Saturday 10 September 2016

Registering for Comrades 2017

Registering for Comrades 2017 : Are you going about it slowly ? 
Great poetry crystallises our thoughts in a way prose rarely can.  
It helps us answer questions in a way prose rarely can. 
I love Mary Oliver's poetry, especially the ones about love ! 
Earlier today, someone called me on phone and discussed her desire to run Comrades.   
She hadn't registered yet she said, and was taking this decision very very seriously. 
She felt that this race is so big, so difficult, so momentous that she needed to go about the registration process after a great deal of deliberation.  
Such deep thinking and evaluation takes time, she said.   One must arrive at the decision slowly, she felt. 
She asked me how I had arrived at this decision to run Comrades in 2009.  After all, at that time, there had been not a single person from India who had run this race. I was to be the first and there was no guidance and no path for me to follow.  
"Did you take slow deliberate thoughtful steps?", she asked. 
I recited Mary Oliver's poem about Love to her as an answer.  
The poem is titled : I DID THINK, LET’S GO ABOUT THIS SLOWLY. 
"I did think, let’s go about this slowly.
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should take
small thoughtful steps. 
But, bless us, We Didn't ."
That's how one registers for comrades, I told her.  Don't think.  Just fall in love.  
I hope she registers for Comrades 2017. 

Thursday 8 September 2016

The staircase

Our house has a big main central staircase.  

From our hall, the staircase with 12 steps takes us up to a landing.   The Landing has two doors. One opens into my dads room and the other into my gym.  The staircase then turns and continues upwards for another 5 steps. This second landing leads to a long corridor which connects our library, my son Aryan's (aged 15) room,  my daughter Namrata's (aged 20) room and my room (quite old)   

My room is at the far end of the corridor, So every time I go back and forth from my room, I pass all the other bedrooms on the way.  

Last night , I was going up the staircase after dinner with aryan in tow.    He was just a step behind me and keeping pace.   Although I was climbing up at a brisk pace,  I wondered if I was slowing him down and so at the first landing, outside my dad's room, I paused to see if he wanted to run up past me.    I stopped and gave him some space. 

And suddenly, I missed my father a lot. 

In the later years of his life, my father used to climb up the staircase one step at a time.   He wasn't in pain or discomfort.   It was simply old age.   His feet had lost their ability to sense touch and so he used the strength of his knees and calves to climb up while being unable to sense the staircase with his feet. 

So after dinner, very often, when he and I were going upstairs to our respective rooms, I used to either go ahead of him or if he started up the stairs first, I'd wait for him to reach his room.   

I didn't want to rush him by being right behind him. 

So last night , I paused at the landing and gave Aryan some space to carry on. 

Aryan seemed completely unaware even of the fact that I gave him space.    So I continued up and he followed me.   

And I wonder when the day will come when I do slow him down.   I'm sure the day will come but yesterday wasn't that day. 

My dad stayed with me long enough to ensure that I became independent and settled in life.  I hope I can do the same for my children. 

The Comrades marathon registrations opened up on the 1st of September and I intend to register for the 88k Up run which will take place in 2017.    I hope that I can follow that with Down run in 2018 and then the Up in 2019 and then the Down run in 2020 and then Up run in 2021 and hopefully that will bring me to 10 Comrades finishes.   At which point I might as well run my 11th Comrades with a green number bib. 

As Aryan grows stronger with each passing day my prayer is that I can stay abreast with my boy on the staircase, at least until 2022.    

And then, although I hope I keep running, I won't mind if he starts racing up the staircase past me. 

Thursday 1 September 2016

Are you a maniac ?

Are you a maniac ?

I have heard many runners say that running is their religion.  I agree.  It is our calling.  It is our happy thought of the day.   It is what we most look forward to each day and each moment.

Every morning some people answer the call of the Adhan, some answer the call of the Church bells and some that of the Barechu.  

I too answer the call each morning. It is a voice which calls me to run .  

Running is my religion and I love my religion.   And sometimes I wonder if I've become a religious fanatic.

I looked up the meaning of the word fanatic.

a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.
"religious fanatics"
synonyms: zealot,
extremist, militant,
dogmatist, radical,
maniac, crank,

So I wonder,  "Am i maniac ? ".

The answer does seem a bit discouraging.

It is said that Religious zealots don't know when to back off.
I agree but only partly.

It's not that they don't know when to back off.  It so happens that they can't help themselves even when they know that they need to back off.

I started training for the Delhi Half marathon earlier this month.  I hope that a strong performance there will help me with a strong run in the Mumbai Marathon which will subsequently be my launch pad to start training for Comrades.

I've been training very hard.  The 4 weeks took a toll and I needed to back off training today.  I needed either a complete rest day or an easy run.
But I decided to keep to the schedule and do my 1000x7 repeats.

The first 3 reps went reasonably well but at 400 meters into the 4th repeat, I felt heaviness creep into my legs and upper body.

I soldiered on and finished the repeat.  The 5th repeat felt much harder, the 6th more so and the 7th excruciatingly so.  
Every moment after the 4th repeat, I felt that I should quit. I knew that I should call it a day.  I knew I needed to rest. I knew it wasn't a great idea to push.  I knew that I could burn myself by pushing. I knew that I could jeopardise my training in the days to come.   I knew it was ok to cut short the repeats and go home and take a nap but YET,  I soldiered on.

Theoretically I just know that one must not push speed when one isn't 100% fit.
I know that It is ok to take a day off.  And yet when it came to application of that theory, I came up short.  

Sometimes I feel that my salvation lies only in completing my training as planned.  It is as if, I'm a true believer if and only if, I finish my training as planned.

The holy land lies beyond the closed gates and the only way to enter them is to be baptised with fire.   It seems it is very hard to back off from running.  

I think a non-runner or a non fanatic will not understand this urge to run.

One needs to be a maniac to truly understand this.

This desire to reach "the shining city on the hill" has come down through the ages.  

The Towers of Trebizond is a book about a group of people, "travelling from Istanbul to legendary Trebizond on a convoluted mission to spread the work of Christianity".  

It is also a "bracing meditation on the perils of love, doubt, faith, and spirituality in the modern world"

The first page of the book contains the "dialogues of mortality".

I felt that these dialogues completely explain our passion for running.

Running haunts us much in the way that the "shining city on the hill" has haunted generations.

Our unquenchable desire to keep running is much like that of these men wishing to reach their cherished city.

Running is our shining city on the hill.  It haunts our every waking moment.  It haunts our dreams. It haunts us now and it forever will.   Running is the fire to which we are attracted to, much like the helpless moths.  

Not many will understand our passion.  "We are men seeking after the Gods.  We are Gods seeking after men"

The dialogues:

"The sheening of that strange bright city on the hill, barred by its high gates...Barred from all, Phrastes?"

"From all, Eroton, who do not desire to enter it more strongly than they desire all other cities."

"Then it is barred indeed, and most men must let it go."

"Those who have once desired it cannot let it go, for its light flickers always on the roads they tread, to plague them like marsh fires.  

Even though they flee from it, it may drag them towards it as a magnet drags steel, and, though they may never enter its gates, its light will burn them as with fire, for that is its nature."

"Who then were the builders of this dangerous city?"

"Gods and men, Eroton; men seeking after gods, and gods who seek after men.   Does it not appear to you that such a fabric, part artifact and part deifact, reared out of divine intimations and demands, and out of the mortal longings and imaginings that climb to meet these, must perpetually haunt the minds of men, wielding over them a strange wild power, intermittent indeed, but without end? So, anyhow, it has always proved."

I read this passage and I know that it gives voice to my passion for running.

Yes I'm a maniac.

Question is. Are you ?