How I Stumbled My Way To A 10K

About three months ago The Chennai Runners challenged me to run a 10K at the upcoming Chennai Marathon on December 1st. And – in a moment of misguided enthusiasm – I agreed. Here’s my piece on the run up to the race.

I’m not an inspiring story. I might as well get that out there right now so I don’t disappoint you later. I say this outright because I
can’t seem to be able to run one kilometre in this city without stubbing my toe against yet another glowing, healthy, happy runner
whose “life has been changed” by lacing up his/her shoes.

I can’t even lace up my shoes. Not ‘correctly’ anyway. I tried the ‘runner’s knot’ three times, and still tripped on trailing laces 500
mts into my first run.

And since I’m using this as a confessional booth, I might as well tell you, I’m not even a cheerful runner. (No surprises there, huh?) I’m grumpy when I wake up at 5 am. I’m grumpy when I stretch. And I’m grumpy when I run.

So why am I doing this at all.

Well, three months ago I naively wrote a breezy article about how anyone can run a 10K, not suspecting for a minute that I would eventually be challenged to put my money where my mouth is. (And, in hindsight, what a big mouth it is!) Once the article was out, the head of Chennai Runners, Krishna Kumar suggested I test the thesis. He sounded so confident in my abilities that I got
carried away by his optimisim, logged on to the Wipro Chennai Marathon website, and rashly signed up.

When an event is 3 months away, you feel invincible. Run 10 Km? Well. How hard can it be? So, I did all the important things in careful, contemplative, logical order: Bought pink running shoes. Planned where to eat a pancake-bacon-champagne celebratory brunch post-run. Created a suitably eclectic play list for my Nike Running App, featuring everything from Taio Cruz to Tina Turner. (Obediently following instructions, I even chose a ‘power song’:Beneath Your Beautiful – Labrinth feat. Emeli Sandé, if you must know.)

Lest you think it was all fun and games, let me assure you I did some spadework. I not only downloaded the Couch to 10K programme, but also took multiple print outs to leave on unsuspecting colleagues’ desks. (Nothing quite as satisfying as dragging everyone down with you.) I joined the Chennai Runner’s Alwarpet beginners group with an equally run-resistant friend, let’s call her Fudge. And, I told my coaches at The Quad Bootcamp about my grandiose plans.

I confess that I never looked at that Couch to 10K programme again. Fortunately, I did stay regular with my Quad workouts, and so when I turned up for my first run ever with the Chennai Runners group at Alwarpet, I survived 5 kms. But it was not easy. Mostly because Fudge and I staggered in on Saturday morning expecting group hugs, cappuccinos and a gentle jog. However, the ‘beginners’ flexed their calf muscles and galloped away like a herd of Zebras in a David Attenborough documentary. Congratulating ourselves on having the foresight to sneakily stuff auto money into our pockets, we ran-walked-grumbled-ran-walked behind them. Through it all, Fudge and I rolled our eyes and sighed, “This running thing is grotesquely over rated.”

But the people at Chennai Runners are awesome. Honestly. I have never met so many upbeat people in my life. Don’t worry. I’m not going to give you a nauseating spiel on beautiful friendships here. Mostly because I know them as Gatorade Girl, Hydration Belt Guy and ‘That Nice Boy Who Smiles.’ Over the 6 Saturday runs we manage to attend, we get used to their relaxed style of coaching, and I stop having nightmares about being left behind. I have to admit, that runner’s high is awesome.

There are some unexpected fallouts though. Saturday nights are not the same – I’m in pyjamas by 9 p.m. The one time I try
to regain my party girl credentials, I drink two glasses of wine, get into stilletoes and head out for a night of wild clubbing at the
Flying Elephant: only to fall asleep at the table. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. My friends had to form a protective ring
around me to stop giggly party girls from photographing, Instagramming and posting me on Facebook.

Last week, I was still grouchy about the run. Then, I went to Marina beach with some friends and did my longest run, 8K in 66 mins. (Forgive me, but I’m ridiculously proud of my timing, given how un-athletic I am.) My foot started to hurt, and by the time I got home, I was hobbling.

I’m still surprised at how upset I was. After all, this was the perfect excuse not to run. And a legitimate one at that. As it turns
out, I didn’t realize I wanted to do this run, till I thought I wouldn’t be able to. So I flexed and iced and massaged. I sat at the
office with my foot on an upturned dustbin. Yesterday, I tried running once more, and managed 5 K with no niggles. Thrilled, I texted all my friends to say I’m back in the game. Of course, some things don’t change. I’m still wailing about the map. 10 K looks like a really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y long way.

I’m not sure what it is about running that makes it addictive. Fudge radiantly tells me she intends to run 3 times a week at least, even after the marathon is over. (That traitor!) As for me, well, the last three months have taught me that this is a test of your mental as well as physical capabilities. My biggest hurdle was my fear of running. Now, I realise it’s silly to limit myself simply because I assume I’ll be bad at something. As we grow older, we tend to stick to doing things we’re good at. Honestly, my running challenge was rewarding, because I was so bad at it. It made all the small victories much more meaningful.”

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