Run for Your Life!

“I will run in the morning”, I think to myself every night. I wake up late, somehow get ready for work. The only exercise that I get is my brisk walk from hostel to student office, from cafeteria to computer centre and then I sit on my chair. The day comes to an end and my shoulders feel heavy. My whole body needs to be dragged away from my desk, to my room, where I slowly crouch on my bed. Waiting for sleep to overpower my senses, drift me away to another world where there is no work, no worries and no fear of deadlines. In between waiting for sleep and thinking about the day after, I tell myself, “I will run in the morning”.

I can feel my body becoming heavier. I feel like a sloth bear. Yet, I am terrified to go to the gym. I am scared shitless to think about checking my weight until my alarm goes off. I ignore the monthly reminders that flash on my screen saying “Check weight”. I cannot check my wait. I tell the logical part of my brain. Do I need more reasons to worry in life? Isn’t my daily work schedule and meetings enough for that?

I used to weigh 45 kg years back. Let me be more precise. I used to weigh 45 kg in 2015. In the last 4 years, I have gained a certain amount of weight which I am scared to find out. Wait, that is not true! Let me go back a little in time. In 2017 when I came back to IGIDR for PhD, I weighed 53 kg. Preposterous! Insane! When did this happen? I knew not. So I started running and I got my weight to 50 kg. Then there came a long break, like scorching summer between the monsoons (yes, face it, we do not have any more seasons in Mumbai). Slowly I started gaining weight and this time, I did not check. Till one day, a few weeks back. I walked to the gym. My heart was beating faster than usual because I had decided to find out what I had been hiding from myself.

I checked once. I checked twice. The machine must be wrong! Of course, sweetheart, my brain told me, it is always the machine’s fault. I had to give in. 54.7 kg. My personal highest and I thought I could not get fatter than 53! I almost thought I should gain a little more and go to Tata Medical Centre to donate blood platelets. But first things first; I decided to get my sorry ass off the chair and bring myself to the gym in the evenings. Yes, there were hurdles but I had to. It was not a matter of choice anymore. My whole family has serious issues of Type-II diabetes and I am walking towards it with bold steps. I decided to pick my feet and walk away. I had to run for my life. I have to run for the extra cup of hot chocolate from Grand mama’s Café. I have to run for all the tasty food that I am learning to cook.

I started running. This sentence reads better when I add a question mark to it. Running? It was brisk walking. It was making me believe that I could still run. For those of you who weigh more or those of you who are thinking what the big deal is about 54.7 kg, let me tell you my height and perhaps you would realise. I hardly cross five feet in height. Hence a 54.7 is not ideal for a person of my height.

I started running around my house. Every step felt heavier than the last. I wanted to stop. I kept pushing myself somehow. I wish I could tell you, I didn’t stop, that I ran against all hurdles. Well, my willpower is not that strong and my broken research agenda keeps adding to my weight. I stopped every now and then. I walked, I walked faster and then I stopped. Five rounds without stopping, each round of 1.2 metre. So yes, less than one kilometre and I would be happy, elated, out of the world! I continued nonetheless. My friends were supportive. Since research wasn’t going anywhere, technically even I was not going anywhere running inside the campus, yet my kilometre covered started increasing. Meanwhile, it was becoming more humid in Mumbai. Although a run outside my house made me very happy, I was sweating like a person suffering from hyperhidrosis!

After it becomes unbearable, Mumbai witnesses its first shower. Rain cheers me up. The next evening I am more determined. I walk out of my room and decide to push my limits. 20 minutes and 3 km. Can I do it like old times? I continue pushing myself and after the very slow 20 minutes, I do it. 4 years and countless days later, I complete a run. Something inside me broke. I can still do it. My confused brain tells me. I start feeling a sharp pain on my right leg and I ignore it. At night I sleep in peace. I am running for my life.

I take up a new challenge of completing 10km in 1.5 hours. An easy task to complete, my brain tells me, just requires determination. 1 hour, 29 minutes and 40 seconds. I complete my first 10 km sprint. What faith can do to people? What success can do to people? Give them a reason to believe that it is possible.

Now when I tell myself at night, “I will run tomorrow”, I follow through. How is my body reacting to it? Not very good, if you ask me, or rather, perfect on second thought. Every muscle lets me know that I am running. There is pain and there is hope. I come to work, even if it doesn’t go as planned, I know my success lies somewhere else beyond data and regression analysis. It lies in the deep forests, it lies in the hills. It lies in the uncovered lanes. It lies on the lanes and gym of IGIDR.

It has been almost 20 days since I have started running. This time I do not want to stop. With one success comes the next and I am ready for it. I want to run in a half marathon in December. My weight is still the same, in case you are wondering. What about my confidence in my abilities to run? I can see it dragging itself towards me. I feel lighter than before, better than before and more motivated. I can run a little faster. I can run a little longer. I can run and the thought itself is amazing.

Published by Leena Bhattacharya

A researcher who finds solace in social work

One thought on “Run for Your Life!

  1. Great work, Leena! I too used to run regularly but then stopped. I used to weigh around 66 when I was at my peak fitness but then it went up to as much as 78 very recently. Started running again now. From someone who has pushed too hard and suffered for it, just make sure that you give your body enough time for recovery and try maintaining an alright running stance (e.g. not landing on your heel) to avoid injuries. All the best and I hope you absolutely smash that half marathon 😀

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