Why I run

As I prepared for the Sunday race, on Saturday afternoon I said to myself, I have done this before  and I can do it again. As I rested in the afternoon, watching Invictus, the 1995 movie about removing apartheid in South Africa with the Rugby world cup, I decided to make the immortal lines from the poem by William Henley my mantra for the run…

“I am the Master of my Fate,The Captain of my soul. “

I slept well that night, waking up fresh with the alarm That was not a good sign, and I should have wondered… where was the pre exam anxiety. Unbeknownst, we reached the start line, and with friendly banter started the race.

It was a good group, Rahul, Vishal, Rohan, Ninad and me, the unofficial sub-4 bus we called it. Confidence? Could be over confidence. zxcv

But why not. We had trained hard and were maintaining the required pace. Along the way, runners from Delhi ( Aman, a second time FM – with a 5.15 debut, trying for a sub 4) and Ramesh – Suresh (we named them that J) from Hyderabad joined us. The Bus was doing well and having a lot of fun.

We crossed the halfway mark bang on target and conversation dropped around 27km. The group got scattered. Aman, slightly ahead, the rest lost, it was me and Rahul braving the sun on Worli sea face. Further on we were about 20 m apart, and we maintained that gap over 5-6 km until Haji Ali where he got a cramp and I found Aman, who had also slowed down. From then on, it was the two of us going up Peddar Road.

We huffed and puffed halfway, and finally slowed down to a walk. I used those precious seconds to take out my iPod and by the uphill was read to rock. Summer of 69 sang Bryan and there I was in great spirit. Suddenly it all seemed achievable. I raced away. In full speed! And Aman was lost. After a glorious kilometre, the fatigue set in nice and proper. Hope diminished at the speed of light. And the pace dropped dramatically. Nothing helped. Not the music. Not the people. And certainly not the well meaning bystander who told me, only 4km to go- push! Dude. I was doing the best I could!!

Well. The story just got grimmer as the run slowed further to a walk, and it took all my will power to start running again. Pulin tried his best tomotivate me to keep my pace. Motivation. Sweet talking. Emotional blackmail. And even abuses! BUT…The brain had stopped working and nothing came to mind. No mantra. No goodwill. Nothing.

I allowed myself to suffer. I did not embrace the pain. I could not rise above it. I walked twice more on Marine Drive. ( I have never done in any of my race finishes in all these years.) At km 41, Pulin says, let’s beat that guy 100 m ahead, and there….I was able to gather my wits, strength, and whatever else… and sprint the last km. Some salvation!


A respectable time but not a great finish. Not a strong finish. Time for introspection.

So that’s how the topic of suffering landed on me. I realized what had happened. I stopped pushing when it became hard. At km 29. I see now, how much we try to avoid any suffering or discomfort in our culture. We numb it, we run around it or away from it, we bury it, and we deny it.

It is our attitude toward suffering that causes more pain than the suffering itself. “The last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Says Victor Fankl. He suggests we shouldn’t attempt to avoid suffering, but rather we should embrace it when it comes. “It doesn’t really matter what we expect from life, but rather what life expects from us.”I bring up Frankl because of the relationship between running and suffering. He insists suffering is what strengthens us. “If an architect wants to strengthen a decrepit arch, they increase the load which is laid upon it, for thereby the parts are joined more firmly together.”

Think about this in terms of increasing mileage, running hills, and doing speedwork at the track. Think about this in terms of our relationships with our running partners, as the years and miles accumulate so do the loads we carry for each other—and we are closer and stronger for it. Certainly there is joy and glory and freedom and passion in running. We know the endorphin high, the connection, and the clarity it brings. And yet we also know it wouldn’t mean the same if it didn’t occasionally include some suffering. The suffering inherent in the effort is what creates the texture and shadow that reveal the art. You can’t have one side without some of the other.

Earned pleasure doesn’t mean the avoidance of pain—not in running, not in relationships, not in work, not in the creative process, not in life.

To me, this is the beauty of race day, of running in general.

It’s choosing on purpose to hurt a bit, to extend, to press in and onward and through, and offer up a little something—to stop avoiding suffering and embrace it to find the joy.1234



14 thoughts on “Why I run

  • And not to forget motivational roar of “parul, parul, parul” at the peddar road and almost everywhere. It looked as you own the Mumbai 🙂
    It was so lovely to have run with you lady…
    Take care, will join you next year to close sub 3:50.

  • Amazing, went through exactly the same emotions and had a similar response from myself on my fourth attempt at the full in SCMM.

    I guess it’s called hitting the Wall. 33- 36 kms. :-((

  • Well done and very well expressed . You’ll have days when the end result is better. Keep running joyously. Best, Satish
    “Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive–or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.”
    ― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

  • I just realized that it was you whom I was running with in this SCMM, most of the time and finished in 4:01 as well 🙂 It was a pleasure running alongside. You were running pretty steady.

  • Missed reading your Mumbai report earlier, Parul. Situation now rectified.

    I remember the 2015 race as a serious sufferfest, and yet I truly missed Mumbai this year, wishing I was there. Heard you guys had nice-ish weather.

    Loved the Frankl references, and your insights on the virtue of suffering. Great read!

  • Wow 4.01.. Well done ….and this writeup is a beautiful poetic expression.
    That extra 1 minute sounded like a poetic injustice… 🙂

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