Monday, 27 February 2012

Marching to a different tune

I used to run short races. Really short ones. That was my thing. What I trained for. Not trained in a particularly correct manner, no doubt, but as it were, those were the events that excited me in the field. The ones I felt the correct mixture of apprehension and excitement about. There was no boring talk about a mid-foot strike there. It was all toes. I do feel that there remains some unexplored potential there and sort of regret having to live in this nearly-forty-year-old body and have no more chance of chasing after that. But then, it is fine. Its just a life, half-forgotten.

800 meters was a long race for me. My friend Durga was the champion of that distance. She was thoroughly intimidating in a way that large, non-vegetarian people still are to me. She was built of sturdy stock, no doubt. She whupped my ass on a routine basis and it was through sheer grit and because of my low body weight (I was sure) that I could manage to stay a step ahead of her in the 100 m dash. I recall the introduction of a skipping race once. A race that Durga thought was stupid and therefore was goofing off at, knotting the rope into other people's feet and so forth. I was focussed as ever. She still won.

As we lined up at the OAT yesterday for a race, I cleared my mind of thoughts. The entire deal was too different from my recent race experiences for me to really connect with it coherently. I was still a bit woozy from my trip and that horrid flight back that I took (crying babies crying babies till I have to deal with being a real grandmother, I think I am going to dislike crying). We dropped the child off at her swimming. The husband was my running mate this time. Thats a big difference. He was not grumpy, despite it being an early hour of the morning. Another huge first.

I brought a bar of some sort of cereal with me. I find that I am hungry in the mornings, and unless I start running before I fully open my eyes, hunger pangs overcome me. In fact, at Auroville, I was pretty hungry and seriously considered stopping for a bite to eat, except for the fact that it was a 10k and seriously who eats in the middle of a 6-miler? I ate the cereal bar, except for a tiny bit that fell on the road and I refused to eat it (husband did eat that quoting the 5 second rule back at me). I took a sip of water and left the bottle behind in the car. Didn't think I needed that either. Plus some guy at Auro told me my stance was all skewed from carrying a bottle on my right side. So.

The place was packed with people I know. From every pore came folks I knew. The thing with middle-aged folks is that no one talks about goals and pace and such like. I harassed KP and the rocket about that and they made some non-committal noises. I asked the husband (who always has a goal in mind) and he growled at me. I plastered a fake smile as I stood around in my black shorts and considered whether my period was truly truly done with or if I had a last day to contend with. The MIT maroon T thats hangs a bit loose is a favourite these days, I could hardly feel it. But I felt bottom heavy, of course.

The course is 7 km long, they said. I wasn't too concerned thanks to Le Garmin. It was 10 mins past the proposed start time so a bunch of us got impatient and started a flux towards what we presumed was the start point. I was tempted to just flag off and run and in fact KP started a fake countdown. Then someone took the mike and counted us off finally. "I need to feel the air"I told the faces as I took off. I did a dancing toe strike movement for ten steps to get ahead of all the walkers and laughers and faces and found myself up ahead, as I wanted to be.

This is not a casual saunter in the park Preeti, I told myself. I always start fast, the trick is to keep at it. I kept at it for a mile or two and saw all the familiar faces at the turn. I was running in my vibrams. I am not devoid of pain currently. There are at least four identifiable pain spots now. But nothing to complain about in a short race. I was breathing heavy. You are supposed to breathe heavy. No conversational pace today, I told myself. The route is familiar and I hardly had to look, my feet just took me. I glanced down at some point and registered a 5k PB. I claim this is a PB for 'this season' - but considering that I acquired Le Garmin in September 2011, I don't know. It could be a PB for life. Who knows?

I clung on then, knowing I had 2 kilometers (or less, surely the distance wasn't measured that accurately) to go. I was several minutes ahead of the rocket, and consequently of any other people of my gender. Not that I even try to keep that as a goal any more. Rocket was chilling in her new vibrams at any rate. This time my goal was to beat a whole lot of young boys in the race. To show them I'm the boss. And at the turn thats precisely what I was doing. Mani and Niranjan were up ahead - Mani a bit more ahead and Niranjan within my sights. It was good not to let our age get in the way of anything.

I slowed it down a bit as the finish slope is super steep. I recalled the last time I sprinted down that slope - back in January with MSB - in the finest physical fitness shape I have exhibited in a long long while. We sprinted right back up after that for a few further kilometers that day. Today I was content to stop and smile slyly at the look of total surprise that the young boys scattered around the place had on their faces. 6.5 km in 33:10 (per my Garmin, which I started a bit after the start point) is not bad for a has-been who started her early running career intimidated by large, rather solid women with long oily black plaits running down their backs.... 

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