My Weekly Blog #6

Jesus only needed 12.

Not to sound overly dramatic, but this year, 2018, has been my rebirth. I dropped off a lot of unwanted baggage, let go off a lot of emotions and people, changed my approach to how I look at life, reshaped my approach towards my hobbies, passions & career.

I am not very big on community. I like isolation. That's why I took up running in the 1st place. Or that's why I love swimming & reading. What drives me is getting better at things that I do, I like to be good at stuff. I like when people look at me and go "Wow"(in a good way, not "Wow, look at that pathetic loser."). It's not like I am a recluse, I like certain people, I like hanging out with them, I like talking to them but again, it is my personality and my polarity which determines my conversation with people. If I am being cold, distant and monosyllabic with people I care about(you know who you guys are), then it's better to let me cool off.

I am very ambitious. I dream big and I am grateful to the lord above to have given me the willpower to keep chipping away at my goals. Which brings me to my running. It is very well documented why I started running. I was very sick, in 2012, with Typhoid. And I looked at years 2008-2012 and thought to myself "Wow, look at that pathetic loser". I was 21, overweight, out-of-shape, nowhere as fit as I used to be and I thought, *if* I ever get better, I will create a life with achievements I am proud of; and I proceeded to do that.

I'm not proud of how I finished Ultraman, but I am proud of the fact that I did. I am proud of the things I have done. What I never sought for was attention. My goal in life was(and is) not to "inspire millions to get fit & healthy". No, I am pretty selfish. I wanted to succeed in life, and if someone saw my story along the way and thought "Wow, that pathetic loser went from being a pathetic loser to not being a pathetic loser, maybe I can do that", that would be icing on the cake. I ran thousands of laps on a 400 meter track in Rohini Sports Complex for years, swam thousands of laps in that 50 meter pool in Rohini Sports Complex and never, not even once, desired to have people look at me as some sort of foreign specimen, who instead of chatting around was doing his work and going home.

I "blame" my mother for it. You see, I have very smart, hardworking, dedicated parents. And my mom, she would always come to the pool to watch me swim. And I knew that it made her happy and so I swam better. She told me, "Even if I am not watching, swim like someone is watching you". The gist being "You can't lie to yourself". And that's how I approached my training from there on out. Infact, it extends to everything else in life, I never fake who I am. I know I am an asshole many times, I am rude, I like to call people out on their lies and I like to say it like it is. WYSIWYG.

I don't care if I am inspiring or not, and I don't understand it either. Yes, watching Lionel Sanders train gets me all fired up, but it doesn't mean I will go out and train. I will do that IF I WANT TO. And that's the case with everyone, you can post a million things on social media. You can watch Steve Job's "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" speech, a million times. If you don't want to, you will not start another Apple Inc.(which btw, hit $1 Trillion in Market Cap, holy mother of God).
And the more I look around these days, everyone is an wants to be an inspiration. Heck, you run a 60 minute 10k and if it is not followed by 1000 word essay on how difficult it was for you to do it, what's the point of running, right?

No. If you actually were training, those 10k wouldn't be "difficult", they would push you to your limits, you would conquer them and they would seem difficult, but it wouldn't be an excuse filled post full of blame games which try to manifest themselves under a blanket of your favourite quotes. But that's for another day. I train, and have trained for myself. Not to get finisher medals or trophies. I have trained, each day, so that at the end of my life I die, knowing I reached what I was capable of.
Those medals and trophies would be pieces of metal attached to ribbons or wood, they would be meaningless, if I didn't improve. Even if I won a race each week, even if I put 100 hours of training in a month(and then did an Instagram story/post about all of it), deep down, inside of me(atleast for me), the satisfaction won't be there until I actually, physically and mentally improve.

Which brings me to this scumbag:

I ran X miles at Y:01 min/km(I don't measure in min/km, I do it in min/mile); and the constructive compliments I got from this piece of shit was running 2 secs/km faster would make "the figure more attractive".
1. I have absolutely no clue who this geezer is.
2. I have no idea why he is following me on Strava.
3. I am pretty sure he's not aware of my training plan and my goal races.
4. I have no idea if he's a running coach(which from his Strava profile looked quite the opposite).
5. I am amused by the delusion, he seems to think he's Patrick Sang. (Just imagine, Sang telling Eliud Kipchoge to try to run 2 secs/km faster because it would "look more attractive"; and no I'm not comparing myself to Kipchoge.)
6. He's trying to be sarcastic with me; which again is like(this is nothing to brag about) bringing a knife to a gun-fight when the other person has a full automatic M16 carbine.

Why. Why on earth do you follow me on Strava? Because my activities are "attractive", are you shitting me? I have never ever in my life, aimed to please someone(other than my mother) with my training. And I don't even give a flying walenda about what others think about my training. It is like my religious beliefs, I can recite a lot of Sanskrit Shlokas but I don't do it to impress people. Infact, I have mentioned this for the 1st time in writing. I do it because it connects me to God, it is my connection with God, it is personal.

I kept my Strava profile open, mainly so that others could see there is no secret to any sort of success. I don't do anything differently. There is nothing extraordinarily different and that's how life is. We make it unnecessarily complicated, when it simply is about showing up, shutting up and doing your work. 

But this incident, and then another one where a person couldn't comprehend basic english(and made a comment totally beside the point), made me realise: I don't need followers. I never claimed to be an inspiration and if you want to be "#inspiredbyArunaabhShah" here's a small clip from when I was very fat.
Neither do I want to make money or get sponsorships from running; I could care less. I can buy my own shoes and making a business out of running frankly sickens me to the stomach. It's great for those who do but I do not want to be a part of that.

So I went ahead, took an hour and removed 683 people as my "followers"on Strava. And i'm pretty sure I won't be accepting add requests either. I left 45 people, all of whom I know and I can talk to and can expect a certain level of intelligence. My training is my connection to my inner soul, I experience all sorts of emotions when I train and I feel happy about the hardwork which I put in.

My Strava was public because,  I didn't change my privacy settings when I signed up for it and until recently, I thought that people understood that I don't train to get "Kudos" or to impress them, I run because it makes me happy and I run fast because it makes me happier and it is a state of absolute mental stillness which somehow, after over an year of meditation I can't achieve for more than 5 minutes when I sit down.

And if you think I need more followers, here's an absolute gem from James Blunt:

Are we any better than Jesus? I know, i'm not.

Run the mile you're in.

This is the title of Ryan Hall's new book, but basically he put into words what I have been thinking and practising for several months now. And it doesn't just apply to running, it is universal. You see, our brains(atleast mine), have this anticipatory capacity. We tend to perceive things a certain way, and based on the outlook of your brain, we imagine the outcome(our intuition): "I've got a good feeling about this/I've got a bad feeling about this" and so on.

But have things really happened? I mean, sometimes perceptions are easy like applying for jobs in Europe as a Non European, most probably the answer is going to be no; because there is a lot of paperwork involved and the market isn't as strong as it should be and another million reasons. But does that mean, you stop applying? No. You keep trying, you build a good network, you present yourself well, you work hard and you don't quit, with time results will come.

But if you already imagine the answer to be no, based on your "intuition" you aren't going to get anywhere(I mean, this is basic common sense, but bear with me). Let's pan out from this and look at the bigger picture. For everything in life there are 2 types of factors: Endogenous and Exogenous.

Endogenous are the ones, which originate on the inside, the ones which we can control. Exogenous are the opposite, the ones out of our control. Let's take a running metaphor, because why not?

Say you're signed up for a 5k. The endogenous factors in this case are: Training, Nutrition, Hydration, Race Day Strategy & Equipment. The exogenous factors in this case are: Weather, Crowd control, Course-mapping etc.

The course being hilly doesn't count as an exogenous factor, because you should've known that when you signed up for it and trained accordingly; but you cannot do much if it starts hailing on race day at the 2nd kilometer. What then? If you're running a 5k hard enough, you're think to yourself "Well, there goes my chance for a PB". But really, does it? You still have 3 more kilometers to go, you still have a chance that this random hailstorm will subside and you sure as hell don't have to resign to your "fate". If it begins to hurt at the 3rd kilometer, then don't start thinking about the finish line, you still have 2000 meters to the finish line. A lot can happen in 2000 meters, your body can click and find another gear, it can understand the source of pain and become empathetic to your cause for a PB and then, never underestimate the draw of the finish line. Depending on how you train, your brain never allows your body to leave it all out until it sees the finish line, which explains how people are able to sprint at the end of Ultramarathons(from Endure by Alex Hutchinson).

But if you resign to negative thoughts, from a long way out, you might never find that second wind. And I am not saying that you should go out and be endlessly optimistic: No matter how hard I try, I cannot get a job as a Bike Designer with Specialised Bikes; I need an Mechanical Engineering degree for that and that boat has long sailed. So even if I keep applying with great vigour, they will look at my Electronics Engineering degree and keep saying no.

If you run without music, you'll learn to listen to your body and your mind and trust me, they give a lot of contradicting signals, especially when you're pushing hard. Your mind will be telling your body to stop at that 7th 800 meter rep, but in reality, if you stop then and go back home, you'll be just fine and then wonder to yourself why you didn't leave it all out there. Your mind has this tendency to play tricks on you, so that you do not reach that limit of collapsing, which is very noble, but the thing is, the mind is too overbearing, and way too conservative. It stops you long before you're clutching at the straws. And that's why elite athletes are superior: They leave it all out there. Remember Johnny Brownlee's famous collapse in Conzumel, Mexico in 2016? If you read what he said, he was pretty coherent for a majority of the race, pushing as hard as he could and then all of a sudden, his body gave out on him. That's called not listening to your brain, and that's what happens.

(It can also happen if you're undertrained and the only training you have done is showing off on Facebook, but that's a different kind of collapse.)

Run the mile that you're in: in a race or in life. Try to control the factors which can control, don't fret over those which cannot be controlled. At mile 20, it's hard not think about the remaining 6.2, but those miles still need to be run and your body can respond in many different ways based on your outlook. Remember the positive coaxing; the positive reinforcement which your parents gave you as a child when you learnt to ride a bike? Do that, but with your brain and your body. Cheer yourself on, tell yourself that you're doing good and that you can push harder, and tell your brain to just "Shut up".
It takes time, but that's why we live for so long, to learn and grow.

One particular incident I want to bring to your attention is with this young guy I am training: Manav Agarwal. He has the ability to sabotage all my workouts, by doing things a sane minded person wouldn't normally do: Like he started adding Honey to his pulses(for God knows what reason) & then complained about stomach issues, which were obviously going to happen.

But he has this thing about him, which is very different from a lot of people I have trained with. He never whines: about his life or running. People I have trained with, they're good people but if you chose a path in life, accept the shortfalls and problems that would come with it. I mean, it's okay to vent it out, but some of the people I have known, did nothing but complain about their choices instead of doing things to actually rectify them. Not Manav. He does what he is told(it's when he begins to use his own brain, he becomes dangerous).

And I push him hard, because of this fact. I know he has the potential(if I can minimise his sabotage; but heck, we've all been 18, right?)to make it big in life. He's more mature at 18, than I was at 24. And one particular incident made me very proud.

I gave him a run, a 19k and I have constantly been telling him to run negative splits, being consistent in the 1st half, slightly conservative and then slowly building pace towards the end of the run. 19k is a long way(the boy ran 29k today), and obviously those of us who run have this case of anxiety because of the distance: The exogenous factor. We don't know how it will go down but our mind has a lot of free time to worry about it.

He ran the 19k, very consistently and when I asked him about the run, he told me "All I was worried about was doing each kilometer to perfection, the total distance is just a number". Isn't that the perfect metaphor for life? Doing everything in life, that we choose to do, to the best of the ability because life as a whole is undecided to your last day on the planet? I wish I was that wise at 18. 


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