Friday, November 25, 2011

Running on..

It's been almost two weeks since the Ultra; that also makes it almost two weeks since I've run. There is this restlessness that is quite reassuring; maybe running will become a habit after all. Ultra turned out to be really good, it wasn't easy and on the last leg, I remember thinking how ridiculous it was that I had entertained notions of running a marathon sometime soon-how na├»ve of me-42km?!-haha-25 was more than adequate, thankyou. In this it was very different from KTM, right at the end of which for the first time a longer distance seemed possible. Why this difference? The heat, terrain for one; and secondly as I realised at the finish, I had pushed at ultra. The satisfaction after a run is proportional to how you've pushed yourself to get there, no matter what the distance.
I hardly think in the true sense while running; after a point I actually find it hard to think. Sometimes I do think of people; at KTM, having just started raising funds for Asha, I remembered folks who had supported my effort. At Ultra, I thought about my kid bro who had turned all of 20 the previous week; it's been a testing year, especially for him, and he's one of the toughest people I know. But mostly I just stick to being in the Now, look around a bit, and just put one foot in front of the other. This is a real break from the rest of the time when I catch myself wondering about something gone by, or fretting over things yet to come. Being in the present moment is, I think, one of the best things about running.
The way you feel when you run is different from how you run in the conventional sense. And while speed hasn't dictated how I feel about any particular run, a faster run without consciously keeping watch over the time does add to the sense of achievement.
Sometimes you just have to start - maybe with hardly any sleep after a tiring day, when you don't even want to think of the distance you'd run that morn, you just have to be up and find out what you're capable of. It's surprising how we do much more than we think we can. 

I've been running for Asha, and need your support. Please visit my page to see how you can help.

Friday, October 7, 2011

season's first

It’s been a week into Ultra training! We had the first long run at Kanakapura road on a hilly terrain. It turned out to be a surprisingly good one for me. It drizzled a bit at the start, and by the time the sun peeped out we were almost finishing up. I only wanted to put off walking up the inclines as long as I could. But I never walked up any hill that day, completed 15km in 1:49 which is not longer than what I’d take on a flat stretch. That peaceful run was a welcome break after a week filled with a mean cold+fever combo, internet conking off - inevitably leading to long work days, less sleep, and more. Maybe the hills aren’t that bad after all.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sita school

Last month some of us Team Asha runners visited Sita school, one of the schools supported by Asha. We were a group of around 25 packed into cars setting out to Silvepura village located about 20kms from Cubbon Park.

About Sita school: The school was started in 1975 to try to address the problem of many local children not going to school and the fact that many children dropped out of school. The reasons were varied and included economic factors and lack of flexibility in mainstream schools to accommodate children with special needs…The school is structured in a way that children can enter at any level and are encouraged to learn at their own pace without pressure of exams or fear of failure and disapproval. Read on.

We found two boys waiting for us with signboards about a km away from the school. The plan was to - run with the children, interact with them, help the school with some work and have breakfast. The max distance for the day being 8km we were done within an hour. Most of the kids joined us when we were on the second loop on the 2km stretch – and made running look effortless the way only kids can, a smile pinned on their faces and anticipating high-fives when we crossed each other!

The Surprise
We then came to know that the children were going to perform for us … kollatam dances (the older girl who clearly had choreographed it would get so adorably annoyed if someone missed a step), hula hoop spins (the youngest girl had to be asked to stop, she would’ve gone on without ever missing!), break dance to music being played on a keyboard by a mentally challenged student - all prepared on their own for Teachers day.

Children at Sita
We then all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves, most of us attempted in kannada as the kids were most familiar with it. There are around 30 children, the youngest around 4 yrs of age, and the oldest an early teen. The kids each told us a bit about their school - they stood up and spoke about their favourite subject, their computer room, the organic garden they tended to, and more – with Santhosh translating for us. These snippets from their days helped us get an idea about the learning methods at Sita.
Craft, languages, maths, gardening, helping the cook, computers, running … they do it all. Acads is rightly only a part of their education. It being a Saturday we didn’t catch the children in action, but this newsletter offers a peek. There are no grade levels, children are organised into groups (Spandana, Karuna..), at the end of the year move on as the same group. At the level of 7th std, they switch to State curriculum. The idea is to get these children, who’ve mostly dropped out of a nearby convent school, interested in learning.
Pic courtesy: Karthik Basavaraju
The kids come from disturbed backgrounds – many have no healthy environment to go home to, families troubled economically. Teachers here attempt to meet parents regularly, some of whom are just indifferent. Education here isn’t free - parents pay a small annual fee (Rs.20 or so, and those who are unable to pay, help out in the school in some way) so that they value the schooling their kids receive.

Running expenses of the school are entirely funded by Asha, donations raised by a group of runners every year. Schools like Sita run solely on fundraising by the respective Team Asha chapters. Santhosh mentioned there were cases of schools shutting down when the Team Asha chapter that funded them didn’t continue doing well. A season of fundraising gone bad would have an immediate and direct impact on schools like Sita.
Surely added a perspective to our fundraising efforts. I request you to donate generously so that many such children can continue to learn.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Running along Kaveri

There are happy runs and bad ones. Happy ones are all the same - no matter how slow you’re going, even if you are forced to walk a bit, you’re at peace while you keep at it and finish, and what’s more, you’re at peace post the finish too. Knowing that you gave it all and did what you could at that moment. The bad ones, they’re just bad - sometimes due to what’s not in your control, but mostly due to the devil within that has no fixed form. I’ve run 2 races so far and fortunately both have been happy ones.

The Kaveri Trail Marathon yesterday was a surprise, kms seemed to breeze through, this went on for a good 15km. Maybe it was the pleasant day, the looking out for familiar faces especially the Runner's High Full Marathoners who started showing up after 6km! My only goal was to run the whole distance, never walk and never stop except for water. So it didn’t matter how (slow) I ran as long as I ran. It might have been smarter to switch to a walk sometimes but this is what I wanted of me. Plus during training pauses ached and made resuming tougher after a walk.
0-15: I consciously went slow in the first half - or so I thought. With my history of many niggles that heal quickly but make me slow down while they appear, I didn’t want to risk anything new. The ankle strain sufficed for the day, thank you. I got to 10k at 1:11 which incidentally is my TCS10K timing. It was mostly all smiles and cheers, wondering how pleasant it had been so far … until the 15-16km point.
15-21.1: Suddenly around 15km something changed. I still don’t know what it was due to; I was well fed and hydrated. I surely wasn’t going too fast. That’s one problem I hardly face. Even hearing those around me cheer people made my head ache. Ankle pain flared, head ached, one foot went ahead of the other and soon enough there was Ajay just as he'd said he'd be near the 1km point, he ran with me till about 100m from the finish after which I think I sprinted to complete my first half marathon and second race ever. The AMD folks had finished much earlier and were waiting at the finish too. I had taken around 2:37 and it was a fun run on the whole despite that mood swing of sorts towards the end. A good first half marathon :D
I owe thanks to many - All my coaches at Runner's High, in particular Chandra, Ajay, Murthy and our physio Preeti, who is the reason I ran the whole distance despite niggles! All the familar faces I saw on the trail (missed running with Jagadeesh, and seeing the RH 10kers run) - they kept me going! 
I was really glad I’d mentioned my goal of running the whole distance to my friends and colleagues while seeking donations to Asha, their generous pledges totally guilt-ed me into avoiding an unnecessary water-stop in the second half when I was just looking for a break :)
Do these Dedication things mean that you're grateful to people, that you thought of them while you toiled at something and post it when you felt good about it all ... that if something bad happened to you while at it they'd be responsible :)? If so my first half marathon goes to Santhosh and Kanishka - who are the reason I ran and through whom I met some awesome folks at Runner's High!
And then there are those who listen to my regular running (what else?) updates and put up with me as I swing from "What are you cheering me for? It was just 8km today." to "What do you mean only 5km? That's what's in the schedule." I'm not thanking you guys - you know I'm awesome and totally deserve your patience :)
I'm running for Asha and need your support. Please visit my page to see how you can help.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Going downhill is good

Not while it’s happening of course, not per the idiom. And no, not while running either. The worst that can happen uphill is you’d be slowed to a walk. The downhill however is a harbinger of guilt at not being able to ‘use’ the incline, and of sore, purple-nailed toes. What then is great about a downhill?
Saturday of the Independence Day weekend. 16km on Kanakapura Road, not a first-time distance. Even the dreaded incline on the earlier route was now replaced by a meek stretch on the other side. Nothing to indicate that this would be a ‘bad run.’
For no apparent reason, I started fast (well, fast for me) and at 2km, I was already seeing mirages of the water-stop. Stopping for water at 4km on a long run isn’t a usual for me, a sign I should’ve listened to.
Next came stressing out the barely-lucid mind. At the end of 5k, I figured I’d repeat the 2k loop at the end 4 times so that when I got to the main road, I could just head back for good. I was to stop for water at the end of 2 repeats. This was when the water-stop moved a km ahead on the road so as to make it easy for the sane ones who weren’t looping unneeded. I decided to stick to 4 loops with or without water-stop. Aka, end of lucidity.
And I would have done so if Santhosh hadn’t said that I continue on the main road where there’d be more company and thus saved me from me on the 3rd loop. By then, the damage was already done. Sustenance doesn’t help immediately when you’re hungry.
The main road had a fair share of nincompoops. The driving school instructor who went, “bega oda beku!BEGA oda beku!”.  Ignore the tone and leer, and you have a good cheer there. Then came the bald headed man on bike who from a fair distance on, kept signalling like a cop would to a suspect waiting his turn to be questioned. Thankfully further down the stretch there were folks still running and some in a car, who brought some respite.
I finished and gulped down water at the starting point.
I had walked more than I ever had on a run, taken longer. I had learnt that while running, Math is a bad, bad thing - distances, loops, even ‘thinking about’ anything instead of just ‘being’ are a strict no, more so when ‘malnutrition’d’ (you’d think this would be obvious.) But I think I hit this downhill at the right time. For the next Saturday was the 22km run, the longest distance this season.