The number that finally ran

As soon as I saw the ad for the Kantipur half marathon in the papers one morning, I knew I was going to participate. Quickly, I recalled my unfortunate incident from last year – “The number that never ran”;  however, I had already learned from that silly mistake, and I was certain that this time, I would run and finish the race.

At two hours and fourteen minutes, I crossed the finishing line. I had done it. Completed the entire half marathon. Ideally, I would have liked to crossed the finishing line around the  2 hours mark, but anything under 2 hours 30, I was taking it. After crossing the finishing line, and once the initial excitement of crossing the finish line had subsided, my thoughts went back to how far along I had come. A year ago on this day – I was fumbling through the dates, and was realizing what a blunder I had made. I had unfortunately not been able to run the half-marathon as I had planned on February 2016. Since then, I had kept running and had completed a half-marathon on November 2016 – my first ever. I had taken three hours and twenty nine minutes to complete that one. However, that was on a different terrain and was more of a trail run, but the Kantipur marathon had been my first proper street half-marathon.

My mind goes back to the day when I missed what was supposed to be my first race and was livid with myself. Now that that I have completed the race one year later, I realize that this event how different the outcome had been from last time. Now looking prospectively into the future, this accomplishment gives me further encouragement to continue running.

 

 

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Conquering a different demon

After almost a year of planning, preparation, and training the day I had been waiting for finally came. In between there had been two injury layoffs, but on the day of the run I had no injury concerns. I was ready for the long distance running session albeit only for the “half marathon”. I had originally wanted this run to be a marathon but instead chose to enroll only for half-marathon as I did not feel quite ready for marathon. Nevertheless, I was excited and rearing to go.

The date 26th of November, the venue- the hills of Kakani and I was running 21 kilometers. Days before as I was enrolling I had asked the organizers if the run would be on flat land or would we encounter hills and trails? They laughed at me and said you do realize we are in Nepal, right. I did know this but I was only hoping for the terrain to be a bit merciful. However, regardless of the terrain I was ready to go conquer the 21k.

On race day I felt ready and my gut instinct told me I would be able to see the finish line. I did not know what was in store for me during the race, that, I would have to find out as I ran. Before the start of the race I got the chance to meet a champion runner Mira Rai, which in itself was quite a moment and she even wished me luck. J  And then the race began at 10:00 in the morning –

 

The Start

I got off to a fairly decent start, I knew I had to manage my pace and race management was the key. This was my first ever half marathon, but my months of preparation had at least given me an idea that I needed to plan this race. It would only get tougher as the race progressed that I constantly told myself. Also, I kept on telling myself that if I start to compete with others then I might as well throw the towel in. I mean I really wanted to get to the finish line in about three hours that was my primary target. In other words I was telling myself to run my own race and not be concerned about what others did. I managed to stick to this idea and though I felt I was getting overtaken left, right and center, I stuck to what I had to do. I got through the first check point at 1.3K without any concerns and forged on.

Then the race took a turn a different turn as the track converged into a narrow trail. Surrounded by trees the trail was a great place to run and it provided cover from the sun, but since the trail was narrow and slippery. Honestly, I did not like running on such a trail especially because they were slippery, also I was weary of the narrow trail because I was concerned for my ankles. I have twisted both my left and the right ankle in the past year. The left ankle suffering a ligament tear back in December 2015 had kept me bed ridden for almost a month. So, I treaded very carefully, watching my steps and not trying to run very fast. The steep climb and declines also made the trail even tougher and it was best to go slow. I did try to keep a decent pace and had to constantly tell myself that I would not do a leisurely walk. Even, when I did walk on the trails, I tried to make sure that I was walking a decent pace. Then came checkpoint two at 6.2K and it was time for some refueling – biscuits and water.

 

The middle

The legs were feeling it now and slowly they were beginning to hurt. I had gone past 7kms and during my practice runs the most I have gone is around 10. I was getting to a point after which I did not know how my legs or my body parts would deal it. Then came check point three at 9.3K, I remember volunteers clapping and encouraging the runners, this and the biscuits were really helpful. I made sure to also hydrate myself and set forth again. I was beginning to believe now and I felt I would be able to finish the race and in a good time, maybe even in less than three hours. And, then again the track changed and this time for worse. The volunteers pointed to the left and as I made a left turn I could see a climb but I had no idea how long the climb would be. It seemed to go on and on and there was no way I would be able to run. I could see other runners also struggling on this climb and they were walking. I started walking too but made sure I kept a decent pace even when walking. I did not want to walk gingerly and look like I was struggling although my legs and back was hurting by now. I had practiced in the streets of Kathmandu and this terrain was different and tough. But, at least I had trained and that counted for something. So, I pushed on and climbed, expecting the climb to end soon but it did not. It felt like it was never going to end. Just when I thought I saw an opening to a wider track and downhill, the climb on the trail continued. Then the sign showed up – 15k. I was elated at this sight, just 6 more kilometers to go I thought but I had no idea what was to come.

 

The Conclusion

I was past the 15k mark now but I felt as if my legs were giving up now. I could feel the pain on my left knee on my every step and my right thighs were hurting just as much. Every time my feet landed I felt as If I would twist my ankles. I started getting more concerned about my ankles now. The more I thought of it the more close calls I got. Couple of times I did get those narrow shaves. Whew!! I would then say that was close and I walked on. I was not able to push myself to run now and inside my head a demon was growing, constantly telling me what if I am not able to finish this? I had planned my race right, I had not overworked myself and it was not as if I was exhausted but it was more a case of my legs giving up and even more, my head was buying into the idea that my legs had run their course.

I was now really struggling and so I made sure that I was looking behind me and that I gave way to the runners behind me when they got close. And then a group of three running in a line came close, and as I gave way, this one guy in the middle just says “Come hop in the running train. We will do this slow and steady.” So, I got aboard and hopped on the running the train and behold I was able to run again. It was not brisk running but more joggers pace but at least I was back to running and suddenly I was not concerned about my ankles. I just tried to stick with the running pack and matched their pace and surprisingly I was able to keep it up. In the way we also made others hop on the running train and this formula worked. It felt good to motivate one another and running like this helped. At the end of the day for all of us it was more about being able to finish the race. We got to the 18k mark and then it was time for some granola bars, biscuits and water. We got going on and now I knew we were close. I did feel I was tiring out now and so I backed up a little bit, but now I knew I would finish this race, thanks to the running train that got me through the little mini rut I had been in after the 15k mark. I forged on slowly and though the running train went on without me, it had served its purpose for me. I would surely be finishing the race.

There was one final climb which again was long and tough. Once, this was done it was running to the finish. The 21k had been done and the demon conquered. It took me 3 hours and 29 minutes to finish the race, a bit longer than what I had expected but I did not care. I was happy to finish the race, under really tough running terrain.

 

My first ever half-marathon.

 

 

How I quit smoking?

quit-smoking-illustration-man-speech-bubble-telling-angry-cigarette-character-cartoon-41247975.jpgOn July of 2015 I decided I was going to quit smoking. After more than a decade into smoking I was finally ready to call it the quits. However, this by no means was my first attempt. There had been numerous failed attempts in the past. This time, I felt more ready than ever, and was more determined to do it. Now, more than a year later I can safely say I am no longer a smoker, and that smoking and cigarettes don’t entice me either.

As a former smoker myself, I am aware that many smokers want to call it the quits. However, I also know from my past experience that it is a tough ask, and I also know from experience that it is not impossible.

I want to share my experience so as to encourage myself never to smoke again, and also hope that my experience can be helpful to anyone who is looking to quit smoking.

So how did I really quit smoking –

  1.       Deciding to quit

quit smoking

First and foremost, I just decided that I had had enough of it. I wanted to smoke no more. I wanted to be able to run and play without running out of breath 30 seconds into starting those activities. I wanted to get rid of that constant smoker’s cough (many smokers will be denial regarding the smoker’s cough, but get real).

Like many smokers out there I too have had experiences of deciding to quit many times prior to this. I, however, wanted to really do it this time around.

  1.       Research and a perspective change

After deciding to quit, I jumped into researching all the benefits of not smoking. The findings were very uplifting and I wanted to experience the benefits of not smoking.

060412_1252_ChangeYourP2.jpgUpon my research I also stumbled upon a perspective. This perspective suggested that instead of seeing my past failed attempts of trying to quit smoking as failure, I should rather see them as gained experience. This new found perspective encouraged me, and I felt confident enough that I would be able to quit this time.

  1.       Getting hold of the mind

“Mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master” says Robin Sharma, and this quote holds true when you are trying to quit smoking. Smoking, like any other habit, is hardwired to your system because you have done it for so long and quitting will test you physically and mentally. Research shows that it takes around three days for your body to throw out the nicotine present in your system. After which you are no longer physically attracted to nicotine present in the cigarette, and then starts the nicotine withdrawal effect. This withdrawal effect is made worse by the ongoing mental challenge. The mind is a tricky little bugger and it’ll say things to you to get you back to smoking (it did for me). “Just one cigarette,” it’ll say; other times it’ll be like, “you’ve gone clean for a week. That’s something – just one cigarette now. It’ll do you no harm.”  The key is to stay strong-willed and to not let the mind overpower you. Slowly, the voices will die down. The physical as well as the mental addiction will eventually subside.

This is not by any means an action that happens overnight, and as with any other practice, quitting smoking also takes time. But if you stick to your guns, the urge to smoke will eventually disappear.

  1.       Putting them running shoes on (being a freak)

As I quit smoking, I wanted to give myself more reasons ( as if I did not already have many)  to not take up smoking ever again. So, I put my running shoes, on and started to run every day. With no deliberate smoke ingestion, I was able to run without getting the wind knocked out of me in thirty seconds.  Running brought a breath of fresh air into my life (literally). I began enjoying pushing my body to run 3 miles at first, eventually followed by 5 miles, and even 10 miles

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Finally,

  1.     Started reading

Also, as a smoker, I know one of the times when people smoke a lot is whilst waiting for someone/something. I used to do it too, but then I found a better thing to do- i started reading instead. I started carrying a book with me everywhere I went, sometimes even in my mobile device. So, in order to curb that urge of smoking, I dove into the books. Eventually, the urge always died down minutes later.

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When I started running…

The many health benefits of running are known to both runners and non-runners. However, there are certain experiences that can be only noticed only when one starts to run. I have been running every morning for about six months now (barring the time when I have been injured), and it has benefited me in numerous ways. In addition to the obvious health benefits, running has introduced me to new perspectives. These are the perspectives I want to share –

  1. The world don’t matter

When I first started to run, I was very self-conscious about it. I would get the sense that people who were watching would judge me if i didn’t run in a certain acceptable way. But soon I began to enjoy running, and I loved doing my weekly 5 miles. On other days, a 3 mile run would suffice my appetite for running.  The more I ran, the more I loved it, and soon I was not self-conscious about whether people were looking or not. Nor did I feel obliged to run in certain style. I would sometimes take huge strides while running;other times, I would run just on my toes. Most importantly, I did not feel the need to run in the conventional style as long as I was running sincerely and honestly and doing my allocated miles for the day. At the end of the 5 mile run, I punched the air and then punched my chest (Djokovic style) in delight. It did not matter who was looking – I was having fun the right way, and that was what mattered.

This perspective was an eye opener and it brought about this mindful awareness. The important thing was to be sincere, have fun, and the rest didn’t matter. It also occurred to me then that:

  1.  People don’t have the time to sit there and watch what you’re doing. Everyone’s is just as busy in their own lives.
  2.  If people do make comments, feel privileged that they have time to look at you in their busy lives. You don’t need to oblige, or listen to every comment.

 

2. Every run is different from the previous

When I first started running back in November 2015, I could barely run 3 miles. I would be out of breath, and catching my breath would take time. The more I ran, the better my stamina became, and I was able to run 3 miles with ease. I soon started doing five miles every weekend, and again, to begin running five miles was tough. I was able to complete my first five mile on the first try, and since then have completed many more five miles. There was one stark discovery though – Every day, when I set off to run the five miles, I would have doubts.  I eventually have always finished the five miles I have started, but during every start, my mind has had doubts. I have come to know that every day is going to be different, and just because I have done the five miles previously, I can’t take it for granted. I have to motivate, re-motivate, and re-re-motivate myself during the runs. A small variable change – the wind, the temperature, the sleep I had, the shoe, the feel in the legs could very well change the entire pattern of the run. Every run, thus, becomes different from the previous.

The idea is to stay vigilant, to keep myself motivated, and just like the run, everything that you start is achievable.

  1. Life is a marathon, not a sprint

I know this is a cliché, “Life is marathon, not a sprint,” but it does hold true. When I first started running, my objective was to run a full marathon. Unfortunately, I have not been able to do that. I might have at least participated in at least one, but well, that number never ran. But as I do my five miles and sometimes close to six miles, it dawns to me how tough a full marathon would be.  The distance of an official full marathon is 26 miles which is at least four times more than I normally run. It takes me roughly around 50 to 55 minutes to do five miles, and if I ran at the same average pace, it would take me nearly 3.5 hours to complete a full marathon. This is if I can maintain the average pace, and we know the body tires, so taking that into account, it would take me around 4 hours or more of running to do a full marathon.  That just puts everything in perspective – running a marathon does not happen overnight. When I first started out saying I am going to run the marathon, I had no idea what I was talking about. But now that I run, and have experienced the effort that goes into running, I can understand the effort it takes to run a marathon.

A humongous task like running a marathon cannot be achieved overnight; it takes time. It takes training, eating right, and mental strength to achieve the distance. I have not run a marathon, but even with all the training that goes into it, when it comes to the real deal, many falter. Running a marathon in many ways does sound like what life is. You can be prepared for it, but yet, life brings about subtle variable change to always challenge you.

At the end of the day,this is the beauty of both life and a marathon – to be able to overcome and complete challenges one after another.

 

Life’s sweeter without the added sugar

About a month ago,I decided to give up eating sugar (sucrose) for the next month. My decision was influenced by a video I watched on Youtube. Not the greatest place be influenced from, but I was, and so I set forth on this challenge – No Sugar for a month.

By no sugar, I meant I wouldn’t be eating table sugar or any product that had additive sugar. I also wanted to do this challenge because for the past year or so, I have really focused on running and fitness overall. And one of the fitness mantra (after having done the workouts) is “NO SUGAR”. Cutting off sugar means cutting off a lot of unnecessary calories and replacing them with much needed calories required by the body(at least this is what I think).

The first two weeks were relatively easy. I sometimes had the urge to eat chocolate (of which i am a big fan), burgers,carbonated drinks and other sugar laden edibles, but I refrained. I stayed true to my words for the first two weeks without much discomfort.

And then, on the third week, as I woke up one Monday morning, I had a bloated stomach. Not having sugar was supposed to make me lose weight, help me get those shredded abs but it had just done the reverse. My tummy was bulging out(so it felt), and I was feeling lost. The following days got even worse – my digestive system was all out of sorts. Those awful burps and gaseous tummy made my third week tough. I did not know what caused this and then it struck me “Does that have something to do with me not eating sugar?” And so I googled. And presto! There it was – “Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms”. This self-diagnosis made me feel a bit better, and after having talked to my friends and loved ones, I was sure that my change in diet was the reason behind my digestive system disarray. I wondered if i took sugar would the queasiness go away, but i did not want to. I did not want to falter after having gotten this far, and with only one week to go did not want to eat sugar.

And, I did not – I went four weeks without eating sugar. The sickness has disappeared and I feel fit and healthy. I have started running again after my mini-illness had prevented me from running for three days. I won’t lie: I can see the abs getting a better shape.

Above all, I have started eating a lot of fruits. In my attempt to stop eating sugar I have turned my attention to fruits that provide me with necessary sugar and a lot more. I have stopped eating a lot of sugar laden food – meaning i have cut back on a lot of junk food (if not all). And I intend to maintain this diet – No sugar.

It thus, would be fair to conclude “Life is sweeter without the added sugar”

Offline

It had really been coming- the smartphone (if you can call it that) had been asking for it. It had been constantly distracting me and keeping me uselessly occupied for hours.Those sudden beeping noise that alerted me to various social network,email and text notifications were distracting me from the task in hand. I am not having a go  at the notification that i received or the sender- it is just i was getting sucked into the distraction and the smartphone wasn’t helping my cause. And i had to put a end to all of this and try and find a way around concentrating on the stuffs that i really wanted to do.

The smartphone I’ll have to be honest is an wonderful aide to me and it does make things so much simpler at work and in personal life. But occasionally the overuse kinda complicates matters for worse and i think that’s exactly what’s happened to me in this case. So, when i saw this post on Instagram that encouraged shoving the phone inside the drawer for the weekend (Just the Saturday) – i said why not? And i did just that.

At around 9pm on a  Friday night – i took my phone and placed it inside my closet. As so often is the case when trying quit doing something habitual – i did have urge the urge to go back check my notification. But i stayed firm and did not fall for this on Friday. But i knew the real test would come the next day as i would have to endure an entire day without looking at my device and not checking my email or social networking sites. I also had had list planned out for the day – stuffs i wanted to get done without getting distracted.

Twenty four hours after i had put my phone inside my closet i took it out – it was Saturday ,  9 PM. I had actually gone an entire day without looking at the phone – plus i had gotten a lot of things done. I had almost finished the book i started on Friday night -” The last lecture” and i had worked on a couple of things more. ( Details of which i will write about if i continue to do them).

Here i am on a Sunday afternoon just writing about my experience – to be honest i did not have that strong a urge to check my notification. And i have my phone on me right now and it helps me  with a lot of tasks but on Friday and the Saturdays it is going back in my closet.

 

 

 

What is it about running?

What is it about running that makes me want to get out there and run my heart out – and then when I exhaust, I still feel mightily pleased about the entire session? Why is it when I don’t run I get cranky and anxious? Why is it when I injured and people tell me rather stop running it kinda feels horrible to just think that?

This new found love for running which has lasted for almost six months now and looks like it can only grow has engulfed me. I can’t explain the phenomenon of that what takes place when I run – the sheer joy and the excitement. Every time when I take those strides , every mile I cover and every minute that I run when they add up to something bigger it makes me want to jump and punch the air in delight.

Much of last two weeks I have not been able to run due to the injury that I picked up. I planned to run for last week but since the injury had not healed I could not run as planned. As a matter of fact the start of the previous week I was still struggling to walk. However, by mid-week I felt a lot better. The pain went away and I think it is safe to say my forced rest actually paid off. And I am looking to run once again. Also, this past week I have realized that having this injury kind of played on my head as well. I can say so because just the other day I was trying to put a post together (similar to this one) but I could hardly articulate the words everything felt so forced that I actually went from being in a moderately good mood to an awful mood in a jiffy. And I had to stop writing altogether. As, I sat down to write this today I feel that this particular post has come unforced and just the way I’d have wanted it to. I would surely say this has partly to do with the fact that I will be running soon (most likely tomorrow). Also, I did do a short stint this evening covering around 2 miles and that just opened everything up again.

All of these evidence which shows that how running lightens up my mood , how it just makes me feel a lot better , energetic and healthy could be the reason why I will continue to run as long as I can. But having said that – I still cannot really put my finger on that one reason so what I love to run so much.

The number that never ran

I was really super hyper excited for the event that was scheduled for the 19th of February -the half marathon. It would  be my first official crack at long distance running and i was really looking forward to the event. I was building up for this – constantly talking about the event and i could not have been more ready for it, mentally.

As the day for the event came closer the excitement grew and in anticipation for the event i started fearing if i could actually complete the 21 kms. But nothing was going to stop me from running , at least i thought so.

Friday, came and i was up early and pumped up for tomorrow’s marathon. Today was going to be all about researching on how to give myself the best chance to compete and complete and also it was about getting hydrated. And then all of all sudden in my head i went ” What date is it today?” As i hurried to check on the date , i saw to my horror it was the 19th. I had miscalculated – and now here i was late for my first marathon.

Nothing had prepared me for this misfortune and i was absolutely livid and aghast. All along i had thought the 19th of February was a Saturday and hadn’t even bothered to look it up in a calendar. And my stupidity had cost me the chance to run in my first long distance run. It was heart breaking to begin with and i was gutted. There was nothing i could do now – i had to report to the starting line by 6:45 am and i had noticed my grave error only at around 7 am. So, my number was missing from the starting grid.

As, heart wrenching as it was – i found it funny as well. I mean i had been a complete idiot to not look it up on a calendar. And so i laughed at myself and so did my mom when she said ” Khuchhing paryo” – my sister joined in. Not that my mom wanted to make fun of me for missing the event but it was just funny the way i had missed it due to my negligence.

At the end of it all i think something good came of my this experience – the first and the more obvious  always verify the date on a calendar (don’t be a freaking over-smart jackass). The other and this i figured on close observation ” maybe i wasn’t ready and it was universes way of telling me this.” Maybe if i had run things would be not gone as i expected them too. It gives me to opportunity to keep on practicing and doing my own 21kms before i participate in an event. At the end of it all “All’s well that ends well”. And i go again until the next marathon i keep on pushing myself.

21st Early Day

20 days ago i challenged myself to start waking up early at 4:30 a.m for the next 21 days. There was no reasoning for this. And i did not know what to expect at the end of it all. But i started nevertheless and i sit here on the 21st day having woken up every day for the past 21 morning at 4:30 am, sometimes even before.

Was it tough? Yes, it was. The waking up was easy. It was really the staying awake that was tough. The fact that it was winter did nit help as leaving the warm cozy bed was a different challenge all together. But it was do able. To first wake up and stay awake for the next one hour upon which i went for a run outside.

Would i continue waking at 4:30? The idea of the challenge was that it took 21 days of doing the same thing at the same time to form a habit. So, if it has become a habit i think i should be auto-tuned to do it. We’ll see though what happens.

Finally, the reason i think now when i look back i set forth on this challenge was because i just wanted to. There was no comparative analysis or anything. I just felt it would add some value and so i set forth. I am glad i did.