Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When I First Ran

An Hour and a half..

A confession from Vidyuth Sreenivasan, one of the early ChennaiRunners. Though his mail is dated September 2005, he sent this mail to our mailing list this past week. Since then, Vidyuth has come a long way and has run at least couple of marathons. His mail makes an interesing read.. reproduced here with his permission.. Read on..

September 4, 2005.
Sunday morning. The alarm goes off. Its 4:30 am. I decide to snooze for 5 more minutes and next thing I know it is 5:10 am. f***. I wake up already behind schedule. I tell myself off. Hurriedly I brush my teeth, put on my shoes, take 100 bucks and get out. Its 5:20. Its still dark.

I can't start running cold. So I decide to walk to my starting point. A pillar that resembles the ashoka pillar on 5th trust cross street. I reach and I start running. Its 5:30.

I start with a slow jog, go past Alphonso playground and turn left to hit santhome high road. As I turn left, I notice that all the street lights have been turned off. I feel this place is the crack of dawn. It difficult to describe this place. It is not dark. It is not light. The air is fresh and the heart is light. Nature's own mood lighting. The birds are just stirring and there is a nip in the breeze. I remember thinking chennai is at its best this time of the day.

The smell from the stagnant back waters on foreshore estate wake me up. I tell myself to concentrate on my breathing. Inhale for 3 strides, exhale one stride. Its hard at first but I get into a rhythm with every stride.

I pass quibble island cemetery and wonder about its name. How did it get its name? Maybe the buried have some stories to tell. I settle into a nice rhythm and find my stride length increasing automatically. I focus on my breathing.

I am now at Elliot's beach running towards the vailankkani church thinking I should reach there by 6:00. I push a little harder. As I approach the church, I am faced with hordes of people jay walking. I can't help feeling under dressed amidst church goers dressed in their sunday best. The crowd slows me down a bit. I get past vanandurai, my mind starts to think about stopping. I tell myself I should decide after getting to the LB Road signal. At this point I can see the signal, so it was no problem.


I run past the signal into Indra Nagar, happy with myself for not giving up. My pace has come down. I chastise myself. I try to run faster but I can't. I spot two tea shops. I went to the one that looked cleaner from the outside. I ask for a bottle of water. He takes about a minute to get me the bottle. A minute that felt like forever. I yell at the man for taking so much time. He looks at me strangely. I don't know whether he was amazed or amused. He advices me not to gulp the water but to sip it. I nod, drink down several gulps, pay him and leave. I had been running for 45 mins. I decide to walk for 5 minutes to resume at 6:20 am. I walk past the foot bridge across the buckingham canal on to the IT corridor.

I start to run but the bottle of water feels like it weighs a ton. Every few strides, I keep switching hands. I am no longer focussed on my breathing but on the bottle. I am unable to run with the bottle in my hand. I hand it over to a passing stranger who accepted it with a smile. NOw my hands are free and so is my mind. I am fresh and feel confident that I can run all the way home. I turn left at Madhya Kailas temple, cross the road and turn right into Kotturpuram. I think about second wind and thought that I was now on my second burst of energy. I feel light. My stride has returned and so has my breathing rhythm.

As I approach the bridge, I am battling myself. I begin to doubt if I had taken on more than I could do. What was I trying to prove by running this distance. I could stop now, hail an auto and go home. I don't have to run. No one is looking. I could still brag to my friends that evening that I had run for an hour. It would still be more than any of them could imagine doing. Better still I could tell them, I had run all the way home. But could I respect myself if I did that?

I press on. I had long since stopped focussing on my breathing. My lungs are unable to follow my instructions.

I am faced with an uphill climb on kotturpuram bridge. I pull myself over the bridge one stride at a time urging myself to c'mon. As I reach the other side of the bridge, I notice that the chennai corporation was constructing a park in that corner just before the turnbulls road - ABM avenue fork. For a minute I thought it would be nice to go there in the evening. Then I realise that it would be patronised by people from the slums nearby. I remember thinking that the city needs public spaces for middle class people to patronise without having to compete with the have-nots. A wholly impractical thought.

I run into turnbulls road pondering the merits of taking ABM avenue. I decided I had made the right choice and proceeded. I turn right, go past park sheraton and onto chamiers road. There are viehicles standing at the signal. I want to stop. I tell myself that I should run to the next signal and then take a call.

I run to the next signal. I tell myself "C'mon to the next signal at chennai kaliappa hospital". By now I have lost all my rhythm and the only thing keeping me going is the constant chatter from my mind. My mind tells me that I'll lose self respect and I press on.

I run past the bridge that takes me across the buckingham canal again. I 'm almost home. I reach the junction near kovai pazhamudhir nilayam and my mind begins to celebrate. I tell myself, don't celebrate too soon you still have a few hundred yards left. I run past the mandaveli bus terminus. I remmber thinking I should finish quickly or might not last till the end. My stride lengthens and my pace quickens to what I felt was a sprint but to observers nothing more than jogging. I reach the turning to First trust link street, see a mark painted on the road in white - 100m. This is my mark. This is the end. I stop. I walk. Some passersby smile at me. They have no idea what I have just accomplished. I smile to myself and walk home. It is 7:00 am.