Thursday, 22 March 2018

Your mind is your stereo player and the environment your playlist - Run and enjoy

I started running in Dec 2000 and listened to music as I ran on a treadmill in our basement in a Chicago Suburb.
Once Winter was over I searched for the newest, lightest, Sony MP3 at the time, and listened to I think 16 MB of music (yes MB) and would never run without it. In Oct 2001 when I was running my first ever marathon, I met my dad at the half marathon mark and gave him my MP3 and then I really tuned in to my run.

I heard the sound of thousands of foot steps, I heard my own foot strikes, the cheers around, the music, the clapping, the bands, the music of individuals and so much more. My second half of the marathon was decidedly more interesting even though I was so much more tired. But I felt I was more alive, and I could think of positive thoughts of my last training run, that with every 8-9 minutes passing there was one mile less to go, that I could dream of the beer waiting around the finish line, and so on.

Ten years later, I was running on several trails and enjoying running out in nature, enjoying the spectacular views, listening to the birds,  the wind in my hair, the gentle ripple of the waves when I ran on a beach, or the crunching through the early morning snow in the Himalaya and getting down to the next level which could be ice, or softer snow or leaves and dirt trail and mushy water tracks... as when I was running the Everest Marathon in May that year.

I have NEVER listened to music since my first half of my 1st marathon, and in the hundreds of runs we have organised across India, I have always advised people to avoid their music and tune in to themselves and the world around them and therefore become a better runner and enjoy the run more. A few do, but many don't. I strongly advise them against music when they are on one of our cross country runs in particular, as apart from other things, not having music gets you to focus on the trail, the directional markings and also the beauty of the surroundings.

Here is a link to a brief article which also gives several reasons, many of which I have experienced myself and touched upon above,, and some others - read on

and be your own music - the playlist is varied and vast.

Happy running

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Mumbai Magic - The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2017

The Marathon in Mumbai is an annual affair for me from it's first edition in 2004 where we were around 80 finishers, to yesterday in 2017 when we were around 5000, but with the engagement of the city and it's people - it is unlike any other in India.

Have always had my batchmate Jerry cheering me on at the base of Peddar road at around the 10K mark and then at around 35k on the way back.

Haji Ali in all  it's glory early morning,

the Hi Fives of kids oozing energy at Worli Fishing Village and Mahim and Dadar in particular, the residents with all their snacks and toffees and water at Worli, Dadar and Peddar road, the dholaks and dancers at Bandra Reclamation,

the Japanese group on the top of Peddar road, and the smiling policemen have always been wonderful connects.

But the most special part of the Mumbai Marathon Experience year on year are with fellow runners, some whom I don't know at all and exchange a smile of a cheer, some whom I meet annually at this party, and other close friends and some whom I am lucky to run into, at this social, and re-connect.

I stuck mostly to my plan this year with the core objective of meeting up with as many people of different paces and finishing with a smile, as I used this to physically be back into shape after a long hiatus given the Delhi pollution.
I started a little ahead of the 4 hour bus and somewhere around Chowpati joined Dinesh in his 4:15 bus. Hopped on and hopped off of many buses after that as the sea link emerged out of the mist and haze with a gorgeous orange sun. The Bandra Reclamation dance and music troupe were truly energising - hats off to them.

The icing on the cake for me was at around km 25, running into two old friends - Breeze Sharma who had just run a 100 miler the week before and was cooling down with this Marathon and with Pedong express - Roshni - who was also taking it easy. We chatted about various experiences, tales of running - both highs and lows, of cheating, or breaking of records and about each other. It was a wonderful connect - we were taking it easy and soaking it in, making the most of our time together. I had always wanted to run with breeze behind me, and a gentle light in front, and this time, I had both, with Breeze and Roshni as we finished the run together!!

I always look forward to the after party party at Leopold's where we are all 5 year old kids again. This time was no exception and it was wonderful to connect with fellow blistered and bruised and energised folks. This time we were perhaps 4 year olds!!
Then I went to Cafe Mondegar and saw all the staff wearing singlets - where the front said - the race is over, its beer time now, and the back had a print of several runners headed to the finish line - for beer. Only in Mumbai!! The whole city really does get engaged.

Cheers to Mumbai. You sure infect all those who come from various cities, towns and villages and India and I am sure that slowly and steadily, other runs across the country will become more and more engaging for the city and the participants.

Cheers to running bringing all of us together regardless of caste, creed, gender, economics, religion..... and at the finish line, gets us weak at the knees

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Running And Your Knees - Demythified!!

Running is Good for your knees and joints - go forth and run!!

Scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas concluded in a study in 2014 that regular running can prevent a person's chance of developing painful osteoarthritis - Read more
Running lowers inflammation in the knee joints – concludes a study at Brigham Young University – Dec 2016. Read more
Dr. Stephen G. Rice, Director of Sports Medicine at Jersey Shore University Medical Center:
The person who is active and fit and moving around is doing the most active defense against arthritis. There's a happy medium between whether you run smart, slowly building up your endurance, and stay active, and if you put extra force on your knees.
Some people who are genetically set up for arthritis, and no matter how well they run, they will end up developing arthritis.

Dr. Michelle Wolcott, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine:
If you haven't had an injury, a broken bone or a ligament injury where you are predisposed to arthritis, then your chances of creating arthritis are minimal.
We know that weight-bearing exercise, such as running, helps prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Repetitive weight bearing and motion are good for the joints, and running essentially does that.

Some basics for great knees
Proper training programs.
Rest days - critical for protecting the knees.
Running form is key in avoiding knee problems.
Running when injured can cause serious damage.
All runners need strength training.
Every run should include stretching.
The surface you run on, matters - mix the surfaces. Cross country running also helps rehab and strengthening, given the non repetitive nature of the foot strike on an uneven surface.

Use your common sense and listen to your body. Ease into running gradually and feel the difference.


Monday, 14 November 2016

No running away from this one - Currently indoors is in and outdoors is out

Long run or short run?

Indoors or outdoors?

Mask or no mask?

Run or walk?

Downtown or countryside?

Questions of all hues from enthusiastic cyclists, runners and walkers have been doing the rounds over the last 3 weeks, as Diwali normally marks the start of the peak running, and cycling season.

Today Gurgaon had an air quality index of 177-unhealthy, RK Puram 798-hazardous,  Faridabad 309-hazardous, Noida 550-hazardous and ITO 223-unhealthy. Even a level of 135 at Palam is categorised as unhealthy for sensitive groups. As a contrast AQI of 54 at Rohtak was categorised as moderate and Nashik at 28 was good.

Lucknow at 523, Agra at 352, Jaipur at 165, Chandigarh at 148, and Patna at 318 round off the picture for the major urban monitoring centres across N India.

Central India is not a pretty picture either with a band of RED right through the urban agglomerations from West to East

But these levels are 50% better than a week earlier, in most places.  Runners said ”things are much better than earlier, lets do a short fast run’. Or let’s wear a mask.

It’ll be OK.

But is it?

We need to know a few things

1-    Understand the implications of each level of air quality


2-    Realise that this is not a normal situation. Schools have been closed by the Government, doctors have advised people not to walk outdoors unless absolutely essential. UNICEH and WHO are very concerned. Delhi has been crowned the most polluted city in the world.

3-    Air quality levels improved from levels of 1000 to 400/500 over the last week, much like a fire which reduces in temperature from 2000 Celsius to 500 Celsius. But it will burn you just the same.

4-    Masks - N95 and N99 (i.e. normally filtering 95% and 99% of PM 2.5 (i.e. particulate matter of 2.5 microns) with a valve are good for walking, when the air quality levels are moderate or at a stretch, marginally unhealthy at worst. They would be progressively less efficient at higher levels of AQI

5-    These respirator ‘dust’ masks are made for miners, construction workers and those in other industries where the environment has fine particulate matter.

6-    There are NO respirator masks made for running

7-    These masks are not and cannot be airtight like diving masks and there will be ingestion of some unfiltered air, no matter what; just like we do not use a splash proof watch, no matter how expensive, under water

8-While running over a 2-3 hour period, the heavy and quick air intake, reaches the deepest recesses of the lungs, and with more severe AQI, the fine 2.5 micron particles, do too.

9-    In the unhealthy AQI range and beyond, children should not be outdoors, even with a mask, as their lungs are even more susceptible to harm.

10-    AQI levels are generally lower during the warmer part of the day

So what can we do?

·     Exercise indoors and keep doors and windows closed.

·     Open the windows with the fan on, if and when the sun comes out and the air clearer, during the later part of the day.

·     Run on a treadmill

·     Do indoor freehand exercises

·     Focus on stretching and yoga

·     Check if the AQI in the mid /latter part of the day is OK and squeeze in a short outdoor run where possible

·     Drive out to the outskirts of your town where the air is fresher and run / cycle there

Meanwhile work towards photographing and reporting any burning of waste, polluting vehicles, big exposed dusty patches and muddy construction sites, while you try and reduce travel and start carpooling where possible.

See if there are some activities like adopting dusty areas and grassing and maintaining them, operationalising Dr MS Swaminathan’s ideas on converting crop stubble into animal feed, and other simple but disruptive actions under our company CSR  activities to make our environment better and breathable. Those of us in the media can spread the good positive stories, those of us in the bureaucracy can work towards enabling citizen groups, individuals and companies doing good, or wanting to do good.
Spread the word to other you know who are active, to be watchful and take care of themselves and as Trump may say - Let’s make the air around my country great again!!

Best Regards
Rahul Verghese