of the objectives were fully met despite some slippages which were entirely my weaknesses.
Let me begin at the very beginning, my wife applied a veto to my Gandhian object of travelling by sleeper class and I was forced to book by AC-II tier (I travel by AC only for long official journeys or while traveling with family!). I accepted it as a small climb down for the larger aim of running. I had the company of Bib Bala and his family in both the outward and return journey.
We reached the hotel before 6 AM and I got in a little sleep. A nice long bath and a session of spinning with tea followed. Since the breakfast on the first day was not included in the fare, and, I was not in a mood to go out with Bala for breakfast, I opted for the complimentary fruit basket (only bananas) to sustain me till an early lunch. The hotel staff took me literally and I was embarrassed when a hotel attendant walked in ceremoniously with a big plate bearing two small yellaki balehannu (a very tasty but small variety of banana famous in Karnataka!). I for one prefer the bigger Robusta variety for my energy for the run. I was anyway hoping for an early lunch to be light at the start of the run. A group of runners were in my room in what was a pre race briefing with each exchanging experience since our last meeting.
We all assembled in the press meet which turned out more like an informal chat with the Race director and introduction of the runners. The race director Nagaraj Sir, read out the riot act about the need for following discipline in eating, hydrating and timely check up. He singled me out for special mention as I had had a sever cramp in the previous 12 hour edition of the same event. I was already suitable chastened by my wife and wanted to be careful in my run this time. A word about Mr. Nagaraj would be in order here, he is tough on the outside and it is evident for people who have associated with him for long that it is out of affection and for the well being of the participants under his charge during the event. I think it comes with the turf, I found the same streak in Kavitha Kanaparthi​ when she addressed the participants before the start of the Nilgiris Ultra. We runners tend to get carried away as a group sometimes to the detriment of our own health and safety!
Looking to the experience of the group which had assembled, I remember having commented to Aparna Choudhary​ (the only female participant who dared to run the 24 hour, though I know she hates to be singled out for her gender, and she belonged to the group head and shoulders above some of us for her sheer ability and experience!) that the combined mileage sitting in the room is mind boggling. The way the participants were chatting on about the menu to be served during the run, you could not make out the toughness of each of the participant.
The age of the participants varied from a barely 20 Inderpal Khalsa​ to nearing retirement Suresh Pillai​. Arun Bhardwaj​ with his past experience and Anil Gujjar with his speed in the past edition were the cynosure of all eyes. What was perfectly elevating for me was that the manager and one attendant at the hotel recognized me from the premier event of Ash Nath​'s movie about runners ‘Two feet to fly’ and wished me luck for the coming event. The attendant got me black coffee when he knew that I do not take coffee/tea with milk!
I had a lunch of Rice (with some sun dried tomatoes and broccoli) and potatoes and spinach vegetable, all other items were strictly off a Vegan’s menu! It was almost 1.45 PM by the time I got to the safety of my room. In the meanwhile, my roommate Abbas Sheikh​ had joined me. I set the alarm for 4 PM and went on to take a short nap. The night of remaining awake to follow was scaring me.  I had a small session on charkha with a few cups of black tea and reached the lobby at 4:45 PM as our reporting time for medical check up before the run at 6 PM was to be 5 PM. We all walked to the stadium from the hotel.
The head of the medical team from Fortis himself turned out to be a runner and running enthusiast. We all came back after a quick check up parroting our scores like school children after receiving their report card. I had a BP of 130/90, a little too high for my liking, maybe, I was tense before the run. Ankush set the ball rolling with his thunderous invocation and we promptly set off at 6 PM. This time we were to run with a timing chip and lap count was to happen electronically ( I remember last time there was lot of confusion in laps run!). I was happy that the band on the timing chip was black and so even though I could not pursue the idea of dedicating this run to the departed people’s president, Dr. Abdul Kalam, I had the satisfaction of wearing this chip as a black band on my feet (if only this band tied around the arm could have worked!).
Dharma was approaching his birthday in six hours time, cake cutting and the mandatory messing up of his face was already done in the press meet. Bala’s daughter did enjoy the piece of cake I got her, at least one piece was justifiably well spent! The dream of running to a near full moon in attendance was thwarted by a cloudy sky. The only saving grace was the light drizzle to keep the temperatures down and the body dry. One other advantage was that the cloudy sky promised that the night would not become too cold as the cloud cover traps the heat reflected from the ground. I was able to run the entire night topless in my shorts. Steady rain and breeze made the run pleasant.
The runners were required to change directions every hour to break the monotony as also to compensate for the banking and camber which makes the runner favour one side of the body. Soon we were looking forward to the first medical break. The enthusiastic volunteers, young college kids, were too eager to ply us with energy drinks, dates, jiggery and chikki. Nagaraj Sir, was waylaying runners at regular intervals near the aid station and force feeding them. My wife need not have bothered about my hydration and nutrition with the race director being so dictatorial in his affection! Even the committed spectators had gone to bed. Only Ankush and the Race director were left herding the devout runners. In three hours, I had put in a few laps short of 30K and I got worried that I may be guilty over speeding, I was conscious of the brakes the villain Sun would apply in the second innings come 7 AM! We had a dinner break with self settling for rice and Dal, the Dal was a little too spicy for my comfort. This was advance loading as the elaborate lunch had been fully countered by the body yet.
The first medical checkup went off fine, with a little argument I was able to stave off the blood sugar pricking of the finger. My weight was one Kg down from the 57Kg at the start (to me it was less luggage more comfort!). The doctor was fine with it, but, I was praying Nagaraj Sir did not notice it. The BP improved at 120/90. Heart rate was at 80. I lingered a little longer in the spare bed and we were out in about 15 minutes. Ankush had warned us of the break in music and announcements during the night from 10PM to 6 AM due to permission issues. In fact the quiet stadium with only nominal lights on a cloudy night was perfect for introspective run.
Even this small break had cooled our core down, I was stiff and shivering when I started. Dharam advised to start with a walk and gently break into a run. Within a lap I was fine and cruising. Meanwhile, Anil Gujjar and Arun Sir were piling on the agony. I was into a nice rhythm and was enjoying the run in the rain. Interestingly, sleep did not bother me then. I was biding my time till 2 PM, when I was hoping my normal wake up rhythm would set in. I remember Dharam and  Santhosh C Padmanabhan​ encouraging me with those magic words. I was missing Biscuit’s company badly.
The weather having increased and reduced the rain setting to high and low kept us cool and comfortable. The barefoot proved a boon when compared to squishy shoes of other shod runners passing me by. The mat was well hydrated and felt like a well wet astro turf to the feet. The khadi wear was not too heavy with wetness and I was very comfortable. With the steady breathing, I was assured that I was not over stressing my heart. The 2 PM medical break was better planned with runners being called for check up in ones and twos to avoid crowding in the medical tent. The medical venue had shifted to the room behind the announcement desk from the tent on the field. The medical results proved my feeling right, but for the weight climbing up a kg thanks to food break, the BP and heart rate had remained the same and I cleared my medicals quickly.
I felt cheated at not having taken a break as the next medical and mandatory break at 5:50 AM for allowing the full track for the 12 hour run start was nearly 4 hours away. When crossing Jagdish Damania​ I could not keep from commenting that we both had made tremendous progress compared to the previous year when comparing how strong we were at 6 hours in to the run. Part of the credit must go to the wonderful weather. The memory of the next six hours is a haze as the body ran unmindful of the passing of the time. The ever alert smiling kids at the aid station and Nagaraj Sir feeding us like mothers often feed playing kids without disturbing their play.
Around 5 AM, other set of runners who choose the second half to run 12 hours and the relay runners started assembling. We were given rousing cheers and the 5 AM change of direction gave us a good feeling of last hour before a mandatory check up and medical break. I do not remember at which point the giant display board was to light up and the lap count was to show up on real time basis. I was not able to read the number of laps or the names because I do not wear my spectacles during the run, however, I could hear the announcements which announced the respective positions and number of laps. Since this came with a time lag and even if I took the position once, I was not able to keep count beyond a few loops. I think I was running in my sleep and the only steering control I was capable of was the mandatory turning every 100 meters and crossing slower runners or giving way to faster runners.
Milind Soman​ was not running at his full throttle, must have not recovered fully from his recent Ironman experience. Every time I crossed him, he greeted me with a ‘Bam-2 Bhole, Jai Bhole’. Initially I thought he was invoking Lord Shiva (who is lovingly called Bhole by his devotees!) because my name, Vishwanathan, is another name for the Lord. It later turned out he was invoking his favorite with every runner!
There was an interesting exchange with Aparna about this greeting by Milind. I explained to her why Lord Shiva is called Bhole (meaning innocent in Hindi). He is supposed to be very innocent and ended up in giving boons to thoroughly undeserving and devious people. All the villains from Ravana, Bhasmasur etc. who were perfectly god fearing, learned people turned villainous after securing a, what they thought, invincibility boon from Lord Shiva. Thereafter, it took the combined might of his two other partners of the trinity, Brahma and Vishnu, to get the world out of harms way by neutralizing the boon.
Now while scanning Nagaraj Sir’s facebook page I find that I had done, 115 laps (46Km) by 11PM (5 hours, avg. 9.2Kmph), 186 laps (74.4Km) by 3 AM (9 hrs, 8.27 Kmph) and 220 laps (88Km) by 5 AM (11 hrs, 8 Kmph). My relative position always was within the top three which I could make out from my long name.
I had a half an hours rest starting from 5:50 AM to 6.30 AM which included my stopping to cheer the participants of the 12 hour run at their start point and the medical checkup followed by a short nap. I did not stop for a breakfast as hot idlis were promised in a short while. The Sun was welcome as it woke me up, but, true to its villainous character it started teasing and finally scorching me as the day progressed. I do not remember whether it was 7 AM or 8 AM, when Nagaraj Sir, literally pulled us off the track to feed us hot idlis. I gobbled 5 idlis. I was however worried about the backlash from the spicy chutney, I should not have given in to the temptation and stuck to sugar as I did last year. There is no point in crying over consumed chutney. I ran carefully after the break mindful of the coming reflux. Luckily, it stayed down and the stomach did manage to digest it. I was also blessed to have been able to take a dump early in the morning in the porta-loo. With this I had successfully conquered the sleep (at least for the night) and the loo-visit, so far so good!
The brisk and chirpy younger lot of 12 hour runners sharing the first three track with us meant more energy to us, but, also more runners crossing and being crossed. The relay runners on the next three tracks were simply burning the tracks. It looked like the long distance trains on the inner tracks were being overtaken by the faster suburban trains. The runners who were running sometimes with their families were making up the outermost two tracks. The children particularly Udaya Napa​'s daughter gave me good company. She told me she had done six laps. Many known faces exchanged greetings and I can only claim old age for my defense of not remembering all of them by name. The greetings and cheer every loop was like energy boosters to the aching and tiring body. Around 10.15 AM (16.15 hrs), I had done 297 laps (118.8Km, 7.3 Kmph). The average speed had been constantly dropping but I was running steadily. The breaks just got more frequent and longer. The sun was now burning my neck and shoulders. I did not even have the presence of mind to take the cap and cover my neck/shoulders with a wet cloth (wife was missed sorely, this struck me only when my wife asked me why I did not do so while applying fresh aloe vera sap the next day to the mauled portion!). Luckily, I did not wet that portion during the run (my ability to bear pain seems to have gone up!). The chafing of the tender portion by the straps of the goody bag the next day had made it gory by the time it was put up for inspection of my daughter and wife.
Now I must introduce Santosh into the narrative, who was pacing Mani and had dropped to the sidelines after 6 AM and started encouraging me actively. He was anyway goading me on with kind words all through the night. Around 12 Noon (18 hrs), when I took a break I saw that I had been shown as having completed 324 laps (129.6 Km, 7.2 Kmph). Now the breaks got too very frequent and mind games became fierce. I wanted to just give up and take a loooong nap. Next two hours of running was purely because of Santosh’s goading. Next I remember was when I had started to walk (which to me is abject surrender, being from the Murakami school of running!). Santosh, failing to motivate me with podium or distance gave me a real gem. He said that most spectators were really rooting for me and that I should not disappoint them.
Fellow runners were very kind to me all through the run, encouraging me every time I crossed them. The youngster, Inder was the most verbal and vocal in his cheering, alternating between Jai Mata Di, Bharat Mata ki Jai and Aap Eighth wonder ho Sir, etc. More than any medal or reward, earning the respect of fellow participants is of importance to me. I shall treasure the praise lavished by Santosh, Arun especially and countless fellow runners and spectators during the run.
I particularly enjoyed running in tandem with Arun and Navin at various times in the run and it was a real honour leading them, those bursts of energy were the best part of the run for me. Scientifically minded Natasha Ramarathnam​ may split hair and say that I gave away the advantage to the trailing runners, but, I was never one to split hair or count pennies!
 Around 2.30 PM, Arun told me that I should aim for 160 Km mark, which was quiet achievable as I had about 38 more laps to be done in three and a half hour. By now team pacemakers were firmly ensconced on one side of the track (opposite to the announcing dias!) and were cheering me every lap. Seeing Pani Sir, really energized me. Ajit Tandur, another good friend was their supporting his Mysore team. I told Brajesh and Dharma that I will try for the 160 Km to make good the failure to hit 100 miles in the earlier attempt In the Bangalore Mysore run with them.
The spectators particularly, opposite the aid station were giving me a rousing cheer on completing every lap. Next two hours was very productive and I had brought down the asking rate to 13 laps in the next 90 minutes. In the interim period I had every spectator and the aid station boys to keep updating me on my lap count. I was not able to keep count on my own (I don’t know if I was losing my mind!). By 5 PM I had only a few laps left to complete 400 laps which I accomplished by 5:15 PM. I suddenly discovered that my left foot had swollen and I had to pull out.
I walked the next few laps limping much to the disappointment of my cheering fans. I had the finish the event walking which shall remain a disappointment for me, this spoilt the joy of having completed 160K and without cramps. What broke my heart was the request from some fans if I could not at least run the last lap. Milind looked at my swollen foot and cautioned me that it could be stress fracture. I decided that discretion is the better part of valour and walked around soaking in the cheers like a preponed victory lap.
The last direction change at 5 PM had meant that we runners were going clockwise at the time of finish thereby the loudest cheering squad was rendered ineffective as it was too far away from the finishing athletes. This needs to be adjusted from the next edition.
What followed was a finisher’s medal around my neck and my walk like a zombie to collect my bag from the baggage counter for my slippers. Many people walked up and shook my hand and I must not have come out as an enthusiastic respondent. Being the third position meant I had to stand on the podium for the longest duration. Even standing at the small height which the bronze medalist gets to stand at was becoming a strain for me. I was feeling dizzy, I somehow managed to hang on till Navin an Arun got on to the podium. I was yawning uncontrollably and was not able to keep my eyes open. I swooned and made to fall and the Gallant and ever watchful Nagaraj caught me mid-air. I collapsed on the bed in the medical tent. I was really scared as the doctor’s checked for my vital statistics. The prick on the finger for blood sugar examination which I valiantly fought off the whole day was finally performed by the smiling lady doctor. I was told that all the signs were perfect. Then I sat up and Doctors and paramedics sat around me for a photo-op, they assured me that I was perfectly ok, but, I collapsed in a heap on the bed barely able to keep my eyes open. Nagaraj was watching and I was afraid that I was in for a night at some hospital instead of the train to Chennai. Luckily for me on saying that Bala and his family were travelling with me, the race director relented and sent me off in his car with a thick blanket to the hotel. Further ignominy awaited me at the hotel as I was not able to stand after getting down from the car. The friendly attendants at the hotel who had cheerfully seen me off for the run the previous evening wheeled me to my room and I collapsed on my bed. Bala covered me in my room mate’s quilt. The time was about 7:45 PM, I had not been able to call my wife or return calls from my brother or Bhupender (a runner friend). My Doctor brother was worried. I was however confident that a few hours sleep would get me fine. It was more a hope than conviction now. Bala stayed in my room as I used the Loo with instructions for me to not lock the door, clearly I must not have been looking good. One hour of sleep later I was fit enough to walk to the shower and a long hot shower made me feel better. I was now confident of making it home. Meanwhile, my wife had been told all the good news of podium finish and prizes, keeping away the swooning part. I told my brother that I was better when he called next at 9 PM. Timely help from Bala and Nagaraj saw me through, but, I missed all the fun of the presentation party. I could not even formally thank Nagaraj, his team of organizers and the volunteers.
As I go to press there is more good news to report. The swollen foot turned out to be a benign sprain. It definitely had the effect of surprising the Medical Director and the Ortho specialist when I walked in announcing the distance and time for which I ran. Surely, I could not have got a clearance for the run at my age if I had asked for it before the run. The swelling has come down with two days of pain killers and a raised foot. The sun burnt neck and shoulders required just a day of ministration from my wife and daughter. Three days of rest (one complete at home, two at office) got back the Hubli Passenger back on its usual run today. As a bonus I had Sundar Purush​’s company for the run today. The ‘Run pe Charcha’ of today with Sundar shall be a subject matter of another blog.
This is one event which keeps me from sticking to my vow of no organized runs by sheer joy it gives in the run and end to end comfort being taken care by the team Nagaraj. Heartfelt thanks to you and your able team Sir!