Running My Butt Off

Gina writes:

About 6 weeks ago, I saw that there was going to be a big half-marathon (13.1 miles) in Bangkok, Thailand on the day before we were scheduled to fly back to the U.S. It seemed to be such a great opportunity -- a momentous event to mark leaving Asia, just enough time to train, and reason to be more serious about my on-and-off running regimen.

From conversations with friends and hours of running by myself with my rambling thoughts, I realized that my experience running around in rural India is probably pretty interesting to my runner friends (and hopefully my non-runner friends too!).

"My" Stadium

We're extremely fortunate to live just 1/3 mile from an outdoor stadium/track. It's not an ideal place to run -- it can by muddy and/or rocky, cows and dogs use it too, and there are often dozens of guys playing cricket with one eye and watching me with their other eye! If you can get past those downfalls, it's a pretty great resource to have.

Actually, substitute the blue skies for gray skies and you'll see exactly what I was running in for most of the past 6 weeks. I had the track completely to myself for a vast majority of my runs, since the rain prevented a lot of the guys and teams from coming out! Just me and the cows...

Taking to the Roads

When my training took me above 3 or 4 miles per run, it was way too boring to just go around the 1/4 mile track over and over, so I took to the roads outside of Koraput town. These roads aren't heavily traveled by vehicles, so it's just me and a bicycle or motorcycle every few minutes. It's hilly and sometimes I have to literally wade through dozens of cows making their way to a pasture, but the scenery cannot be beat!

On my run two weeks ago, there was a wedding procession in the small village that I pass through. I had to navigate my way through dozens of grabby, drunk, dancing men and kids trying to shake my hand!

Too Rainy, Too Sunny

Monsoon season this year was extremely mild...until 6 weeks ago, when it started raining 14 of every 15 days. Not kidding, there were only 3 days without rain in the past month and a half! The rain made it difficult to plan runs exactly when I wanted to, so I had to be flexible about running whenever there seemed to be a clearing of the clouds for an hour. The upside was that the constant overcast cooled the temperatures to a comfortable level.

Yesterday and today were the first days of almost complete sun. The thing about temperatures in Koraput is that it's very dependent on the sun, so with the sun shining, the daytime temperatures are above 90 again. It made my run this morning VERY difficult. I have to adjust my training times for the next few weeks, I guess.

My Progress

I'm not a very fast runner and the farthest I've run before is about 6.5 miles...once. Now I'm running 3 times during the week, runs of 3-5 miles, and a long run on Sunday. The long runs increase by about 1 mile each week. Last week's long run was 6 miles and yesterday's long run was 7.5 miles, which makes it the longest I ever ran at one time! There are 4 more Sundays left in Koraput, so I'll run 9, 10, 11, and 12 miles. I'm feeling good about it and can feel my muscles getting stronger, but I'm still nervous about the race. This is a good thing actually, because it gives me less of an excuse to skimp on training or take a day off my running plan.

Stop Staring, Dudes!

I've run on and off since arriving in Koraput almost 2 years ago. It used to be really hard for me to deal with all the "stare bears". At the stadium, the guys playing cricket or volleyball just watch me whenever their not involved in the game. On the roads, if someone sees me running, their eyes never leave me and their body turns as I pass them (I call it the "traveling stare" happens when I'm just walking too, but not with such predictability). I'm not very fast, so it would embarrass me. Only in the past few months have I blocked out the anxiety about that completely; now I just feel proud to be a model of fitness!

A Plug for Nike

The best fitness product that I ever bought was my Nike Plus unit. It's a little chip that attached to my shoe and a little connector that plugs into my iPod. The movement of the chip calculates my distance, pace, and time and communicates it to the iPod so that I can check the numbers at any time during my run. It was only $30 and has allowed me to run anywhere I want and has motivated me to get faster and run longer.

Half-Marathon Fundraising

I'm not (yet) doing a full push of fundraising for the half-marathon, but I do have a fundraising page set up here that you can check out. You can easily support specific projects in India for as little as $5 with Paypal, credit card, or Google.

Wish me luck on 20 November at my first big race!