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.

Running – my salvation

January 5, 2009

Attempting to crack the Half Marathon

Attempting to crack the Half Marathon

Over the last two and a half years the treadmill at home has been my faithful companion and in some sense gives me a deep sense of salvation. In an otherwise ordinary life, running on the treadmill has given me and continues to give me a deep sense of fulfillment. To me it has been the closest to a ritual that I have subjected myself to during this period. I have gone to the extent of maintaining a log of the distance that I have run and the time taken to cover the distance. As you can see, I take my running pretty seriously.

I have always enjoyed running and used to do it in parks and grounds when I was in Chennai. Running, particularly middle and long distance running is a lonely pursuit and maybe for this precise reason I have always found it enriching. After moving to Bangalore, for some reason I discontinued. The road conditions near my house and the chaotic traffic were also dampeners I guess. One of the wisest decisions that I made then was to invest in a treadmill. I have now gotten so used to running on the treadmill that road running has become quite strenous on my knees. I tried it the last time around when I was in Goa and found my knees acting up after a few kilometres. However, I am determined and am hopeful of finding a way around this.

Now coming to my stats for the year 2008. I found the energy and the motivation to run 90 times during the year. For someone with my levels of motivation and perseverance, I consider this an achievement. Over this 90 days, I have covered a little less than 450 kms. So I average about 5 kms per day when I do hit the treadmill. This takes me approximately 35 minutes. I have gone as much as 9.6 kms (which I covered in about 65 minutes). The fact that my faithful companion is now two and half years old also means that he (she ??) tends to break down more often and the service engineers visits have become more frequent. I guess with little more discipline I could have done about 125 days of running in 2008. At the end of the year, I realised that I have spent close to 54 hours on the treadmill. Some of the best days of running were while watching cricket on the television. Matches played in Australia are wonderful from the timing perspective. I prefer running in the mornings as opposed to running in the evenings. Somehow, the whole day feels a lot better once I have run in the mornings. For instance 9.6 was done on the day when South Africa beat Australia to record their first ever series victory in Australia. Nothing like the Aussies being bashed for motivation.

I have resolved to improve on my stats during the current year. For instance, one of my targets for the year is to be able to move the average closer to 6 kms per running instance. I also intend to crack 10 kms at least a couple of times in the current year. I am also keen that I do more than 100 days of running during the year. The key to achieving all this will be a higher level of discipline in terms of going to bed early and waking up early. Something tells me that I will manage to do all this and more. Of course, I also sincerely hope that my faithful companion manages to survive the year without giving me too much trouble. It is going to be tough ask. Will keep all of you posted on the progress !!!.

Here is wishing myself a happy running 2009 !!!!! Cheers