Red mud roads, arresting sunsets and sunrises, daunting trees, 8-feet tall savannas, occasional vehicles, just one or two in an hour that makes the mud rise, bringing the visibility down to zero. All those who run, and have had the fortune of running outdoors would know, what a blessing it is to be able to run in wilderness. No honking, no life threatening mad rush of vehicles, a feet-friendly terrain, intense oxygen supply minus the pollution. This is what running might have felt like before air conditioned gyms with treadmills and manicured joggers parks, became a necessity in the urban labyrinth we live in.
Always been an athlete, I discovered the intense, unadulterated pleasure of long distance, outdoor running only in 2013 when I successfully completed a half marathon in a respectful duration. Since then, the love affair has been an on and off one. This year I have committed myself to be able to run a full marathon. Not a Boston or NY Marathon. My personal, in the wilderness of Africa – marathon. Gorillas and panthers have been spotted here. So I will need someone trailing, to keep me alive. The thousands of butterflies that spectacularly dot the track that I have zeroed in on, would help keep me distracted. In six months from now. Before the end of 2016. I have no trainer. Minimum gear. I am fine with that. That is the beauty of running, isn’t it? When you leave the house, all you need is shoes and spirit, (and maybe sports bra).
The addiction to adrenaline is compelling. Having experienced my first rush last week after dragging myself for a month on runs, I am a junkie again. The adrenaline rush that I am talking about, is that happy drug that shoots in the body when you push yourself beyond your limits. The ‘fight’, when ‘flight or fight’ syndrome kicks in. Once achieved, sore feet or wobbly knees, you can run on the hormone till you faint or till the natural supply of happy drugs last, whichever is earlier.
I have had no formal training in running, neither do I have any medical studies’ background. What I am going to narrate is purely based on first person account. This is what I did to drop 20 kilos in one year. Disclaimers out of the way, we can get back to talking about running.
From having run with religious devotion (twice a day) to letting dust gather on my running shoes for 6 months, I have picked up not from where I left but from the beginning, too many times and have lived to tell the tale. The body responds to stimulus too intuitively, more than our awareness can perceive. It is the most magnificent, well timed, mysterious apparatus that walks on earth. To what I have put mine through, from running to intense classical dance training (Kathak), from diving to yoga, from swimming to basketball, I have seen the corpus respond and transform miraculously. Whenever I have halted running, my body has not fattened but lumbered. For instance, just to be able to normally jog has taken me 20 runs. This is normal. One needs to be patient. Allowing the body to first resist the initial shock, then getting used to it and then beginning to respond to the stimuli is part of the drill.
After successfully and embarrassingly dragging myself, I remember the precise moment when I experienced the adrenaline rush. It feels weightless for a few seconds, the solidification feeling in the whole body becomes a wave instead, un-knotting itself. The happiness is a byproduct. One confession, in the past, I have run on two drugs – music and coffee. This once, I want the run to be unadulterated. So I have not picked up music and am already weaning-off coffee. Nevertheless, to each one, their own. If it suits you to run better with music or freely available drug, called coffee, do so. Running doesn’t become effortless so to say post the adrenaline kicking in cycle. Every run is unique. It is not something that is done with for once. It is an everyday journey and a conscious choice.
Pre and post running stretching helps a lot. Hydration keeps the body lithe. Do away with peripheral issues like hunger, gear and get up. Feed yourself a couple of hours before the run so that you feel lightweight and not-hungry at the same time. Carry water and sip, not drink. The running gear that suits you the best, is the one, that is the best. So give yourself time to land on the most perfect one. Experiment with the various hours of the day and see when you perform the best. This has to be coupled with availability post or pre-work as well. Deadlines help. Pick a date by when you want to drop how many kilos or inches. Work towards it. Learn to say no. You will lose a lot of friends in the process, who want you to join them in overeating or want you to stay back for drinks, which will make you miss your tomorrow morning’s run.
Be generous. Listen to your body closely, if it is wanting to run more, push it. If it is crumbling under the weight of heavy expectations, be generous and allow recuperation. No, I am not on a diet. Never have. Rationing food depresses me. Read Rujuta Diwekar on why there is no need to diet. I eat like a fast moving dumpster, till I feel full. The moment I do, I just stop. Immediately. I also ensure that I don’t reach a phase when am hungry. As a habit, I keep myself fed and hydrated through the day.
And lastly, reward yourself. I mostly buy a nice dress that is one size smaller. It makes me want to get back to my shape and then look pretty. Or promise a binge party of donuts, or butter chicken, whatever makes you drool.
There are side effects to catching on to running. You will feel fitter, more productive and less drowsy. You will receive more compliments than you will be able to handle. Your appetite will improve, so will your metabolism. A glowing skin and toned body will give it all away. You have been warned.