Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Running in India: Weekly Log 19-Mar-12 to 25-Mar-12

Monday:  0 miles
Arrived India.  While I didn't run, can't exactly call it my usual Monday "rest" day, and I'm exhausted.  Flew British Airways from London Heathrow to Bangalore Hindustan Aiport, India.  Cleared customs, met my hired driver "Murthy", who navigated me for the hour plus over the dusty roads from the airport to my hotel in Bangalore.  My first visit to India.  Anything goes on the roads.  Sometimes there are lanes, sometimes there aren't and you just muscle your way through.  Everything is on the roads from a few modern cars to aging buses, thousands of motorcycles, horses, entire families on a single moped, and many rickshaws, all just criss-crossing each other.  Showered, changed, and off to work.  Fought to keep my eyes open all day, especially through meetings.  Ate dinner outdoors at the hotel, and to bed.  My Indian colleague hosts are very kind and gracious.

Tuesday:  8 miles
Bangalore, India.  82o F. Woke up and time for some exploring.  The traffic is light in the morning, as most firms here work a staggered shift of 11AM - 8PM local time to align closer to the UK and US business hours, as this is a prime location for technology and customer service support for major European and American firms.

State Central Library,
Cubbon Park

Went out the hotel gates, headed for Cubbon Park, a 300 acre public park named for Sir Mark Cubbon, a commissioner during the time this was British India in the late 1800s.  The roads are closed in the park until 8AM, so it's best to run in early AM for two reasons:  low traffic, and lower temperature (it's forecast to reach 95o F by this afternoon).  I made my way on the sidewalk and precariously crossed one street to make it to the park; less than one mile. 
I immediately saw the impressive and imposing State Central Library (photo left), which I tried to use as a landmark when I got lost.  The park is a mix of streets, cobblestone pathways, and finally I found a bigger wooded section of the park with many dirt pathways.  I was self conscious at first that I was 1) the only person wearing shorts, 2) the only person running (although there were many people walking), and 3) the only Caucasian amongst hundreds of Indians.  After a while, I just got into my groove running, and then I was happy to see an older Indian gentleman out for a run (in long pants) and finally a younger Indian couple out for a run and the man was wearing shorts, so I felt vindicated.
I'll let my photos tell the rest of today's story:
Trail I ran in Cubbon Park
Cubbon Park scenery
Temple in park

"Mike Galoob style"
jump over brook w/ bamboo

Vidhana Soudha -
legislative assembly

I was lost, but after seeing this
helpful road sign, it's all clear
to me!

Wednesday:  6 miles
Bangalore, India.  78o F.  Ran back to and through Cubbon Park today.  More refreshed, or I should say at least less jet-lagged today.  Had just ran past my landmark of the State Library when I spied a group of 3 runners, all in shorts!, one in a singlet, moving at a good clip, and looking like serious runners.  Let's see where these guys go.  I caught up to them, and then feeling awkward running next to them as they glanced at me, I passed them.  Then the lead guy sped up and passed me.  Interesting!  What to do now?  I sped up and tried to hang with the guy, as I followed him for a mile and a half further into the park into an area I hadn't been before.  My Garmin split was 6:20!  This was too fast for me in the heat, I needed to back off, and besides didn't what this guy thought of me following him, so I broke off on a different path.
This area of the park was still closed off to traffic, and was teeming with activity!  Boys were playing cricket, India's national favorite pasttime sport, and men had strung up a badminton net between two trees and were playing some serious badminton!
So many runners here!  I started counting runners as I ran on a long dirt path circling through tropical trees, and finally I stopped counting at 30!  It ran the gamut from people running slow jogs to a group of about 8 guys running repeat sprints of about 50 yards.  This place was great! 
Two runners on dirt path
I ran in Cubbon Park
A relic from British colonial
days:  Queen Victoria,
longest serving monarch in
UK history:  1837-1901

Today's sign WAS actually
helpful, as in Hindi AND
English, and I did need to
get back to Vidhana Soudha
en route to hotel

Time to head back to hotel:
A shopkeeper is setting up what appears to be a fruit stall, and he calls out "hello" to me.  I say "hello" back and he smiles.  I feel great at this minor and rare exchange here out on the streets of India.  From what I hear, most of my US colleagues that have come here don't venture out in the streets alone, and while I was at first nervous, I feel more comfortable today and feel they're missing out.
Let's let sleeping dogs lie...
Cool architecture at the
High Court of Karnataka
(Karnataka is the state I'm in)

Nobody stops at the crosswalk
for nothing!  I follow these
street-savvy young girls to
know when to cross

Back at the hotel:
Entrance to guarded
hotel compound
Walking/jogging path on
hotel's 20 acres of flora and fauna
Me at morning outdoor
breakfast - the fresh papaya
picked from hotel trees is delicious!

Thursday:  9 miles
Lalbagh, Bangalore, southern India.  82o F.  Looked for a different place to run.  On the advice of local colleagues and Internet searches, they all led me to Lalbagh Gardens.  I hesitated because, unlike Cubbon Park, Lalbagh is a ways from my hotel and meant I would have to bother my hired driver, Murthy, to drive me there at 7AM and I know he'll be with me until 9 or so tonight and then again at 4AM tomorrow.  Besides, I'd be getting back into the car filthy sweaty.  On the other hand, let's make the most of my stay in India and GO FOR IT!

Lalbagh Gardens gate
Lalbagh Gardens has a number of differences from Cubbon Park.  Although slightly smaller at 240 acres, there are no roads whatsoever in this park and it's completely gated off to vehicles at all times.  Dating to 1760, it predates even British India colonial days.  There are no British references or statues here.  The entry fee is 10 rupees (~ US $0.20, yes that's twenty cents), but to encourage Indians to walk and exercise in the morning, if you enter prior to 9AM, the fee is waved.
I'll let my pictures tell my running story again today, but first, a few quick interesting encounters with local people:
1)  A man asked me a question in some Indian language, and when I didn't answer, pointed to my watch.  I realize I never changed my Garmin from Eastern time.  I can do this, add 9.5 hours for the time zone difference, and I respond it's 8:30AM.  He smiles, flashes me a thumbs-up and departs.  OK, here's the wierd part:  I'm looking around, and again I'm standing out like a sore thumb as the only Westerner or even non-Indian in a sea of what must be more than 1,000 Indians in the park, most Indians have watches on their wrist and presumably speak either his local language or the national language of Hindi, and he has to walk over to see me to ask the time.  He must have chosen to ask me because he wanted to try to talk with me. Cool.
2)  A runner comes up to talk to me!!!  He starts with "Excuse me, Sir, but you look like a marathon runner".  What a way to butter a guy up!  He speaks impeccable, if not accented, English and we talk for 5-10 minutes about the Boston Marathon, how he started running two months ago, is up to running 6 km per day now and is training to run his first ever race, a 10K coming up in two months, and he asks me for advice.
3) I'm running up a steep dirt hill when two elderly gentlemen sitting on a bench at the top begin pointing at me and saying something.  I imagine it to be "Look at the form and stamina on that gazelle of a runner", but it probably was, "Hey Bob (or Kumar), look at that idiot!".
Scrub cactus along my run
Most arrive by moped-
car ownership is not common

Running dirt trail out to
island in Lake Lalbagh

I'm about 1 hour 15 minutes into my run, when my cell phone rings.  It's Murthy asking me where I am and when I will be back.  OK, time to head back.  Later he apologizes for his "disturbance"; it turns out he was just worried about me.  He explains that he's been driving Western visitors for Fidelity and other major firms  for 8 years now, and during this entire time, he has never once had a visitor want to venture out of their hotel compound in the morning, and occasionally in the evening he is asked to bring people around town, but just to look, not to get out and walk into the parks.  He says the Western visitors that exercise will do so in the hotel gym and hotel treadmills.  He doesn't know what to make of me.  Travel 8,000+ miles to India and run a treadmill?!! 

The unfortunate side of India:
huge wealth gap & abject poverty
Bizarre, eh?  Fortunately it
didn't apply to running
The trail climbs stairs, then
turns to a rock climb to right

My pace for today's run was about 7:30, except for when slowing down to drink in the scenery.
Finishing the run following
others with an uphill sprint
on rocks up to
Kempe Gowde Tower

Kempe Gowde Tower,
constructed in 1597 and relocated here

Friday:  0
Bengaluru Hindustan Airport, India.  Arrived airport 5AM Friday (7:30PM Thursday Eastern time).  Awaiting flight departure for an 11-hour flight to London.  Layover in London this time too short for a run or even excursion.  21 hours after this flight departs, I will touch down at Boston's Logan Airport.  Next run will be Saturday in RI.
What a wild week!  Reminds me of lyrics from Supertramp:
I really have enjoyed my stay,
But I must be moving on ...

Saturday:  17 miles
Charlestown, RI, back in the USA.  Trail run in Burlingame w/ Muddy, Jonny, and Tom.  Wasn't sure if I'd get this run in with the guys as jet-lagged and just a few hours sleep since arriving home at Midnight.  Woke up at 4AM and couldn't sleep anymore; let's go for it.  6AM start in the dark with a couple of miles up Prosser Trail and Kings Factory, before taking a trail out to Schoolhouse Pond.  Most of the rest of the run was a repeat of the neat run we did with Jonny, Sandals, and Galoob back on Feb 25.  The section down by Pawcatuck River and ensuing single track is especially fun.  I was feeling it on the uphill climbs and my legs in general now are sore.  Glad I made it today.

Sunday:  6 miles
Been out of it and sick all day since yesterday afternoon with headaches and stomach bug, inevitably tied to my trip and/or jetlag.  Finally got off my duff in the late afternoon and ran an easy 6-miler out Shore Road to Rock Ridge and Links Passage.  Ran in the woods around Lewis Pond, until I went off the trail and scraped my knee along a big rock.  When I got home, my son asked me why I frequently come home bloodied.  Finished up with a slow mile and a half through the wooded trails of Champlin Glacier Park; struggled through here on what is usually my bread and butter.

Weekly totals:  46 miles
High points:
  • Running in exotic locales:  1) India most of the week, and 2) English countryside at beginning of trip
  • Compliments that gave me a mental high:  1) runner in India telling me I looked like a marathon runner, and 2) descending out of the local Westerly trails yesterday, passing a woman out walking who called out "Wow, great legs!".  She was probably 20 years my senior, but she still sure made my day (by the way, why is her checking out my legs considered a compliment, but if I "check out" a female runner, it's considered that I'm a pervert?)
Low points:
  • India:  the heat (up to 97F), the dust, and the insane traffic flow making it near impossible to cross streets
  • India:  seeing throngs of people living in crowded dirty slums without running water or electricity, and trying to promise myself I won't take things for granted.  I think I'll rent "Slumdog Millionaire" to watch and show my kids, even if not 100% realistic, at least to show the scenery.
  • Getting sick:  I tried hard only to drink bottled water, avoid salads, etc.; hope I didn't bring home a parasite like I did from Jamaica a few years back.


  1. Jeff, I started reading your blog off of Jonny's blog. I'm really enjoying your write-ups on England and India!

  2. Wow Jeff! Glad you are having the opportunity to explore and are enjoying your travels. Gazelle Mania has gone international. Have fun.

  3. These are awesome pix, Gazelle!! I'm jealous except for the heat...I'm having a tad bit of difficulty handling our "scorching" 70 degrees back here.

  4. Love it! Can't wait for another episode of Where in the World is Walker?!