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My Fellow Runners

And here comes the guy who sprays sweat. I can hear his huffs from at least ten meters away and sense the strange rhythm of a run with some kind of a limp. I have never seen his face. I always see his back because he is always overtaking me. If I am ever called in inside an imaginary police identification room, he would be the guy I could identify only if he turned around.

Then there are the chauvinist custodians of male patriarchy. They always walk. They walk slow. But the moment a running woman passes them, they start running, overtake the lady, and after they are done with their pathetic display of power, they give in to the almost fainting exhaustion from running with their thoroughly unhealthy slob of a body that they have built with excessive self-love and arrogance! At this point, the lady outwalks them while they are helplessly trying to catch a breath.

The speed runners psych me out. However, I never see if their body BMIs, visually reflect the consequent fitness from such speed running. They zoom past me. But psyching out fellow runners is perhaps not part of their plan. They genuinely can’t run slower. But the men who run shirtless, or during the indoor runs, the women who waste no opportunity to flaunt their abs; they are unnerving. They have achieved what I don’t even aspire and yet I resent them rather than admiring them. Some run wearing fancy running clothes. Some run in nightwear doubling as sportswear. I have even seen men running in their chinos.

I start slow. I take my time to warm up, during which the strain is more on the legs and knees. Then as I gradually pick up my speed, I start feeling the wind in my face and my beating heart in my mouth. I am used to keeping my mouth closed lest the heart pops out. But jokes apart, I think keeping my mouth closed prevents it from drying up and feeling thirsty; it keeps me from swallowing a fly and, of course, feels like I run better. But sometimes, during outdoor runs, I run through stretches of the foul stench of sewer water flowing nearby, and mouth breathing is the only option then. And during mornings, running beside houses making breakfast of butter toast and coffee, mouth breathing is the right option – exposing oneself to the waft of melting butter during an intense running session is first-degree masochism.

I am both bemused and annoyed by flirts who flirt even during runs. Who created these creeps? They will ask for the time while wearing clock size watches around their wrists. They will get your attention by running around and overtaking you and then come back running towards you and then repeat the same jig till you decide to stop running altogether and wait for them to come back and then look right into their flushed foolish faces. They perhaps mean no harm, but they need to be confronted.

Indoor running is outright dull, and unless outdoors are inconducive to running, it is always my second option. Indoor is peaceful for people who do not have access to good weather and outdoor running spaces in their surroundings. But it is mighty uptight and alienating. It is particularly distressing if you happen to share the indoor gym around the same time with the habitual offenders who think making all their social calls during their runs is the most efficient form of multitasking. And, of course, the stench of sewer water during indoor runs can sometimes be replaced by a body odor that supersedes blasting air con drafts. In the face of such unbearable challenges, a simple outdoor run feels a lot more liberating and less artificial and privileged.

Morning runners are different from evening runners, perhaps in the level of their attachment towards the whole activity of running. For the sake of needless analysis, I conclude that morning runners are driven more by the desire to ensure good health and shape and are proud of themselves as runners. The evening runners, the ones running after work, are the ones who enjoy running or find it relaxing.

On a bad day, running feels like a welcome escape. On a good day, you feel like making eye contact with every fellow runner, and it seems like everybody can spot your happiness. I find music during runs distracting. Calls can wait unless it is code red urgent. And as for passing thoughts – I do find myself drifting, sometimes, about the future, sometimes simply thinking about people I know, and the horror of running into any of them in that sweaty gasping state brings me and my thoughts back on track.

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Author: Staff Contributor
Illustration/Photograhy: TDLM Design Team


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