The Importance of a Retreat

History was created this morning (Sunday, 21st February) as my alarm did not ring. In so many years of running- it has never happened. As is a norm before an important run, I did wake up at 2.30am but to my utmost horror – the next time my eyes opened it was 6am! The 5 am alarm, failed me as I woke up on my own at 6.01 am.  (When I checked later, the setting for the alarm was 6.08 am!)

Ohmigod.

I checked my phone- 4 missed calls from Rahul and 8 messages. He was carrying on- and I should catch him somewhere on the road. We had planned the route well- so I was sure I would find him.

Feeling like a moron, in completely panic mode- I scrambled out of bed, managed to get ready and out of the house in less than 10 minutes!

No breakfast.

No pre-run drink.

Nothing.

Back to the basics.

Me and my 2 bottles of water.

No time to even wait for the satellite on the Garmin.

I just went down- and decided to run towards NCPA.

But today was an important run. 27km with a 10km fast finish at race pace. I needed Rahul with me to run well. I really have no choice, I thought to myself, I would find someone to run with along the way. And sure enough, I did. By the time I was at the Marine Drive flyover- I met Savio and his gang.

Perfect.

I would do my first easy 15 km with them. Still no sign of Rahul. When I began running today, anxiety had enveloped me. About pace. Distance. And the coordination confusion. After a few km I got into rhythm. And my apprehension disappeared. All will be fine I thought. Something will happen…

And that’s what running does. Stress just disappears when you run light and easy.

I did about 8km and as we were just going down on Peddar Road- I saw Rahul climbing up the hill. What a relief. I joined him, we turned back and headed towards Ncpa- again- for him to complete his 15km and I did – what I think would have been 13 km.

“Anyone with any degree of mental toughness, ought to be able to exist without the things they like most for a few months at least.” artist Georgia O’Keeffe wrote.

It’s a beautiful thought, and yet a strange and discomfiting one as we grow increasingly accustomed and even entitled to the simple, miraculous conveniences of modern life.

Writing in the month of December — a season of supreme Roman bacchanalia and intemperate festivities — Seneca  (4 BC – AD 65- a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist) offers his friend a recipe for moral resilience and constancy of mind:

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?” There is no reason, however, why you should think that you are doing anything great; for you will merely be doing what many thousands of slaves and many thousands of poor men are doing every day. But you may credit yourself with this item, — that you will not be doing it under compulsion, and that it will be as easy for you to endure it permanently as to make the experiment from time to time. Let us practice our strokes on the “dummy”; let us become intimate with poverty, so that Fortune may notDollarphotoclub_50264022-300x273 catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort, if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.”

This could be a reason why when we run, we leave our comfort zones, and struggle with physical adversities like weather and terrain, as well as mental barriers like distance, strength and pace.

I ran without preparation. On empty. Ran with the basics. Shrugged off my fear. And went onto to finish strong. Last 10km at full pace and killing it with a sprint.

I realised, that maybe I don’t need to fuss as much as I do. I only need my legs to take me through the distance. That it’s ok. It is all in the mind.

Going back to the basics strengthens your mind.

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