Kolkata, the city I call home, was late to the running party. It was only in December 2014 that the City of Joy finally got its flagship race, the Tata Steel Kolkata 25k. Since then, the popularity of running has steadily grown in Kolkata, with the Tata Steel Kolkata’s eighth edition featuring 17,000 runners cross the finish line in various race categories including 5km, 10km and 25km.
Running has plenty of advantages from physical to mental health and is also known to boost mood and confidence. Also, running is very much a social activity today and running group parties are becoming increasingly commonplace. However, despite all the runner’s highs and joys of running, all runners have some grouse or the other with their favourite sport. How many of the running pet peeves listed resonate with you?
Constant comparison: Runners constantly say that they only compete with themselves. But the very human instinct of comparing oneself with others always kicks in. Even those who don’t advertise their personal best times, or the number of races run, or the longest distance covered, are regularly asked about all of the above. “What’s your timing?” is perhaps the most irritating question all runners have to tackle on a regular basis.
Endless discussions on race strategy: Yes, even running has its nerds. They break down each race even before the run itself. What pace to run at what point, which turn to approach from the right of the race route, and which from the left, at what point in time to drink water, when to stop for a toilet break… you get the picture. While it is a good idea to have some knowledge of the race route, weather and elevation, over-strategizing sucks all the joy out of running.
Driving 20km to run 10km: Global warming is real, reducing our carbon footprint is the need of the hour. Yes, not all places in India are fit or safe for running, but when you drive halfway across a city for an hour just to run a short distance in the company of friends, it is not good for the planet. If you must drive 20km and back to run 10km, please carpool. Every little bit counts. Ideally, step out of your door and start running.
Pushing and shoving in races: As races become popular and draw more runners, pushing and shoving, especially in the holding areas before the start line, is increasing. Unless you are going to be on the podium, take it easy. Pushing people around in a mass participation event is dangerous and could easily lead to a stampede or at least some minor injuries. No ambition for the personal best, is worth the unpleasant experience your inconsiderate behaviour causes for others.
Porta potties: This one is universal. I don’t know anyone who would willingly use a porta potty. But considering runners spend hours in a race, including waiting for the start and again after the finish line, there is no option but to use them. Does anyone have any ideas as to how to avoid or improve porta potties? Race registration fees are constantly rising and runners are increasingly paying more for everything. Race organisers pay more for everything too, but they should invest more in improving such vital amenities. That cost is partly absorbed by the runners in increased registration fees.
Don’t plan your life around the running calendar: The fun thing about life is the impromptu stuff that we do on impulse. Like meeting a friend because you felt like it, without consulting anyone’s social calendar schedule. Or heading out on a long drive or ride. I love heading out for runs and walks on impulse and those runs often leave me very satisfied and serene.
But with people becoming very serious about races and their training plan, many plan their entire life around their training and follow their training plan rigidly. That becomes more of a task than doing something you enjoy. I started running on a whim more than a decade ago, I loved it and I still run when I feel like it. It is always fun, never a chore.
You will never have enough gear: People say you need nothing but the will or desire to run. Nothing is further from the truth. Ask any runner, it starts with shoes. You need a pair for training, one for long runs, one pair of carbon shoes for race day, one for just because you want it. Then you go looking for anti-chafing socks. Before you know it, someone suggests a better GPS watch than your current one and you feel you can’t do without it. Your research on running reveals you need hydration supplements and protein supplements. You get curious and want to see if compression sleeves bring relief to your aching calves, so you add that to your cart… all of us know how this goes. You will never have enough gear.
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and the co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.