Author's Note: This is the first of a three part series.
How can one run non-stop? The question haunted me for many years. After running a few meters, I would end up gasping for breath. Even from the school days, I lacked the stamina to run fifty meters. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I gave up. When I hit the gym, I used the treadmill for walking. I could even run for a couple of minutes with high difficulty. Even though I understood the importance of a twenty minutes of running to get the prep the body, I never could get to this point.
While living in Paris, I called up my young friend to check his plans for the evening. That day was unexceptionally dull, and hence I desperately wanted to break the monotony. He was catching the Metro from Montmartre. I was surprised as the station was far away from where he lived. He had run from Boulogne to Montmartre covering a distance of more than 10 km. I was not only impressed but also convinced. The 10 km run is an attainable task. The casual and confident tone of my young friend assured and encouraged me.
The above incident was not enough to get me put on the sneakers and run through the streets of Paris. In fact, I never ran through the streets of the city of light. I have walked her beautiful streets countless times. A minor consolation. But the conversation was sufficient to open up my eyes. A few months later, a photographer friend of mine described her experience after running the first and only marathon. She is a researcher, a species who will encounter a lot in Paris. According to her words, the experience gave her a high which lasted for a week. This exuberance was the observation of her fellow researchers.
The second incident described above was intriguing. Can a person remain on a high after running a marathon? How does running transform a person? As always by habit, I turned to my trusted source while troubled with a riddle. I went shopping for a book and eventually found "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall. The book focuses on a group of people who loves running and their techniques. On top of these topics, the book also explains how the author prepared himself for the run. He trained himself under professionals. The transformation of the author reaffirmed the fact anyone can run on the lines what my young friend assured me a while back.
On a pessimistic note, the author might have spent a fortune to train himself. He had the book and the publisher backing him. Where does that leave an ordinary mortal like me? I don't have the power to draw on the same resources as the author. What is the cheap alternative for people like me? When these thoughts were played out in the back of my mind for several months, I came across the programs named "Couch to 5K". The name is unusual enough to grab your attention and also to make you relate to what the program offers. The program is designed for people like me who never attempted to run.
During this time, I went to shoot pictures of Marathon de Paris of 2013. A year back, I had gone for the same purpose. At that point, I had chosen the starting point of Avenue des Champs Elysees. The morning was cold and breezy. Hence, I couldn't stay for long. So this time, I decided to wait for longer and visit the finishing point. The sight at the finishing point is uplifting. There were family members gathered at the finishing point cheering their dear ones as they crossed the finishing point. Watching people crossing the finishing line, I could understand the secret behind the exhilaration felt by my photographer friend. More than that realization, the sight of a man lighting up a cigar after finishing the marathon. The way he was holding the cigar with a big smile said it all. He had worked hard for this achievement. And it was no small feat. Now he rewarded himself.
I am not a cigar man. I will never understand the craze for that. But I saw the satisfaction and the pride in that man's face when he lit up the cigar after running the marathon. I believed running would give me the same pleasure. At that point, I decided to rise from my comfortable mental couch and run.
Photo Courtesy: Photokkaran