Sunday 20 November 2011

Wooing Atalanta, the Goddess of Speed. (Airtel Delhi Half Marathon Part 1)

Some of my friends insist that they run the marathon, not for the pursuit of speed but for the spiritual experience it provides. To them I say: “Amen”

Some of my other friends insist that they run the marathon not for the pursuit of speed but for the camaraderie and the atmosphere of the race day and for the sheer pleasure of running.  To them I say: “I hear you, my brothers and sisters”
But some other friends say that they run the marathon for the spiritual experience, the camaraderie, the pleasure of running and the pleasure of running...VERY VERY FAST!!!  To them I say: “Billions of blistering barnacles!!! Ten Thousand Thundering Typhoons!!! f%^^$&^%$&)*^$@#!!!”
I had always been naive enough to think that running fast and attaining spiritual enlightenment were mutually exclusive concepts.  I now realize that a fast runner can and does enjoy all the things a slow runner enjoys...he only does so...faster.   
I have been missing out on ‘fast’ for too long. 
Vlam, the 12 hour pacer at the 89 km Comrades Ultra Marathon, always keeps shouting during Comrades, “Speed Kills, Speed Kills, Speed Kills”. 
However I had always misunderstood it to mean, “Don’t run too fast, you will crash and burn”. 
I have now come to realize that it has been the lack of speed which has killed me more often.  I have either been picked up by the Ambulance for not reaching cut-off points in time or have reached the finish line after the carpets and timing clocks have been removed and the race organizers have long gone home. 
No More!  Never Again! I have decided to shamelessly woo Speed. 
I have always felt that the best person to turn to for help in any crisis is a woman. And in this case that would be Atalanta, the Greek Goddess of speed and running and romance. 
I found her through a Google search (   and now all I need to do is to simply woo her and make her my partner. 
But wooing a woman is never easy.  As I was to find out, there are always problems and complications.
Atalanta is young, beautiful and muscular.  She has two fetishes: golden apples and running sandals.   
As a new born, Atalanta was abandoned in a forest on a mountain top by her father King Schoeneus, who was disappointed she was not born a boy.
The Goddess Artemis sent a she-bear to raise her and thereafter some hunters adopted her. 
As she grew up, she became renowned for her speed as a runner, power as a wrestler and her commitment to remain unmarried.  She used to hunt with her good friend, Meleager. And although, he was in love with her, she just thought of him as a good friend. (I have experienced similar issues often times)  
Together, they had hunted the fierce Calydonian Boar.  Atalanta first caught up with the Boar and wounded it and then Meleager caught up and killed it.
As recognition of her bravery and for her first strike, he gave her the priced skin of the boar as a gift.  His fellow male hunters got jealous and murdered Meleager.
Atalanta was soon thereafter reunited with her father, who apparently still wasn't too happy about her being a girl and wanted to marry her off quickly.
Atalanta however did not want to marry.  She wanted to retain her maidenhood.   And so to wiggle out of marriage she proposed a test to select her husband. 
She decided that she will marry only that suitor who challenges and beats her in a foot-race.  She would kill any suitor who failed to beat her by beheading him. Ouch!  
Lots of slow runners have subsequently lost their heads and consequently their lives in her pursuit. 
Atalanta with a skeleton (of either the boar or of a slow runner)

So this then is my problem with wooing the Goddess of Speed:  I need to win over the Goddess of Speed if I wish to run fast but in order to win over the Goddess of Speed I need to run fast.  This makes perfect sense to me at many levels. Life is paradoxical.  Existence itself is paradoxical. Paradox is at its very core.  
The only added problem here is that the stakes are a bit high. If you can’t beat her, you lose your head and a bit more. 
This is perhaps what Vlam was talking about.  Speed does kill (literally) and it caused me to pause and think!  Will I get killed in my attempt to woo Atalanta?
But I am desperate and I started my attempt by striking up a correspondence with her.  I liberally borrowed words from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili and e-mailed her:
“O delicate and divine Atalanta, lend me your sympathy now to my first words and anxious writing and believe in good faith that I bear a greater and rarer love toward you than ever a lover did in this world.  Lend a charitable ear to these just and honest requests by which I ask only your charming and precious love. To save this my life I know of no other recourse but the sweet thought of you at every hour of the day and night. 
Dear Divine fleet-footed Atalanta, to save my life I know of no other recourse but the sweet thoughts of you at every hour of the day and night; and this thinking seems to be the best remedy, more necessary now than ever for on Sunday, Nov 27th 2011, I need to run the Delhi Half Marathon in under 2 hours.  Please desire my salvation and behave kindly and well toward me, in which case you will behold me in perfect happiness, a triumphant victor, crowned by love and in utter contentment.  But if you don’t let me finish the race in 1:59 you will behold me wretched, miserable and discontent. 
Now, my hope, my divine darling, do not deny me the pleasure of a Sub 2:00 run. I, who am all yours and who thus pitifully beseech you to temper with your kindness my oppressive fire; for I know not how to live without you – and even if I did, I would not wish to.
Nevertheless, here is my soul which I offer as a sacrifice, and my meagre heart; dispose them both as you will, for you are their ruler, whilst I remain yours in perpetual affection, alive or dead.
So help me, then, succour me and save me!  Show me your favour, satisfy my need for speed, act kindly and stay your anger, calm your soul, quieten your mind, soften your heart and accept my amorous affection – offered, my Lady, by your faithful slave, who wishes to run fast eternally ”.
I think that this e-mail should work its charm, but on the other hand, in case it does not work, then, unbeknownst to Atalanta, I have also kept a back-up plan. 
I also got in touch with Aphrodite via e-mail. ( 
Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty has a soft spot in her heart for all crazy lovers and she has advised me that if Atalanta decides to outrun me, I should throw a few golden apples on the route.  Atalanta loves golden apples so much that she will stop to collect them at which time I can try and run ahead. 
There is however a problem.  Aphrodite has run out of golden apples and so as replacement I shall carry with me 3 strawberry-banana Energy Gels to tempt her with.
And finally, If somehow I don’t make it in under 2:00 hours, I shall just meet her at the finish line and address her so: “O Atalanta, Goddess of Speed and ruler my heart and soul, my lovely and my adored one, do not fall into the evil repute of having consented to the death of my soul. For your sublime condition is incompatible and repugnant to such impiety. Let me live to woo you another day after some more speed training.  I promise to run more 800s”
And if that does not get through to her, I shall speak plainly and remind her that this is the year 2011 and in this day and age, one does not plan marriage on a first date and that is all this was: a first date. 
So Dear A, please, No Beheading!


  1. Don't be too hasty throwing those energy gels on the ground for Atalanta: you will probably need them yourself!

    Good luck on Sunday my friend. Whether you go under two hours or not; you will still have succeeded. Let me know how you go.


  2. Good to know the desire for speed and wooing one goddess Atlanta. But in spirituality run you may get options and time to woo many goddesses, yah but Indians and not Americans.
    Choise is yours.
    Any way best wishes for Delhi sub 2:00. I too want to come closer to that from my current 2:21 in Delhi. Hope to c u there.

    Uday Kale

  3. All the best for the Delhi half. Atalanta would probably slow down to shop in Karol bagh.

    Wonder who the Indian goddess of speed would be. Kali ?

    @Udayji - good to connect with you. We met at BNP run in August

  4. Great Post Amit and all the best for ADHM. Great humor too. Tweeting it too with the hashtag ADHM

  5. that is a wonderful post Amit. I am sure even Atlanta will be moved by reading this and am sure she would like you to succeed, then I do not happens..

  6. Nice:)
    As always great to read!
    I am going to make a concentrated first time effort to woo Atlanta this time in
    Too many times in the past- thinking she won't even give me a second look- I just went about my way slowly.Let me find out what she thinks of me!
    See you in Delhi.

  7. ALl the Best, I am sure your running speed is improving, however, I am impressed by your imaginative writing. Satish

  8. Bhupendrasing Rajput26 November 2011 at 08:28

    Good Luck to all ADHM runners for safe run

  9. splendid!!!!

  10. I am sure this article has touched all the internet viewers, its really really fastidious article on building up new blog.

    Stop by my site - (