Running Short, Running More

I think my body took an imperceptible (at the time) toll when I did two double-digit mile runs. The niggling aches and pains niggled for longer than usual and I’m terribly lax about the PT exercises. So I decided that for the holiday season, since I needed to have time off from the revelries, I’d do shorter and more productive runs i.e. try running faster etc.

Then on Wed night, Dec 15, we got a frantic call from home – the pater-in-law had had a heart attack. All our holiday plans were cancelled and we found ourselves home-ward bound towards India. Since we had last minute tickets, Bharath flew to India on Friday and I stayed back in Houston for a couple of days and flew on Monday. In between keeping track of FIL’s heart conditions, doctors’ pronouncements, work projects and husband’s flight to India (fortunately we didn’t fly via snowed-in Europe), I thought about our family genes predilect towards diabetes, heart disease etc. It renewed my vigor to keep running despite various aches, pains etc.

If you read my blog, you might have read about my Houston running experience and how much I abhor the new concrete roads. However this time I found Tom Bass Park III with a scenic 1 mile loop around a lake with ducks and pretty foliage. I ran to the park and back (5 miles) and about 1 loop in the park. Can’t say it was a great run – I kept having to stop because lower legs just didn’t get comfortable. On the second day I only did about 3 miles. Both days I didn’t feel great running. I’m having serious doubts about being able to run long distance.

In Chennai, the weather is gorgeous at this time of the year. At any other time, Chennai heat and humidity is unbearable. Right now its about 20 celsius (close to 75 F) and cool with the breeze from the ocean. For local Chennai folks, its the time to bring out their woollen sweaters and ear muffs. If they happen to be Bengali, ear muffs are replaced by monkey caps – for those who are unaware of the “manki tupi” can click on the link above.

On Wed, we spent the whole day at the hospital trying to get my FIL discharged and coordinating with hospital admin and insurance (both inept). So I was ready to try out running in Chennai on Thursday. Bharath took a bit of nudging and nagging but complied eventually when I pointed out to the spike in rice intake since our arrival. We started off from the house, down to Elliots Beach – ran on the sand (not fun), back on to the streets. Chennai is way cleaner than Mumbai and I had to dodge poo (not sure if it was human or canine) only once. At another time there was a small Hanuman temple in between a break on the sidewalk and no well-brought up Hindu girl will jump over Hanuman. So had to side step onto the road, avoid the honking cars and squeaking autos to circumvent the Monkey God’s abode. On our way, we tried nonchalantly to enter the Theosophical Society’s  grounds but were stopped by the mustachioed guard on duty. Special permission was required it seemed. And a raised eyebrow at the idea of a young couple being allowed to enter a secluded area unattended!

So we ran on ahead on Besant Ave, till the sidewalk dropped off and turned into a pretty by-road which reminded me of running in Austin due to over-grown foliage. We ran along the bylanes of Besantnagar, free from autos but full of curious people appraising you. The best thing about running in India is that you’re never bored. Apart from dodging poo and temples growing out of the sidewalk, ancient trees and electric poles with wires hanging out dangerously, you also encounter very curious people. Someone told me its because they’re trying to figure out whether they know you from somewhere, distant family or acquaintance – highly possible in a small neighborhood like Besant Nagar which is so homogeneous in its population that one sticks out wearing a Rogue tee.

On the streets, the later it is in the morning i.e. closer to 7am, various ladies with brooms will materialize out of nowhere to begin sweeping one square foot of the road repeatedly. I have no idea where the trash goes but it kicks up a mini-mushroom cloud of dust in that area. Woe on you if it happens to be on your running route. You (especially if your nasal system is as allergic to Indian air as mine is) will be racked by incessant sneezing. That puts an annoying dampener on the pace.

Since we didn’t map the route, we took Amma’s pedometer which put our distance at 4.47 miles till we got home. Though we had plans of stopping at Murugan Idly, severely thirsty (underestimated the humidity and loss of fluid), we jogged back home. Amma had an incredible breakfast of dosa, sambhar and chutney lined up and we were none the sorrier for having missed Murugan.

I might add that we did a repeat run the next day but the humidity was far higher. After about 2.5 miles, I was done. We jogged back home to more yum dosas.

FYI, if you are in Chennai and looking for company and running routes check out Chennai Runners. I did contact them and they promptly invited me to run with them. I couldn’t make it out to run with them however as I’m unfamiliar with the city and Bharath wanted to run in the neighborhood. Next time perhaps!

If you’re in Austin, don’t forget to check out the Team Asha Fun Run this Sunday!

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