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.

 

 

When I have nothing to ramble about

As September draws to a close, I suddenly realized that I had not posted anything on my blog. I can make an excuse and say I have been busy ( which I have) for not being able to post anything this month.  So, here I am trying to scramble in one post before September ends. Sitting down on my desk I ransack my head for stuffs I want to write about, I come across none. I should rather say I come across too many things, but I want to write about none.

However, I have to and so I decided to ramble on about having nothing to ramble on about or should I say ramble on about having a lot to ramble about but not wanting to ramble about them. This post might be confusing, ambiguous, unstructured and jumbled up but yet it serves a purpose- a great purpose in fact (now that I think of it). It keeps my blog updated and keeps me in track for that one post a month target I have set since last November. My older post in the past served this purpose too but this post does it better – as it does just that one specific task.

There might not be a lot to take away from this post ( I doubt if there was anything to take from my other posts) for the readers, but again for me – worth its weight in gold. Maybe I am over-exaggerating a bit here but hey, I am just rambling on. “Ramble, Ramble, Ramble, Ramble On and On.”

 

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.

 

2015 – Hindsight 20/20

It’s almost the end of the year 2015, which as clichéd as it sounds feels like started just few days ago.  And here I am doing my year review – as a matter of fact my first ever. I don’t want to dwell too much into particular incidents or follow a monthly chronological order but instead will try and identify six key lessons that served me particularly well this year.

  1. It’s not the start or the end but the journey that matters

We’d all love to have a positive and a solid start and that would be the ideal scenario but this is not always possible. At the end of 2014, I had no idea I would have one of the most horrible start to 2015. But to be fair to 2015 it was not all its doing – I pretty much carried the baggage of 2014 into 2015. And the mayhem with which 2015 started was just compounded by the extra baggage I’d carried from 2014. As the early days of 2015 rolled on, before I’d known it months had passed. I was a miserable wreck on so many levels.  That feeling of stagnancy in life was at its peak and I felt I was a victim of life.

Then I snapped – in hindsight I can say for the better.  I think I reached the saturation point of stagnancy – what happened next was I said “I don’t want this for me.” The moment I said this wind sort of changed its course-maybe. But now towards end of this year with few days remaining that day late in June when I told myself I was done with stagnancy – it all changed for me. And i think it is fair to say that I am looking forward to carrying this momentum on to 2016 and start on the front foot. Will I be carrying any extra baggage with me? NOPE

  1. From Mind-full to Mindful

This was without a shadow of doubt the best decision I made and it continues to be one. With the start of 2015 the head was filled with loads of stuffs and constant overthinking made it worse. The worse got even more unbearable when I was constantly worrying about the things I could not influence. It was around this time I was feeling horribly down in life. Towards the end of June, one evening as I sat there probably with hands on my head – surfing the net, my mind full of unproductive ramblings, I just felt that I did not want this anymore. And then the very next moment my hands fell on this book “Mindfulness: How to find peace in this frantic world.” I did not know whether this book would work for me. But I did seek for that ever eluding “peace” and if this book was going to show me the way, I was more than willing to follow. What happened then on was surreal and i was on a journey from being mind full to being mindful.  And as the days turned to weeks, it was an easy call for me to make – the latter was way better than the former.

Soon, after I found Headspace app which really was a great way to practice mindfulness (meditation). And I am almost seven months into the practice and I love every bit of it. For everyone who thinks about mindfulness is about spiritual or religious practice- it’s not. It’s a practice where you basically more aware. And in order to be mindful one need not sit crossed legged or in some weird postures and with incense stick burning – those are just a myth. You can do it sitting on a chair or even lying down- it’s all about being in the present. Also, you need not spend hours on it, being mindful for ten minutes a day is enough.

  1. Reading is to mind what exercise is to body

Another one of my best decision this year – to start reading more. I have never been a voracious reader and I don’t consider myself one. But ever since I started reading a lot more than I previously had – everything seemed better. Not that I had solved all my problems, I hadn’t – all of them were right there but I just had better things to do now than to sit or lie down and overthink about things that were well out of my control. I would have my mindfulness sessions and the reading sessions would be long and endless every day. I did not have any particular genre of books as such and I read pretty much everything- Fiction, non-fiction, self-help, autobiography and even religious Scriptures. I was reading blogs, journals – I was reading and was in the thick of the excitement of reading.  Also, by the time I started reading I already had about a months’ practice of the mindfulness sessions and these sessions really contributed for me to be able to read and make a habit out of it. I say this with immense joy that I have actually been able to read much more in the course of five months than I have done in the previous five years (I am excluding academic books).  Reading also enabled my mind to ease off and I did not have much time to think about stuffs that really did not add much value to my life but instead just made me feel miserable. And with the reading habit came the writing habit and soon I was writing more. I intend to start a podcast or a V-blog to share my sentiments very soon- which again I think will be a product of me reading more.

  1. Smoking is injurious to health

When I first started smoking almost a decade ago I was well aware that smoking was injurious and it kills. But I wouldn’t often argue just for the heck of it – “what doesn’t?” I’d say. But a week after my encounter with the mindfulness book I was ready to give up smoking for the umpteenth time.   But this time I was equipped with a little bit more grit, determination and above all experience. The fact that I had failed on so many attempts previously to give up smoking was actually encouraging. Many a times failure drags us down and we tend to believe that I am not going to succeed because I’ve failed so many times. But this time was different I actually saw my failure as my experience and felt I was better equipped to deal with effects of quitting smoking. Here again my mindful practice came to my aid. When I felt like smoking I tried to get rid of the urge and told myself it was all in the head and it was more the mental battle rather than the physical. And a week turned into two, then three and here I am today almost six months smoke free. And the lungs feel great.

  1. Running for life

Months after I started my mindfulness session, I was reading, writing more frequently and had not smoked, it just occurred to me one afternoon early November – I am going to run the marathon. I had no idea where this thought came from but I just wanted to run. And so the very next morning I laced up my runners and took to the road. I was amazed how refreshing this was and given I had quit smoking for couple of months now I could really run so much better.  It was soon two weeks into my running program and I was pleasantly surprised to see myself loving to wake up early every morning, lace up and run. I had actually started running for life and not idiomatically but literally. I just loved it.  When I got injured two weeks later with a torn ligament and was bed ridden for the next two weeks I kept the flame burning and my desire to start running was immense. This led me to believe that I was going to run as long as I could.

 Initially when I had this thought that I wanted to run for some reason deep down inside I just wanted it to a long distance run. And both running and reading about long distance running has brought about new insight about life as a whole. It is amazing how life and long distance running (marathon) co-relate to one another.  I want to write more about the co-relation but not just yet, not until I have got a taste of running an actual marathon.

  1. Keeping the feet firmly on the ground

This by far is the lesson of the year- to keep the feet on the ground. When I started this year I was sinking slowly but surely. I was a train wreck and six feet under the ground from where I just could not see the light. But then everything changed for the better and right now I feel great about myself. And I know for a fact that with this amazing feel that I get at times it is easy to get carried away. So it becomes more important that put my feet on the ground. I am in love with this journey where it is so much about self-investment and I want to keep at it without getting carried away by the positives that comes my way. Or not beat myself in time of turmoil.

Finally, I believe now everything is a choice. It starts with multiple options but then one was to make a choice and stick to it.

(My 2015 has been a great learning curve and I can’t wait for the 2016. There’s so much to do, so many plans and but I understand that whatever the circumstance I am going to deal with it a lot better and enjoy it.)