Earlier today at 5:00am I reached the Worli Sea-link to start a 23km run. Actually, only my mind reached the Worli Sea-link. It seemed I had left my body back in bed.
As I took the first tentative strides, I realised that I simply couldn’t move and within a few meters of starting the run, my wife Neepa, and our friends Chitra, and Suchita left me and ran ahead.
I was quite rested but it was simply one of those days when you don’t seem to find your legs. I decided that there was nothing I could do about it but soldier on. I knew then that it would be a long morning.
After a dreadfully slow 10km, I had reached Marine Drive. The early morning light had broken through and I had started noticing lots of other runners on the road.
I was struggling with my run. My head and shoulders had slumped down. Suddenly at the last moment, I noticed a tall athletic looking woman run towards me. In the fraction of a second that I noticed her, I thought that I vaguely recognized her as a friend from Facebook, but my brain was so overloaded trying to coordinate my leg movements that I couldn’t really spare any grey cells to try and remember her name.
But as she crossed me she raised her hand and shouted, “Amit, Vidhya Shah”. I shouted back “Hi Vidhya” and High-Fived her.
I felt so energized by that. What a wonderful cheerful way to be greeted. Suddenly it seemed that I had gained new energy. My form improved and I could run again....at least for a while.
I was so delighted that Vidhya greeted me.
Her wonderful gesture, reminded me of the cheerfulness of the kids who stand alongside the road during the Mumbai marathon or the Comrades marathon or indeed any of the dozens of marathons I have run around the world. It’s always the same with children. There is a certain positivity in the way kids cheer for us when we run.
They not only shout and smile, but also always put out there hand to high-five. There is a sense of physical participation on their part in the race. It’s almost as if they share their energy with you when they hold out their hands.
Adults standing alongside the road on race day also cheer, but there is a difference. They clap and shout but seldom will they stand with their hand extended out to ‘high-five’ a random runner.
I love the idea of greeting a fellow runner during the run. It’s such a wonderful acknowledgement of kinship amongst people who share the same passion.
Of course, on a focused run one does not necessarily have the wherewithal for an elaborate greeting. But it’s not like I’m Usain Bolt and running a time trial at worli that my focus doesn’t allow me the luxury of sharing a small greeting with my fellow runner.
And it’s not that I have to stop and shake hands.
Shaking hands is of course a beautiful gesture but its origins weren’t always so.
There is a school of thought which believes that the idea of shaking hands originated in the West because hundreds of years ago people were distrustful of each other and shaking hands with the other was a way of showing that they were not concealing a weapon in their hand. So shaking hands was a way of being assured that the other person wasn’t a threat.
In the East, people were even more cautious. They wondered, “What if the other guy is left handed?” So people in the East started folding hands. The idea here was to show that both hands are empty.
Of course, as time went by, we forgot the origin of this tradition and simply came to look upon it as a respectful friendly gesture.
But I digress.
After meeting Vidhya I felt so good that the good cheer took along me for a good kilometre at a steady rate. And then I hit upon an idea.
I decided that I would greet every single runner on the road irrespective of the fact that he/she made eye contact with me or not and whether I knew him or her. I decided that I would say ‘Hi’ even if the other runner wasn’t looking at me. If someone was running past me, I would greet him/her.
I felt that the only way I was going to run the balance 13km was to share in the energy of my fellow runners.
Within a km of meeting Vidhya, I meet the very elegant Mrs Krashani Naidoo. She had a large smile on her face and she shouted, “How’s it Amit?” Now, Krashani comes from South Africa and I have a special place in my heart for all my South African brothers and sisters. I shouted back, “How’s it Krashani?”
The cheer pulled me along for another km.
I then greeted Dr. Mala Kapadia and Dr Jasmine Shah and Suman Sanghai and Toral Khatau and Shibani Gharat and my dietician Roopali Mehta.
The cheer took me all the way to 18km.
At 18km I met Sayuri Dalvi. She was helping a fellow runner and consequently running at less than her usual pace. So I got a chance to chat with her. That small chat brought me some more cheer and energy and I ran along.
But again, I digress.
The point I was making is that it’s simply a wonderful idea to greet a fellow runner on the road. One does not need to stand and talk or even high-five. Just a small nod of the head or a small wave of the hand, a flick of the palm or a thumbs-up will suffice. A small smile or a ‘Hi’ or a ‘good morning’ or “looking good’ is enough.
A greeting simply energizes me. Every time I greet or am greeted by a fellow runner, my posture improves and my stride improves. I feel so much better.
I finally ended my 23km run. I said a silent thank-you to all the wonderful women I greeted along the way. Their cheer carried me through.
Of course, the truth is that I also greeted all the men I passed. But will you blame me if I can’t recollect any of their names?
Ok, the truth is that I do distinctly remember one young man. I was stopped during the run by Arun Cherian Thomas. This young handsome man, shook hands with me and told me that he started running because he read my book ‘Dare to Run’. He said he was inspired by the book to take up running.
I don’t know how far my book inspired Arun, but I know this. After shaking hands with Arun, I had sprinted up the 1 km long walkeshwar hill.