Extended version of Week 50 (18.5.2019) Run&Bee column in Hindustan Times: Run to get out of the Rat Race.

The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.
— Albert Einstein

I’ve often wondered about the reasons people take on an activity like running. The joy of participating in running events, proudly wearing a medal, and sharing photographs on social media. There is such a huge sense of accomplishment, and hence the desire to announce it to the world. Nothing wrong at all if that is what keeps them going. Just that they might have simply managed to jump from one rat-race to another. 

We often look to others for appreciation, which then defines our sense of self-worth, which creates an internal disconnect. How many of my virtual friends “liked” or “loved” my post? How often do we look at ourselves in the mirror, and appreciate who we are? Do we like what we see? Can we relate to that reflection? And we realize that till the time we don’t truly love ourselves for who we are, till the time we don’t become our own best friend, we will never find ourselves, our inner peace, or our true self-worth. 

Which brings me to the oft quoted 'me-time' that runners talk about getting hooked to. They are so close but yet so far from the real lesson running has to teach them. Running is not about anyone else. It is about you. It is about knowing yourself like never before. A discovery of  your strengths, limitations, potential, the mind whose limits you push when you run, the lessons you learn each time you fall and get back up. And as you persevere, and work through the hoops, you emerge a winner in your own eyes. 

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And then running becomes addictive. For what it brings you socially in terms of recognition and appreciation, and how it transforms you personally and the meaning it brings to life. But then again if you have too much of a good thing as well, that too in a very short span of time, it is a recipe for disaster. Shifali Gupta, a 40 years old, mother of two, first discovered running, jumped in to the deep end of the rat race, but along the way, happened to discover her own self too.

Shifali was inspired by her sister to take on running, and when she ran her first 10K, earned a medal, she knew she wanted to accomplish more. On seeing a runner’s tee from Delhi Half Marathon, she decided to take that challenge on, and successfully completed it. The sense of accomplishment was euphoric, coupled with the high of praise from others.

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The conquest for more medals was high, and Shifali wanted to train well, so she joined a running group to run in Ladakh. Till a knee injury derailed her plans. She did rest it out initially according to medical advice, but continued running to participate in the event she had set her eyes on. Yet, the injury continued to aggravate, resulting in multiple ligament tears. She was unable to walk or engage in regular activities of the day.

And she was laid off for 2-3 months from running where she did her physiotherapy diligently but was beginning to feel restless at the prospect of not being able to run. Shifali was so set out to participate in the Mumbai Marathon that she ignored her injury and started training again.

The months kept passing, my situation was not getting great but finally I collapsed to my madness and resumed running and ran Mumbai Marathon with an injury.
— Shifali Gupta

Pushing through Pain

It didn’t end there. She felt she needed to improve her finish times, and hence improve her pace, and continued to push herself through her pain and injury. Since the injury wasn’t healing, she reduced her running distances from a 21K to a 10K. 

Till one day she realized that it wasn’t the miles or the pace that was bringing her contentment but the euphoric feeling of what a run does to the body and soul, how it energizes and boosts your spirit up, and what it means in terms of a personal accomplishment. The fact that she is a 40 year old mother of two kids who is able to pursue an activity which not many of her peers engage in, makes all the difference. 

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She’s running again, for herself, creating her own story, running at her own pace and in her own space; no comparisons to others, no numbers to beat, no complaints or grudges towards herself. That’s the YOU I’m talking about.

Project C11: Couch to 11 kms in 101 days

This program isn’t about running, but about you ReClaiming U, getting back that confidence you can achieve more. It is for anyone and everyone out there. With baby steps, we together will get moving a lot more than we ever expected. No excuses.

Click below to find the you that you deserve.

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