Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Not the usual run story

I love running. Over the years I have toiled to get better at it and be able to call myself a legitimate runner. As most runners would tell you, the idea of going through the pain of transporting oneself from point A to point B, without motorised or mechanical aid, using solely a fanatic drive to move one’s lower limbs incessantly till the journey is done, is absurdly attractive. Runners talk about what gets them running through pain, hallucination dehydration, and vomit, and the feeling of absolute worthiness of the effort when they finish. It’s an odd plethora of masochistic accounts that seems to draw you into self affliction. And I don’t intend to add to it.

Instead, on this highly unfavourable day, when my feet ache reminiscently of the pain from the last few runs , I would rather talk about what happens to runners like me* after we finish a much glorified attempt at acing a run.
The image of a runner like me, at the finish line, can be roughly templated — Hands spread wide, chest cresting forward, head slightly held back and decorated with a wide smile that isn’t. That’s the exterior; possibly, expressing the joy of accomplishment but also equally suppressing the pain accumulated over the last several miles. Much like the timing chip that resigns from its duty as you cross the finish line, this exterior too dissolves into a mishmash of pain-ridden contortions of the face. The system slows down to bring the bones, muscles, and the body to a spattering halt, and you collapse into a heap of dysfunctional nothingness.
Soon after, the post race euphoria kicks in and you realise that you have an honour to uphold. It would be utmost unfortunate to be seen in a state as hapless as this, so you reboot with whatever residual fuel you have left, and stand up. This is where you become comically interesting.
You try and keep your legs as far apart as possible to prevent any further chafing of the inner thighs which, by now, have attained exaggerated girth . You keep your arms a little spread out, lending balance to the perilous walk you are trying to execute while hopping on your screaming toes. This is a disturbingly incongruent element in your story where once you ran like a graceful horse but now waddle like a duck. The walk to the refreshment counter lasts the equivalent of a 5 mile run. The interesting bit is that you aren’t really hungry. It is difficult to be so when every bit of your brain, including the one that signals hunger, is deployed towards the single task of registering pain from almost every part of your body. Yet, you walk to the refreshment counter like a conqueror marching towards his reward for the war, decorated with battle scars and also, in this case, wobbly legs.
The gust of energy ingested into you does help in forgetting the pain, albeit, momentarily. This is the time you chat with fellow runners about your experience of the run which is mostly intended to make them appreciate your heroics, if you finished first, or appreciate your courage, if they did. This is also the time when everyone forgets their arduous state from a few minutes ago and emphatically agrees to participate in the run coming up next week. This fervour for the next run gets extracted excruciatingly from your body (and soul) later that evening while you are writhing in pain in your sleep.
I am a teetotaler so I haven’t really experienced a hangover. I would imagine it would feel similar to what one feels on the morning after the run. The difference, of course, is that unlike a run, you had fun sinning the night before and the hangover, perhaps, is a bit of a corrective punishment. As you wake up, your first 2 minutes are spent contemplating which part of the body should bear your weight first. A wrong choice here can have disastrous consequences, so you wait and evaluate. Chances are that all your choices would be wrong and would lead to those disastrous consequences as mornings are designed to put you in mortal danger. From the moment you wake up, you are put through a regimen of awkward movements — the cranking up of your upper body to sit up, then the dexterous swivel on the bed to get your feet down, the activation of you heels, calves, knees, and glutes to stand up, followed by a walk to the loo where you proceed to sit only to stand again? This seemingly innocuous ritual of the everyday is fraught with risks of devastating magnitude! If I had the choice, I would sleep on the pot post the run just to have the odds of a safe tomorrow in my favour.
The day post the run is also an opportunity to indulge yourself. And you do it rather graciously, consuming foods of all kind with absolute impunity. Your brain possibly tells you that if still hurts, you are still burning calories, so eat on my friend.
If you have been into running for a few years, the pain would start to reduce by evening of the post race day and, almost miraculously, the guilt of having cursed running, and eating like a pig with no tomorrow would start replacing it. When that happens, you would probably first reason it out with yourself and mock at the preposterousness of it all but slowly, and surely, you will find yourself wallowing in the swamp of guilt and self loathe. You would go to sleep like a man who has sinned, seeking repentance.
The next morning, you’ll wake up, sit upright, swivel on your bed, and stand up in one swift motion. And then, you will go for your run.
*Note: This is by no means a representation of the entire community of runners, or even a part of it. This is entirely a reflection of my ongoing mental duels with running and my absolute love for it.

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