Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sir “Are you going to win? How much are they paying you?”

That is how my discussion began when I explained to our old driver Raju that I was training for a marathon in Singapore.

“No Raju, I will not win the marathon and I have to pay them to participate.” Brief moment of silence as he processes why I am would possibly want to run 42 K and have to pay for it. “How long will it take you?” Four hours, he quickly realizes it is about 10 kilometers per hour and slows to that speed and says “this does not seem that fast”
I reply “then you get out and run 10 kph for awhile and see how it feels.” He declines and stops asking more questions as we log distances so I can escape from Palm Meadows and run in the villages around us.

One of the goals I had for myself when we moved to India was to run a marathon on this side of the world. Bangalore had a marathon earlier this year, the lead runners were both delayed by traffic half way through the race and chased by stray dogs. After searching the web for alternatives, Singapore was the winner, great excuse for another family trip and a very well organized race for over 30,000 runners.

Training in India has been a tale of two worlds. Running inside Palm Meadows got old real fast, up and down the palm tree lined roads staring at the same very expensive houses lap after lap. When I reached the 10 mile mark, I decided it was time to journey into the real world and “awaken” as Chandra may say.

The mean streets of Palm Meadows

Before India, most of my running has been the chain of lakes in Minneapolis, whether it was 85 and sunny, 40 and raining, 25 and snowing or even 5 below and too cold for sane humans, I always loved the scenery, company of our old dog Marley and conversations or toe counting with Jeff D.

Once you leave the friendly gates you had better be awake and aware or you’re going to be run down, pedestrians are the lowest rung on the ladder in India. I cannot count the number of times a motorcycle or bus sees the crazy white guy running on the road and deliberately moves a little closer to the shoulder to see if I flinch. Chandra threatened to kill me if I was run down on my adventures, so far, I only have a lot of close calls.

How does one accurately describe the time that I rounded a corner in a village at 7 am and suddenly ten feet in front of me was a pack of stray dogs sleeping in the road? As I “awaken” my senses and count over 15 sleeping dogs, I decide to quickly turn around and calmly walk away.

Other highlights from my runs:
· School children always “joining” me for my run
· People always watching me wondering what I am doing
· Getting caught behind the morning cattle drive – watch your step
· Looking at the beautiful scenery and piles of garbage mixed together
· It is always around 70 degrees and sunny on every run

While I had lofty training ambitions for this marathon that went unfulfilled, I will be lined up on December 7th with thousands of other mentally unbalanced individuals. For a Minnesota guy that loves running in the snow, running a race that promises high heat and humidity will be an adventure.

Two weeks and counting

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