I have never been a thin person. Ever. But as far I can remember I would work out enough – dancing, swimming, playing, walking – to not look obese or unfit. But the last few months for whatever reasons I have lost my energy and can hardly do my dance routines without taking a break. I swim half a lap and then start gasping. All this made me think I should maybe start jogging. Which reminded me that when I had started the blog, I had decided to take part in the dream run of the Mumbai Marathon.
That did not happen. But I enrolled a year later. And I am sure I can finish 7 kms of walking easily (walking- since the popular conception is that the crowd will not let you run at all) given that I have till February 2013. My friend has also recommended the Pinkathon to me – to be held this Sunday at Bandra Kurla. This is on a much smaller scale – 3K, 5K and 10K. In all my optimism and self-confidence, I enrolled myself for the 10K. And now I am training myself – with no knowledge about how to – for my first ever little marathon.
I have gone jogging every day for the past one week and have tried to increase my distance. I did 9.5 kms run today, followed by 1.5kms of walking/ dragging my feet back home. Hopefully by Sunday I should be better at this. For now I think I will keep massaging ointment into every aching body part I have.
My friend, the one who recommended the run, is a pro (at least in my eyes) at these sorts of things. She is preparing for the full marathon, has already run a couple of half marathons this year. She dances Odissi and Salsa, she learns kickboxing and Capoeira, she has picked up foreign languages from the internet with no outside help and she works full time as a dietician. Some people can do all that! (I am sure she does a lot more stuff, but I am limiting it to this since it would be enough to wake my friends to the reality that I am NOT an active person. Not in retrospect, at least.)
So, for her birthday I picked up Haruki Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about Running”. It’s a thin book – hardly 150 pages or so. But I have to wait for a week to give it to her. Which obviously meant that curiosity would get the better of me? And therefore, I downloaded the eBook of the same and started reading it. (* I should add that I had always planned to start Murakami with ‘Kafka on the shore’. But I am glad I did not wait.)
The book basically talks about Murakami’s experience as a long distance runner. In a very informal way – sort of like a diary. I am not sure how his usual writing style is, but this suited me just fine. He goes into different chapters with different races or experiences. He talks about how running gave him the motivation to be a writer. How he would sometimes be so tired that he would walk instead of run to finish a marathon. How he has participated in marathons – triathlons and ultra marathons – pushing himself every time. It answers questions about the motivation faction; it talks about why he runs and why anyone would run. It is a little bit difficult to explain in words what I took away from the book. But as a piece of non-fiction, this is perhaps one of the few which has motivated me enough to continue waking up 6 am and putting on my running shoes.
“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree” – Murakami (What I talk about when I talk about Running).
After reading this book I kept trying to see signs of the same in the faces of people I cross every morning. Maybe one of them will nod at me, maybe someone would look like a person who has that grit to cross the finish line. Most are probably not running against the others, but against himself. They stare ahead, without much dilly-dallying about what is going on around. They stop to drink water, they smile and wave at other runners they know. And when they see anyone giving up, they silently offer them encouragement to help them start again. They are a group. None of them are together, and yet, it seems like they are a part of a bigger circle of things.
When I was still living in Prabhadevi, I would go running in Shivaji Park. I met several people there who regularly run 15-20 kms – for fun! And at least one of them has encouraged me time and again to not give up running – even after I shifted to my new house and my office timing barely let me take a walk in the morning. That group is also going to run the full marathon this year. And hopefully, if I keep up my training, I would be able to join them in some years. As long as I am doing better than yesterday, every day, I would be going according to plan.
“For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.” – Murakami (What I talk about when I talk about Running).