The long minute……

January 12, 2009


Time and tide wait for no man..........

Time and tide wait for no man..........

To my limited knowledge, the best way to understand how long a minute lasts is to push oneself physically to the limit or be exposed to extreme danger. I cannot comment on the latter having led, by and large, a very protected life, but I can to a fair degree, thanks to my running talk a bit about the former.

As we skim and skip our way through life, what we do not realise is the value of time. To me, the quantum of time that has been and is being, for want of a better word, “wasted” is revealing only when I push myself to my physical “limit” whilst running. Typically my daily routine on the treadmill goes something like this. Start with about 3 minutes of walking, then hit the 8.8 to 9 kmph mark and kind of remain there for the remainder of the time and finish with about a minute of crawl at around 3.5 kmph. Most of the days, by this time, I would have realised how different each minute on the treadmill feels. A minute when I start is the kind of minute that I go through for most parts of the day. It is a minute as I have always known it to be, the way we use the term figuratively and that period of time expires, well, in a minute.

Then the run, assuming 9 kmph is a “run”, changes things a little bit. I was once told by my dear friend, Dinesh, who has since become Diinesh that running 4 kms in 30 minutes is considered a kind of threshold for reasonable fitness. I have taken this as gospel and these parameters are stuck in my mind. Invariably, even after so many kms of running, I see 30 minutes/ 4 kms as my first goal. After the 2 – 3 minute warm up at about 6 kmph, i move onto 8 kmph (I have progressed to 9 kmph these days and today in fact I raised the bar to 9.5 kmph, wow!!!). The next 7-8 minutes pass off pretty much ok. I do not feel any significant incongruity between my perception of time and what is reflected in the timer. This is when things start getting a little fuzzy. It also depends to a very large extent as to how I feel about my body that particular day. There are days when I am determined to do well and there are days when I am tentative. The 20 minute mark is kind of an inflexion point. Each minute starts getting longer and the disconnect between my perception of time and the reality reflected by the timer starts widening. Remember the Dinesh aphorism that I mentioned earlier. This starts playing on my mind and by the time I cross the 20kms mark, I have started a sub conscious countdown. The next 10 minutes is broken down to 600 seconds which are further broken into sets of 50 seconds. On days when I really need to motivate myself the sets could be as small as 25 seconds. Believe me all this is at a very sublimal level. All this happens irrespective of the cricket that I am watching on TV or the music that I am listening to. The minutes become agonisingly long and the disconnect continues to widen. At times, I feel that I should have consumed about 30 seconds by the timer insists that it has only been 10 seconds from the time I stole the last furtive glance. I steel myself not to look at the timer for at least another 30 seconds at least. Lo and behold, the next time I look, the damn thing has moved only another 15 seconds. This goes on and I wonder about how much a second can stretch in one’s life and make even a minute look like eternity. It also reflects the fact that if we give it our all and push ourselves to, and hopefully beyond, our limits lack of time is hardly an excuse that can be bandied about. In the sequence of my running minutes, I inch my way to the 30 mins mark. By this time I am down to counting down the seconds and the exhilaration that I experience is beyond my powers of articulation.

And then, something very strange happens. In my mind, till date it has been kind of hardwired that 30 mins and 4 kms is the “average”. By the way, these days I am closer to the 4.5 km mark by the time I close in on 30 mins. So when I break the 30 mins barrier, I feel very free. It is almost like Jonathan Seagull and I think it is time to soar. I feel that I have escaped from the tyranny and bondage of the 30 mins and I almost start believing that I can do as much as I want to. Believe me, several times, I have stopped the run because of sheer boredom more than physical exhaustion. One of the reasons why the great outdoors is such a better place to run.

This whole experience keeps repeating itself and I wonder :

1. Is it important to set audacious goals or is to better to start with achievable ones and keep making marginal improvements

2. Do we set low expectations of ourselves to avoid the bitterness of disappointment

3. Is life a long marathon or a series of sprints

4. How important is it to pace oneself. I have never tried the experience of running in bursts of high speeds, slowing down and then upping the pace again. My reason for not doing this has been biased by watching middle and long distance running on television. I have only seen people gradually upping the pace in a middle/ long distance run. But is this a reflection of life’s reality ???

5. Most importantly, at least for me, should life be measured in units of time as we know it (minutes, months, years) or in units of “mind experience”. I guess a lot more running is required to figure THAT out.

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5 Responses to “The long minute……”

  1. Bennita Ganesh Says:

    Great post Ganu……Very thought provoking and very true. I think you have found your calling. I have uploaded my fave sunset pic (taken on the way to Canacona, Goa) in appreciation of your post. Hope you like it.

    Nowz the time to set some goals – whether audacious or achievable and work towards them.

  2. Mohan Sundaram Says:

    Gani – Actually this is true not just of time but distance too in many cases. The nearer we get, the more impatient we are. Another relationship where this feeling is echoed normally in paens “A minute without the beloved feels like a year and a year with one feels like a minute.” Told very well in a song sung by Unnikrishnan “Kaath irundhaal, ethirparthirundhaal, oru nimishamum varusham adi” For those who do not understand Tamizh – If one were waiting and looking forward to his beloved, a minute seems like a year.

  3. Sanjeev Says:

    Somehow I thought after 30 – 40 minutes your body converts fat to energy and hence you do not feel tired…

  4. Bennita Ganesh Says:

    Sanjeev, what is this new funda!! If this were true, we would all be marathon runners…….

  5. sridhar Cynic rentala Says:

    “happiness can be defined as the gap between Dreams and the reality one lives in” The idea being to keep the gap as close as possible,closer the gap- happier is the person, wider the gap sadder is the person-
    Now at the philosophical level- Only the truly arrogant will bother setting a goal(assumption being that they can control the million intangibles which will be thrown at their face, purely an arrogant view of life).If at all they achieve their goal ,then – it is a folly to assume that ‘they’ made it happen, it is actually more reasonable to assume a whole lot of things fell into place)
    One can indulge in goal setting at best as a sport.
    The best laid out plans by the best in class-when they can go wrong- why shud normal mortals bother to plan out their life and go about trying to achieve them’:).
    “Nadakardhu nadakaama irukkadhu, nadakadhadhu nadakavey nadakkadhu”


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