Friday, December 29, 2017

Life lessons from Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

I ran my first ever half marathon on November 19, 2017. Had it not been for the inspiration of my colleagues, I wouldn’t have known the joy of it. I thank them deeply for infecting me with the spirit.
To put it simply, a long distance running experience so unique and challenging, that it’s worth undertaking. That indicates why thousands of us have taken to running long distances. If this isn’t convincing, let me take you through the lessons. Learned in a hard way. And we know from experience, the harder we learn, the longer it stays.

1.       Humility is gold. We might be the best of our clan and society, but out there, one is a speck in the universe. There are so many people better than us. They could be younger, older, fatter, shorter, taller whatever. Let’s accept it – they are better than us.

2.       Limits are imaginary. Before I donned the Fitbit, I used to run comfortably. I could run hours without tiring, and I thought my stamina was good. Bullshit. I ran hours because my hours didn’t pack much. Fitbit revealed to me, much to my shock, that I ran at my peak heart rate only for 30% of my entire running time. I determined to improve, and I did. I took up the count to 90% during my practice runs. On the marathon day, I clinched a neat 100%.

3.       Teams achieve more than individuals. I was a comfort runner, or so I told myself. I would intersperse my runs with very slow jogs to restore my breath. On that day, running with hundreds of people of different ages and backgrounds, I realized that I could not slow down. Not even when my knees were knocking and my feet burning. It’s only then that I understood why humans accomplish the most daunting tasks in groups. Pilgrimages and treks are group activities. That’s why organizations achieve better than individuals. It’s the power of collective spirit. Humans are meant to inspire and be inspired.

4.       We become who we follow. Parents in childhood and Pinterest in adulthood instruct us to keep company of people who are driven and motivated. Marathons demonstrate why. Let’s observe ourselves. When we’re driving, we follow vehicles that are swift; that can cut through traffic like hot knife through butter. When we are in office, we migrate to leaders who perform best. Among friends, we find solace in those who can find solutions even in a haze of confusion. In life as in marathon, good followers go on to become good leaders.

5.       What you can’t measure you can’t achieve. Running is a joy, agreed, but one needs to measure its indices to improve the sport. Before practicing for the event, I never cared to measure my own performance. And when I did, I achieved what I previously thought impossible. Fixing goals beyond our perceived capacity is the trick to outperformance.

6.       Keep reserve force for the end. Any long drawn and difficult project requires persistence and truckloads of willpower. However, with some tact, the goal becomes easier to achieve. Marathon is a classic example of how one must strategize the run. Pace is important, but not at the cost of burn-out. In the end, what comes of use is the penny saved for the rainy day.

7.       Excellence is a habit. I was in the 5th km of my run when I saw the first runner on the opposite side heading towards the finishing line. They were the professionals. Unlike me, they followed the right diet, the right exercise schedule and the right running routines throughout the year, and not just for two months. They glided like human machines on the swanky bituminous roads of Delhi, inspiring awe within onlookers. They did the right thing all the time.

8.       Dance along the way. I do not know if 2 hrs 21 mins was a good finishing time for a first timer like me. What I know for sure is that I wouldn’t have achieved this without music on the way. Organizers of the marathon must have known that bhangra can be a legible drug for runners. There was live music and drums at every few kilometers throughout the run. However spent and fatigued my body was, I was infused with a strange freshness in my limbs when the beats of drums came floating through. For that duration, I doubled my speed without effort.

9.       Encouragement comes back in double measures. Barring a few groups, most running participants were strangers to each other. But that did not stop them, or me, from egging on fellow runners to not give up. This warm human goodwill unfolded all by itself. There was a raising spirit for every flagging spirit. And it came back to help the helper without a single miss.

10.   Choose your game. Marathon was a great experience, undoubtedly worth doing again. However, that might not be our best game. Dedication and practice will improve us, but we may still never reach the top. However, if that same dedication and practice was to be exercised on the sport we are born to live, the journey to the top will both be enjoyable and rewarding. That game, to say it Japanese way, will be the IKIGAI. 

I’m sure the more experienced fellow runners have other points to add here. This list and its author will feel enriched to know their views.

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