New Normal//

I Scored a Home Run and It Felt So Good

Running has been my lockdown meditation. And last Sunday, I completed 5km in 33.51 minutes within my tiny Mumbai apartment. It was a win I needed, wanted and fought hard for.

Photo by Abhilasha Khaitan
Photo by Abhilasha Khaitan

The sun was making its way out from behind the buildings. The trees were nodding hello. The birds had decided to compete with The Weeknd. It was 6.48 am, and a good morning to run. I cranked up the music. I checked for lazy laces. I took a sip of water. My Garmin was charged and race-ready. I made my way to the start. 

The route was clear. It started near the chest of drawers in my bedroom, along the bed, into the living room, right up to the balcony, a tricky U-turn, and back to the drawers. I needed 17 strides for one circuit. The goal was 5km, or around 6,000 strides. 

Don’t feign surprise. This is 2020. Of course this was an indoor run. The Mumbai-based Striders running group had organised it as a hat-tip to the resilience of runners and as a way to contribute to the Covid-19 fund set up by the government. I’d signed up for a third reason: Endorphins, both from the physical movement and from the thrill of competition.  

Also, I do like running. But I hadn’t done much of it in the months preceding the lockdown. At best, 20 minutes on the treadmill. I’d stopped training around September last year. My last outdoor run (of 6km) was in August. But I’d been strengthening my core through Pilates and yoga. And kept up the cardio with daily walks and the crosstrainer at the gym. All told, I’d clocked two years of hard work on my physical fitness leading up to this surreal state of the world, and that has emerged as my saviour. 

Because movement is my meditation, it centres me, calms me and even lifts me. Stress-eating had long been replaced by stress-walking and, apart from one slip-up two days ago, I’m still striding my way out of anxiety. Only, instead of the roads and parks of my city, I’ve made my house my walking track. 

I do get asked the obvious questions: Doesn’t your head spin running those short circuits? Isn’t it boring? Isn’t the terrace open? My answers are no, no and no. 

Take the Sunday run. Because I haven’t flaunted my timing yet. Drumroll, please. I finished 5.01 km in 33 minutes and 51 seconds, averaging 6.45 minutes/km with a best of 5.33 in the last lap. This is not even a humble brag. It’s a straight-up brag. I texted my family and friends. Obviously it made it to Instagram. 

As for many of us, privileged to be living in our own homes during this time, I have no dearth of activity to keep my hands busy. It’s the mind that can get neglected and de-energised. There is no one way—or right way—to nurture it. Protect it, even, from ennui and despair. I can only tell you mine: It is to wear my jogging shoes and run. Even when I have nowhere to go.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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