Joyous Running: The Year Running Became a Part of my Life
<Very Long post. very self-indulgent too. You’ve been warned>
I ended my post on my first Full Marathon at Bombay (SCMM) in January last year with, ‘ I don’t know if I’ll ever run a FM again. Maybe I’ll shoot for a sub-4 hour goal, maybe I’ll be happy running only Halfs.. I really don’t know’
After the last running season ended with the beautiful trail at Auroville in February (where I ran a half), my running spluttered and then pretty much came to a halt. Was out on travel during the TCS 10K in May, so there was no motivation to continue training in the summer. True to type, I said to myself. Cycling had always been the thing I really enjoyed, and I was happy with my daily commute to work and looked forward to the occasional weekend long rides. Running was soon consigned to the back burner.
Then the new season beckoned with the Kaveri Trail marathon at Srirangapatana in mid-Sept. My sloth-like training routine didn’t show much life, even after the arrival of a new pair of fluorescent neon shoes that I was pretty kicked about. A calf strain also played its part, with even walking becoming a painful affair at times. Courtesy a couple of my friends (thanks, I & H!), got pushed into a few weekend 10-15Ks, and managed to finish a half marathon at KTM a couple of minutes faster than my last year’s timing there.
By now, registrations for SCMM 2014 had opened, and I had bravely signed up for a FM again. I had run last year’s SCMM in 4:35, and picked a goal of cutting my time by 20 minutes for this year. 20 was an arbitrarily plucked number, and I wasn’t really sure if I’d do anything different to get to it. B, my running guide & mentor, was quite shocked to know that I ran my FM last year without having done a 100KM training mileage month ever (anyone serious about training for a marathon does a minimum of 150 – 160KM per month for 3-4 months). Like I wrote, I didn’t expect to finish last time – some inspiration, some luck, whatever.
Being the gracious and generous soul that he is, B diligently chalked out a customized 16-week SCMM 2014 training plan for me, with a sub 4:15 goal. Reducing over 20 minutes meant that on race day, I had to run each kilometre 30 seconds faster than last year on average, and do that consistently over 42.2 KMs. B advocates a training philosophy known as ‘Run Less, Run Faster’. It involves 3 training runs a week, with each one focused towards a specific goal. Given my lazy disposition, there was no way I could’ve kept up with most conventional running plans which talk of 5-6 days of weekly running (which is where the ‘Less’ in RLRF comes in). So this seemed like a good thing to try out. (RLRF also includes 2 days of cross training, but that’s a bit much for me).
The first week was a non-starter because we were on vacation in Sri Lanka at the time (did do a lovely beach run though). But since then, I have managed to stick to my training plan for the most part, give or take a few runs missed because of muscle strains or travel. More importantly, I haven’t missed a single long weekend run for the last 12 weeks.
Don’t how it happened, but somewhere along the way, something inside clicked…. 3 years after I started, running has now become an integral part of my life.
In his cultish ode to barefoot running, Born To Run, writer Christopher McDougall talks about how the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico embody the spirit of joyous running, when running doesn’t seem like a draining, physical chore, but something that nourishes your soul.
I am undecided as yet on taking up barefoot running, but I looked at pictures of mine from last year’s Bangalore Ultra (left) and the one this time (right) – insignificant sample size I know, but really illustrates the change I feel within. Another trivial trend – till last year, when the morning alarm rang, I used to curse, find excuses to push my run to another day, etc. These days, I am usually mentally awake a few minutes before the alarm goes off, and love the silence and solitude of the morning as I get ready for my run. I’ve also noticed that if I don’t run for a few days, I feel a bit low, get tetchy, irritable (V can attest to this). The surge of endorphins on a consistent basis is doing wonders for my life, in general.
For me atleast, Runners high is not a touchy-feely, feel-good myth. Running, these days, fills me with joy.
And like these things tend to happen, when you’re feeling good, serendipity gives you a little nudge too. Through a casual conversation, I was very lucky this season to discover Dr. G, who’s now my physio cum miracle-man. With his uncanny understanding of muscle and bone structure, Doc got me out of my perennial cycle of injury and rehab. He correctly identified that the root cause of all my injury problems was that I had abysmally low joint and muscle flexibility (the first time he made me do some stretching exercises, his quip was that it was like trying to bend a steel rod), which put an abnormally high strain on my joints, ligaments, etc, leading to injury.
Doc’s influence on my running has been almost talismanic. A week before the ultra, I developed a bad foot inflammation, wincing in pain when my foot pressed on the ground. Frantic phone call happened, some foot stretches were recommended. I wasn’t sure if I should risk further injury, but he told me to go and just run. Joyously. (Yes, Doc’s a barefoot runner too :) ) And run, I did.
Oh, and along the way, I ran my first sub 2-hour Half too, at the Goa River Half Marathon in December. Again, one of those serendipitous happenings. Goa was not on the agenda at all this season, but a cousin was very enthu and suggested a few of us go run and also do a mini-vacation. The said cousin dropped out later, but V and me went ahead with our plans and had a great time (Joets in Bogmalo is highly recommended), with my entry in the sub 2-Hour Half club and a PB for V being the icing on a lovely extended weekend break.
So a year later, its SCMM time again. Based on my training runs, I feel good about beating my goal. Of course, it all depends on how things turn out that Sunday morning – the weather, how your first half of the race goes, etc. And the fact that I will be flying over the north pole across a 12 hour time zone to land in Bombay on Saturday will make it interesting too.
But here’s the deal. Whichever way it goes.. 4;15, 4:30, even if I have to hobble and pull out, whatever.. doesn’t matter. Really. At all.
Running is now an addiction. I’ll keep getting my highs.
Here’s to joyous running.
I have never, ever met an unhappy runner. Running makes you happy, it takes away everything.
After running a few marathons I can explain to people why I run. It calms me. I can’t imagine not having it in my life. It helps me to sort through things. It’s like stepping outside myself and getting a better perspective of who I am.
— Gail Kislevitz, columnist, Runners World. Author, First Marathons: Personal Encounters wih the 26.2-Mile Monster