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Why Did I Run My First Half-Marathon?

Eye of The Tiger
I have been athletic but never sports oriented in my life. In between, I had faced my own sins of youth, arrogant decadence of all ills of youth- smoking, drinking, an incandescent conscience and an unyielding spine, aggravated further by constant strife between my refusal of all social judgments and an insistence by the world around me to judge me, nevertheless. It hit me, hit me hard. I went down with a feeling that I will never come back again. I remember those bleak days, fourteen years back, when every step taken would be precarious ringing with a hissing fear of death in its sound. I was hit by affairs of the heart, and with that I am not referring to my courtship which culminated with a marriage resulting in excommunication by the society and family. It was odd feeling. It was unexpectedly expected. I was told that was to happen, but being an only son, believed that warning from the parents to be hollow. Boy, solid it was, they held social pride dearer than the only child and I was a young man, trying hard to restore the semblance of a family. It would have been easier to handle with a lesser sense of duty and propriety and sightly numb conscience. But we don't make our circumstances, we live in them. And then it hit me, through nicotine-laden stress. 

 I fell down one evening. I did live to talk about it, but only talked about it in vague terms for the fear of effecting the relations which were normalized, at least for the sake of pretensions in the years that follow. I walked out of the hospital after close to ten days in the hospital and I still remember, I had almost forgotten how to walk. I remember when I was told not to laugh so loud as it could wreak my weakened heart, and also remember being told that I ought not ride motorbikes as the wind could hit me back with a worse heart ailment than I have had.

So I stopped exercising. Bike I did drive because being in sales and with no other vehicle to drive; it was a chance I had to take. Not being a provider would hurt my idea of masculinity more than it would hurt me to end up dead driving a bike. So I did take that chance and I drove. First, with a lot of trepidation, then with abandon, at least till the time a WagonR arrived on the scene- my first car. We always chose the advises which are the worst. I chose to ignore the driving advice, chose to ignore eating advice, but stuck to the advice of not exerting myself physically- for twelve years. I bloated to eighty two kgs, rediscovered the pleasures of writing and ate with the excitement of a man right out of the prison. But then I was hit by a looming threat of diabetes. Days were morose and colorless. I would fret and frown but did not for a while, surrendered.

Then one day, do not know what hit me. I trust it was looking at my daughter who wanted
Me with Nonu
to play with me and I shouted at her. It hit me then. She is six years old and I shuddered at the thought of what I will be when she hits twenties. And I, having given up the failed attempts at gym, I hit the trail. I huffed and puffed through the first round in the nearby green oasis of the Deer park.  It was a struggle with uneven track, and the first round of 1.35 Kms was a severe challenge on my out of shape body. But it was away from the prying eyes of the trainers in the gym, no one to suggest when to begin and when to stop. Some   people love that gentle nudge by well-bodied      

         men in the gym, not yours truly.  So I went out  and bought the wherewithal required to take running as a routine. If you treasure your solitude like me, running is the thing for you. Well, biking, swimming could also qualify, but running is all that I have ever done. Sir, those shorts, that expensive running shoe came in right under the disapproving gaze of the missus. She would look at those fancy bags and then at the stationary cycle long since being used as a clothsline to dry washed clothes. I could see the anger, cynicism and mockery in those eyes which once sailed a thousand ships for me. Believe me, sir, in weakness, we are always most alone. It is a double-edged sword, we are weak because we are alone and we are alone whenever we are weak. With the old song of Michael Bolton, When I am back on my feet again  humming in the back of the mind, I would go about buying things. I would ignore the scorn, the cynicism. It was reclaiming me. I would remind myself of the old Ayn Rand quote that even in “I love you”, ‘I’ comes first. Without I, there is nothing. Mostly, when in love, we let go I, which is one of the most fatal mistakes which results in a feeling of loss, and at times loss of health and many other things. For those newly in love- never surrender ‘I’, that is the solemn promise our maker has made to us, to make us different from anyone else. The two shall never merge, the two shall come together and bloom together, but never must one fuse into one other.

Well, missus got me an iPad Nano. I got it loaded with NikePlus. With all the expensive gear which I had mainly bought to ensure my commitment to my new cause, and with loud music from my days of youth- the Rocky theme song-“The Eye of the Tiger” and “Brilliant Disguise”  in my ears, I hit the street with a vengeance. I would run, struggling with each mile up as a steep challenge. I would whisper my daughter’s name, assuring her that Baba will make her proud and run another mile. And then, I sometime in August, stepped out of the close confines of the park. My left knee ached, my heart pounded but I would on weekends hit the road with the metro card in my pocket. I would run to the India gate and come back by Metro. It was a good six miles run. It was feet over asphalt, what people who know term as urban running. The inclines were within limit but the trail was hard. I bought a knee supporter, but after a while, ran without it. After some distance, the pain would vanish, only to come back few hour after the run. I began to realize that the feet, the body is merely the tool. I 
did not need to manage the worker, I needed to get the boss on my side and rest will follow. And  then, once I ran 10 miles. I was happy. My mind told my body to run one mile and then another and it followed with minor protests. Then in October was I registered for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon with an almost clear mind of making a fool of myself. To get a finisher medal, you need to complete those 21 Kms in less than 2:45 hours. I felt in my heart that I will turn out to be the last guy on the track, huffing and puffing, reaching in around three hours. But having come this far, there was no going back. I would come back from office and go out for run. Winters had arrived and parks would close. So I would run on the street. I would travel for business and carry my shoes. One additional luggage, but then I would run in Bangalore and Kolkata.

The day of marathon came and I did run. It wasn’t very easy for a lonely runner. I did not have back-slapping pals who would come and wake me up at four in the morning on the day for the run. I was a middle aged man struggling to stay alive in best form possible. I wanted to be new for my daughter, for my wife. I would after my sickness many times would wonder if she would have felt that she made one big, wrong decision in life. I wanted to be the right person. She had seen me as infallible man, infallible in strength, in principles during courtship. I wanted to be that man. I had to do it alone, but then every man has to do it alone. Few are able to do that, to emerge out of that darkness. I went and I ran. My Airtel record came at not-too-embarrassing 2:22 minutes and my NikePlus was kinder to me with a reading of 2:17 minutes.

I felt redeemed, renewed and refresh. I wanted to write this post to figure out for myself the reasons. I am not able to. But then it is a mix of the reasons. As I ran more, I read more about running. I also learnt that contrary to the  
 mythical writer, writhing in addiction of alcohol and drugs, waiting for an imminent death, can.  chose to be healthier. And to my surprise, I realized that most writers are. In fact, it would be hard to decipher if Maugham was not a better writer because of regular swims he went on. After a while, running becomes meditation, things become clearer. Haruki Murakami has anyways written a whole book about running (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running).  If he can run and write he must be doing something well. It is not very easy for a writer to do an Apple (I read, that people lined up outside the bookstore through the night before the release of his latest book). It is not necessary that we all run, but dance, swim, bike but don’t sit idle. Don’t say you do not get time, don’t say your body doesn't listen. Bribe the boss with arguments which would appeal to its reasons, the workers will follow. See what works for your mind- your wife, your child, your ego, your self-love. Whatever it is, stroke that feeling. Running is not physical. It is emotional. It is all about your mind. The wheels of the chariot of time rolls in only one direction. Let’s render significance to our ordinary life on this ordinary planet to an ordinary star in this vast galaxy of time and space. Let us live our lives to the full. Let us forgive others and ourselves for the sins of the past. The journey out of the deep, dark well of desperation is always lonely, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we have friends and fun waiting for us there. 2014 is gone and done with 2015 awaits us. Let’s reach out to this New Year, do new things, reclaim our lives.  Let us run, friends, let us run. Let us decide, to quote Dylan Thomas that we

Do not go gentle into that good night,
 Old age should burn and rave at close of the day,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
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