To Do or Not to Do…

Post an hour long swim, a few parental duties and little dilly-dallying, at 8.15 am I headed out for a run last Saturday. The biggest incentive…the weather.

Running in the monsoon is such a pleasure. Enough and more has been written…and I cannot resist but write some more. It feels so easy, especially after the runs in summer, when each run – however short or long (depending on how you look at it!) tests the limits of you endurance.

The weather had changed in a day but my fitness could not do the same. So after a couple of enthusiastic minutes, my heart started racing. Happily I dropped to my long forgotten “run-forever” pace. As I shuffled along, I soaked it all in. Literally and figuratively!

As I settled into my rhythm, thoughts which had been dormant in my head (combating the heat too, I think) bombarded my brain. The more I ran, they frolicked with me. It was such an invigorating morning that if I had a Dictaphone, I could have written a book.

Close on the heels of the Comrades Ultramarathon, I wondered, what makes people challenge themselves?  From where do they get the courage to dream really big? To defy convention, to challenge themselves, to attempt the impossible. As my brain churned faster than my stride, I turned around at Churchgate and headed back. The drizzle increased and all this heavy duty stuff was forgotten, I became as light as a butterfly, and I was drawn into the moment.

Oh, what fun it was! The traffic was light. The sea was dark. The sky was in ever changing fifty shades of grey. Smiles galore on marine drive. College kids. Couples. Families. All out to enjoy this refreshing morning. It was 8.45 am and some people looked at me like an animal escaped from the zoo. I was out there in the rain- without an umbrella- running. This, I think, is normal amongst runners, but now I learn, not so much amongst the rest of the world. A bemused 45-50 year old couple, actually slowed down their Maruti 800, to wave at me- the way a lot of us wave out to this old Parsi gentleman in his red vintage Jalopy every Sunday! They thought I was cuckoo. Well, so be it! I stepped into a large puddle, but skimmed through it by taking a couple of steps on the balls of my feet like a pro. Nothing was going to stop me! A few college kids were trying to take a group selfie…so I photo bombed it! (I see my children cringing when they read this! Our crazy mother) I hi – fived a 5 year old girl who was walking with her father. Yes, they had umbrellas, but were happy to get drenched.

I took a slight detour and ran across the wet sands of Chowpatty beach. Some kids were playing football, a policeman was patrolling the beach on his brand new blue colour beach bicycle (what a cool job!). All this was against the gorgeous backdrop of the Gulmohars on Malabar Hill. Unable to withstand the force of the monsoon, this vermillion bloom will be lost in a couple of days.

As I exited the beach, I tried my best to ignore the squalor of the squatters living under the blue tarpaulin, with crying children, who could see no magic of this season. I tried not to let this dampen my spirit. But it drew me back into thinking mode.

I revisited the last 3 months of my life. I had attempted a lot of new things. Paragliding. Trekking. Swimming. Now, I hope to keep these in my routine, and get better at them. Complete my flying course and become a club pilot. Go on a harder trek next year and possibly climb a peak. As for swimming, I have miles to go.

This desire to challenge myself is compounded by the books I’m reading- “Run” by the iconic Dean Karnazes ( my favourite quote-“ We have grown so comfortable, that we are miserable.” ) and “No way down”, about the ill fated K-2 expedition of 2008 (“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”- Edmund Hilary).

As I grapple with life, to maintain the balance between my “shoulds and musts” (my previous post- to read….) I realise that to rebuild a life is tough, but to give up an existing life to create a new one, with no charted path is tougher. To take a risk when you have something to lose…that’s inviting uncertainty, upsetting the apple cart, swimming upstream etc, etc.

But we are runners. We like to take things head on. We face something in order to avoid it. We invite the enemy in order to overcome it.

We embrace small doses of pain in our training, the ache of running hills or the pain of pushing tempo, and running in the heat, in order to inoculate ourselves against more serious suffering later. Whether we want to improve our time, lose that weight, or complete our marathon – we know that by exposing ourselves to the effort, in the end, it will be manageable.

We are immunized against defeat by our willingness to welcome discomfort. So here I am – ready to jump off the cliff…into the unknown.         

 To play it safe is not to play ….Robert Altman




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