There was no fanfare, just a small set of numbers slipping into new territory: 501.1
500 kms done.
I started jogging regularly 7 months ago in preparation for the Asha Kiran 10 K Run which we were organising then. And started keeping track on my mobile.
It's now become a part of me. This strange tug to get downstairs and start stretching my calves as the sky starts to fade into colour. The almost animal tug to get going, with my mind and part of my body asking 'why?' as the first set of paces begin.
Push forward. Praise music on. Out the back gate of the hospital campus. Onto the blessed stretch of lonely road. Early morning coolness welcomes the trod, trod, trod. Today a blessed mist. Yesterday patches of light rain splattered me.
Up the early incline. Get to the top. Loosen the pace. Thoughts go towards Asha who jogged with me almost every morning for the 4 months she was with us. Usually on this bit. A prayer or two on her behalf. The thoughts of the days work start showing up. Deep breaths. Look at my pace. Just over 6 mins per km. Can I get that down? Open stride as I come to the top of the gentle hill.
The vista opens up. Rolling hills. Patch-work forests. Some bedraggled cashew-plantations. Rows of eucalyptus rifle by as I push down the hill. And now the short-cut. Quick-right onto mud-path. Head down. Look down for loose-stones. Careful, don't want to slip. Brush-through occasional wet-web. And then the slight climb. Hill No. 2. Got to get through without a fall. Can I keep the pace under 6 mins? Scramble up last 10 meters and back onto black-top.
5.47 per km. Time to kick forward. Bit of huffing-puffing, deep breaths. The sun has started to make the rain-cloud-skies shimmer with silver. I love this place. A lone motor-cycle passes me. Driver wearing a cloth face-mask, but no helmet.
Almost at the bottom of the hill. 2 kms gone. Start up the final gentle climb. Push, push. Praise music on again after silly spotify ad. How great is our God. Push, push. Deep breaths. Final hill. After the gentle top is gently down. Can I move the pace down to 5.30? Come to the mini crest at 5.38.
500 m left. Shirt sweat-stained, ye olde legs a-pumpin. Just a bit more. Don't run fast, keep jogging at pace. Glance at mobile, its down to 5.32. We are coming in fine. 200 meters more. The sun is glinting off the ginger plants to my right. The little smudge of a rock-pile near the back gate is looming closer.
Keep going. Almost there. Last metres to go. I'm here. Legs slow down to walk and blessed sweat-stained relief. Touch the screen. The run is over. 3.18 kms in 17.21 mins. I have reached my goal of doing it in under 5.30 mins per km.
Oh the joy of stopping. Stretch. Loosen. Music still soaring. What a relief to walk down the bamboo-framed path. The lark is on the limb. All is well.
Quick look into the dew-spangled plot of a kitchen garden we have. And then up the stairs to the bath and the new day. Its 6 AM and a beautiful day has begun.
So here is the strange thing.
I have never jogged like this in my life. At 51 sun-spins, something new has woken up. And today I crossed the 500 km barrier. Am really, really surprised. I remember Dad reading us "A Father, A Son and a Three-mile Run" where the boy gets up every morning to run cross country and charts out his miles on a map across the US. He crosses it and comes half-way back. Just did not seem possible. Well, today I have managed to accumulate a Delhi to Dehra Dun and almost all the way back set of kms jogged.
A few learnings along the way.
Habits take time to form. And start from diverse roots. This one started last year while we were on our mini-sabbatical. The long rambling visit in the US gave lots of time for early morning wanderings. And the first little stretches of jogging were experimented there. Mostly about 500 meters or so. From the tiny acorn grows...
Goals help. Big time. Knowing that we were organising a 10 K run made me want to run it. To see if I could. It seemed impossible in Feb. But by adding another 500 metres every 3-4 days, I slowly worked up to doing 7-8 kms every morning. Totally at my pace. Shuffling along. Walk up briskly up hills. Jog down. Keep the old ankles from twisting.
Small targets are exciting. For me knowing how much I have jogged really, really helps. Why should it? Shouldn't just the beauty of everything out there be enough? Yeah. I am sure there are others for whom that is enough. But I like to keep track. I do. I like to finish off a round figure. Can I complete 5 kms? Can I nudge my time to a new level? Hearing that Asha's school minimum mark for girls' inter-house cross country was 6 mins per km was a good spur for me. Surely I can do that! And yes, with huffing and puffing it was achieved. But for me I am doing 3 kms at present, not under 6 min pace for the 5 kms that Wynberg Allen girl students run for. Humbling.
Applause lifts you up. OK, I don't get applause at this point. But when we did a trial run of the Asha Kiran 10 K run in early March, I found the clapping and encouragement of our friends who were manning different parts of the trail to be a huge tonic. Sadly the COVID-19 craziness has put our beloved Asha Kiran 10 K Run into cold storage... But by-standers clearly help. The world's greatest long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge insisted on running before spectators when he ran his amazing feat of completing a marathon - all 42 kms of it - in under 2 hours (2.85 blistering minutes per km!).
Jogging changes you. I am 10% less than I used to be. A year ago I weighed in at 92-93 kgs. Today I have dipped to around 80 or so. Someone I met last month asked whether I was ill. Could jogging be pathological?
The subtle bit. What is the right balance? Am I addicted to this early-morning silliness? How much of the sly slippery pride has entered? Do I see the same drive, the same hunger in other parts of my life? Much to ponder on of course. Will have to mull over that a bit on tomorrow's jog... I hope it doesn't rain when the clock slips past 5 AM...
The Good Book says: For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 Timothy 4.8
So much yet to learn. Much to push forward for. 501.1 kms are over. On, on!