I was terrible at sports, I was the kid who was picked last in all the teams, after the captains searched the crowd and realized there was no one else and resignedly picked me with a sigh. I was uncoordinated, clumsy, scared of the ball and running was a nightmare. I often tripped over my own feet and banged into walls and poles ( I sometimes still do ).
I went to a school which did not believe in competition, punishments or rewards, the downside of this was that everyone had to participate in everything. So every year I had to run a 100m race during sports day and my parents would be standing proud at the sides with flashing cameras, they never failed to come and watch me fumble and tumble. There was one girl TR, mathematical genius who was slower than me and I was happy as long as I beat her. One sports day she didnt show up. I knew I was going to be last, so as the others shot past me, I clutched my stomach and ran towards my dad in the crowd. I spent the rest of the day happily licking glucose of my hand with a fake stomach ache and watched my brother run his races. I learnt a new trick that day, and repeated the fake stomach ache several times over the years, and no one caught my bluff.
Though I hated sports day, a lot of the kids would bring coveted green cartons of Glucon D, which we would pour into our hands and lick slowly, savouring it intensely. Then School would serve ice cream at lunch. I could almost forget sports day was about the sports.
So with my resolve to do 30 things I have never done before, I signed up for a 10 KM run in July. I started practicing a month and a half before, jogging around a linear park next to my house. The streets around the park are filled with walkers, joggers and cyclists every morning. It is tree lined and filled with bird calls and filtered sunlight. The quiet foot falls of my jogging and my laboured breathing is all I would hear as I ran around, bringing with it a sense of peace and tranquility.
I soon began to recognize some of the regulars and we would nod to each other and give half smiles, there was a comfort in the familiarity. There were a group of middle aged men who fast walked, jostling each other to get close to the man in the center, who they had appointed leader for some reason. The leader was very aware of his status and pretended to be supremely unconcerned as the balding paunchy men pushed each other to be the one walking next to him. There was a young couple, the man leading his pregnant wife, wrapped in shawls protectively away from the paths of joggers and cyclists. It was beautiful, but cinematic, I half expected ruffians to jump down from the trees, and the young man to single handedly fight them and protect his wife. There were middle aged ladies who walked and spoke at equal speed, animated and energetic, and there was the teenage girl who hid her face in a hoody and cycled around the park furiously refusing to make eye contact.
Initially I would jog 200m and then be out of breadth and walk the rest of the way. Slowly I was able to run 1km without stopping and then 2. The day drew closer and closer and I was comfortably able to jog 3 Km and needed to push it to 7 more. I was paranoid, I did not want to fake a stomach ache this time. I pushed myslef and managed 6 kM just before the marathon and then left to Chennai for the run.
My reputation preceded me and my run was a joke. My brother had just run half a marathon (21 Km ) and scoffed at a 10 Km run. The Other, who had signed up suggested I be his emergency contact as I would anyway be sitting out half way and my father offered to drive behind me so that I could get in to the car when I was tired and he would drive me to the finish line !!! My friend AR who had urged me to join was my one source of encouragement and inspiration.(Thanks!)
The day was finally here and I made it to the venue just before dawn. The run had started and I was unceremoniously herded with a 100 others and was at the end of the line. Thud thud thud thud we ran along the beach, and there were drums and photographers and the atmosphere was charged. I couldn’t stop, I could not feel tired. Whenever I slowed down I would hear the drums and would start running again, there were volunteers at intervals with little glasses of energy drinks ( no dustbins though, so you had to run with a cup in your hand or discard it on the road) and they sprayed your sweaty face with cool water. It was very well organized and as I ran across Aavin circle, I saw my dad wave at me excitedly cheering. I felt like a little girl again, during sports day except this time I was going to finish the run.
I began to overtake people, and saw an woman as old as my grandmother, wearing a T-Shirt on top of her saree and walking as fast as she could. She was inspiring, diamond nose rings glinting in the early morning sun, walking ahead with a firm resolve. I passed a father and young son, father jogging slowly to keep pace with the son, who then asked ” appa after this KM can we please walk for sometime ?” His father nodded and the son’s face broke out into a brilliant smile. I love being a bypasser to these little moments. I ran on and on.
Soon the 10KM was done, I finished in 1 hour and 20 minutes and was 69th out of 238 women. I was exhilirated. From coming last every 100m race, from being picked last in every sports team, I managed to run a 10km run and finish it in decent time. Symbollically I was Forest Gump, running from my past and getting rid of my braces ( dramatic I know 🙂 )
And as poetic justice would have it, The Other had work and had to forfeit the run.
So now I obvioulsy intend to run regularly and make it a part of my lifestyle, I am just on a two month sabattical.