Runs around the world #8

Mcleodganj, Himachal Pradesh, India

My last run in India was in Mcleodganj (pronounced mac-cloud-gange), the place I was in before heading back to Delhi. My favourite place so far; it’s a small place in Northern India where the government of Tibet, led by the Dalai Lama, is in exile. A friendly place, the town is centered around two bustling main streets where indians, tibetans, travellers from all around the world, buddhist monks and nuns in maroon robes, cows, dogs and cats all mix delightfully together.

Although in India, there’s a heavy Tibetan influence with an abundance of prayer flags, maroon robes, temples and stupas both in and around the town, as well as the main streets being packed with tibetan restaurants serving the best momos (dumplings) around.

This was my favourite run here so far. OK, granted, it was mainly because when walking the day before I found a flat route. Well, I say flat, there were still some slight gradients as it’s up in the mountains, but, compared to the other runs I did in India it was as flat as a pancake. And oh, how a flat route made such a nice change. It’s what I’m used to. Lincolnshire is flat. I was nearly bursting with excitement to go running as soon as I found that route, I couldn’t wait until the next morning when I would go. I felt like a kid at Christmas. I wonder if I have a running problem?

Anyway, so, flat also meant I could run a bit longer, as it wasn’t so tough on my legs and lungs. So, I set of with the view of just running as much as I could, no set plan, time or distance. It was a there-and-back route. Not strictly my favourite, and I know some people hate that (Steve :P) but at least I’m not going to get lost. So, I just ran there and back and there and back again, as much as I could until my legs didn’t want to go any more. Because, I’m losing fitness. I’m losing the ability to think (and choose) “I’ll go for a ten mile run today” as I don’t know whether I can. I’m having to fit runs in as and when time, location and conditions allow, and can’t be too choosy. I don’t know whether I can run 10 miles any more; probably not, I haven’t done it for 2 months now.

So I was chuffed to run 5 miles. It was nice to know I still could do a (kind of) long run. Well, longer than 3 miles anyway. I was happy with that. Like I said, I can’t be too choosy so I’ve got to take them where I can.

It was an mixed run. It was great to get out there, and the scenery was just amazing again. In early morning sunshine I ran down the road out of town, the forest covered mountains on both sides of me, sometimes passing monks on their morning walks. I could see the Dalai Lama’s house and the town in the distance, perched on top of one of the mountains like a toy town the further away I got. It was hot though, and I was slow. I’ve slowed down, I can see by my times, which I guess is probably only natural given that I’m running a lot less and shorter distances. But it frustrates me. I know I can, enjoy, and used to run faster, dammit. Halfway in I needed the toilet. Running does this sometimes. Runners will know what I mean. I couldn’t wait, it was giving me a stomach ache and I wasn’t about to abandon the first flat run I’d had in a month. So, I had no choice but to go in the woods. Luckily there are lots of big rocks and leaves. And not many people around. What is it they say? All part of the experience. Not one I’d be wanting to repeat if I can help it though. My legs sure felt the last mile, and it was an effort to keep going as long as I did, but my stubbornness and need for rounded numbers meant I wanted to hit that 5 mile mark as a minimum.

And I did, and bloody hell did it feel GOOD. In fact, not just good but Amazing. Fantastic. Euphoric. Brilliant. You get the idea. In fact, just writing about it is making me smile. You see, there’s no such thing as a Bad Run. Because, even if the run itself is hell on earth, that feeling you get when you finish outweighs it every time. Especially if it’s been tough. Those little endorphins being released are like little drops of magic.

Pure magic.

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Runs around the world #7

Manali, Himachal Pradesh, India

So, my second run in India was in Manali, further up into the mountains in Himachal Pradesh. I’ve certainly not been running as much as I would like in India. But, in my defence, it’s been hard terrain everywhere so far. I know, I know, it’s a weak excuse, and perhaps you’re thinking I should have just got on with it. I do love running on all different surfaces and climates right? But really, it has been tough. Hot and so incredibly humid in Delhi, then foggy, hilly and full of people staring in Shimla. So what about Manali? Well, I’d already decided to run early in the morning to stop the stares, so that’s that issue taken care of (although there’s always a few people out who will stare; it’s inevitable). And the weather here in Manali has been much better than Shimla. No fog and not much rain. Nice and cool in the mornings, and then sunshine later on most days. So, should be good for running right? Well, yes. But.

Yep, you know there’s a but. Bloody hell is it hilly here. Well, it is in the middle of the mountains of course, I know that. The scenery here is just stunning, but hills make it hard to run, if that’s the only running you can do. Sure, hills are great as part of a training program, to be added in with long runs, flat runs and speed work. But hills all the time? Hard work, right? You bet. Because it’s not just little gradients. Lincolnshire people, they are like Steep Hill. First, imagine running up Steep Hill. Then, make Steep Hill about 3 times as long. So, run continuously up that. Then down. Then up again. Oh, and make it at 2000m altitude. Now, what do you reckon. Easy or hard, haha?

I’ve been here a week and will have done two runs. That doesn’t sound like a lot, and it isn’t. I’m disappointed in myself really. But, to be honest, I’m not quite sure where the days have gone, and why I haven’t run more. A couple of mornings I’ve enjoyed a lie in. I spent a couple of days on long, hilly scrambles walks up the mountains and so my legs were aching. I did yoga one morning instead. I do wish I’d done more running. But, you know what? I’m proud of what I have done. It’s no secret that hill running isn’t my favourite. So, getting to the top of the hill at the end of 3 miles, of which the latter half was uphill, lungs bursting and legs burning, was a great feeling, almost an achievement. Sure, it’s a short run, and sure, I’ve done hill sprints before but this was different. This was long, continuous steep gradients. A total elevation climb of 540ft. This was difficult and challenging and I did it!

I have to class this as one of my most scenic runs so far. Running past tree-covered mountains in the background and along the Beas River, the roar of the rapids in my ears.  Running through the Manali nature park, marvelling at it’s tall trees stretching as far as I could see to the sky, the rocks on the ground smattered with the morning sunshine. Running past people meditating and doing morning yoga, oblivious to my presence. Propelling myself up the hill, I glanced over my shoulder to see the mountains in the distance, hazy in the morning mist. I stopped to take a picture, all the while thinking, lucky me. Lucky, lucky me.

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