Tuesday, 27 December 2016

To You, Running

(Background: Nazuk wrote to me asking me to write a letter from her to running. Having fallen in love with it myself followed by having lost my will to do it, how could I pass up this chance?
I remember starting out with Nazuk when she trained for her half marathon (2015 for both of us), I remember being inspired by her run timings and her dedication to the program, I remember also bragging about this to colleagues over lunches.
But more than any of this I remember running lifting me up on days I didn’t even realise I needed lifting. So here it is.)

To You

Slap. Sla. SL.Slap.
Slap. Slap.

Those could read like dance beats to the new hip-hop track that’s dropped just in time for the Grammys, a reality check that 2016 was on a larger political level, or the simple, quiet crunch and sound of my footsteps every morning when I’m on the trail. That running is all of this: a waltz with yourself where you’re sometimes leading and sometimes falling behind, a meditative reality check and sometimes just footsteps is something every runner could tell you.
That it’s meant the world to me, and changed how I moved in my own, is what I’m trying to say here.

It’s interesting how you remember colours, sounds and smells from a time that does not feel right. 

I was in between jobs, lost, and settling deep into a strange void which I can identify much easier in hindsight. There was the regular buzz of people, drinking and seeking of good times which at the time felt like an easy remedy. Essentially I was trying to perform open heart surgery by reading instructions off WebMD. That’s when I met running.

I'd been working out with Chavvi who encouraged me to try my first outdoor run in Phase 1, Gurgaon. From there I found my way to a running group, unsure if it was safe for a girl in these times to run alone in Gurgaon. That group gave me what I needed most then, a focussed program and a clear understanding that despite the best intentions I ran fastest and clearest alone.

Pinkathon 2015 came around as my first competing 21km run, followed by Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, both of which I finished in a sub-2 hr time. The Adidas Grand prix (one of my favourite runs) came when I ranked on the podium three times in a row and found myself a part of the Adidas Run program. The races came with a training schedule to match and a deeper understanding of my own body and what my lifestyle could take away or add to it. Talk to a runner and they will tell you how sleep or water intake can impact time and pace, but you’re going to have to lace up and be out of breath outside to understand how running can change your mind.

If I listed the ways it changed me, it would sound like a self-help book, it would all be true of course but the best love letters sidestep the cliches. So I will too. To wrap those up quickly, yes it made me empowered, self-reliant and gave me confidence while teaching me lessons that only sport can teach you. But above all this, it sculpted a relationship between space, the micro-acres my body occupies and the continents my mind stretches towards. Like potters clay, this is a relationship I’ve made and remade into useful objects (a bowl to place your feelings and to-do lists in) and some purely decorative ones (a phoneix sculpture for days when the world is too small to contain me.) I’ve pounded trails, hit uneven grounds hard while making and rethinking identities for myself, ideas and perceptions. I’ve found new ways to articulate my own drive, to struggle with it and make friends with it so we’re at peace. I know better than to just “will my body”, I know how to work with it when it hits a slump, I invented a trick to scream out loud when my legs don’t go faster and to find reserves of energy and peace when my mind won’t be stilled.

I know there are days when I start my warm-up feeling euphoria which morphs into anger, fear, desire sometimes mid-run and ends with a stillness and nonchalance. I can watch these emotions fly in and out while my legs, knees and feet are working out a rhythm and resting place for each of them. I can take a feeling of humiliation out for a run and come back with the lightness of having a friendly parrot hanging out on my shoulder. Cuckoo bird references aside, Running, you’ve changed the way I move inside and out, when I’m on the trail and when I’m not.

You’re a shape-shifting beast who is a friend, mentor or a sulking cousin on a different day.
And every day, I lace up my shoes, face the sky and get to know you and fall in love with you, all over again.



                  (These pictures above are some of Nazuk's favourite run memories.)

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you. The love letter can go with real names, back stories, as many pictures as you like, aliases and even super powers.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion. Give me a shout at: kakulgautam@gmail.com or on my Instagram account @hyperbolemuch)

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