Namaskar Y'all - 2017

Confessions of a Runner’s Wife

By Shyama Parui

How do you know that you've married an avid runner?
When you have more running clothes than regular clothes in your laundry pile.

How do you know that your spouse has run enough races?
When you don't have to buy safety pins, ever.

You may have heard these jokes before, but these scenarios do not exaggerate. Instead, they confirm that marrying a runner has its own challenges. I remember... not a dark, stormy night, but a dull and rainy Saturday morning. The kids had their pulled blankets over their heads and opted to read a little before it was time for breakfast. My husband Uttam, however, was not to be found at home. Puzzled, I knocked on all the room doors and checked the garage. Where could he be? I tried to keep the thoughts racing in my mind under control and reached for the phone. As soon as I dialed his number, I heard the familiar, whistling ring tone. He had left the cellphone at home. Before my worry grew into panic, I heard the doorbell ring. There he was, soaked but had a big smile on his face. “Where have you been?" I blurted out. “Oh, just running."

In case you are wondering why he was out running in the rain, I have learned not to ask questions like that. Whether it is a major festival or a birthday, hubby is not available on Saturday mornings because that time is dedicated to his long runs. Running not only gives him health benefits but provides a legitimate excuse to escape from the grassy tangles of yard work, eat to his heart's content, and avoid checking off things on his “honey do" list. Avid runners will admit, sheepishly, that one can embrace running for many reasons.

As a wife, I completely support my husband in his many endeavors, but I must confess my mixed feelings about his passion for running. It has turned into my arch rival that competes for my husband's attention and wins it, although he will vehemently deny this. How else can a typical late riser jump out of bed early in the morning only when he has an opportunity to cover a few miles?

To be fair, my husband was not always serious about sprinting around town. If I think back to the Mumbai of the 80's and 90's, the streets were usually overflowing with traffic, vendors, animals and of course pedestrians, brusquely walking to get to their destination. All this left very little room for the recreational runner. Anyone who tried, would get nasty looks and be labeled “yeda"- Mumbai's slang for crazy. Stories of being chased by unruly stray dogs were particularly discouraging. Unless you were out early morning at one of the city's beaches, the famous Jogger's Park, the peaceful stretch near Aarey Milk Colony, or the beautiful Marine Drive, jogging outside was a bad idea. From what I hear, 5Ks and marathons have now been embraced by the city's rich and famous, consequently drawing hundreds of followers.

Inspiration can be found in many ways. As a kid, you run if you are in trouble, or have caused the trouble. When you have the option to play cricket, badminton or other games, running doesn't seem appealing. Nevertheless, when age and sedentary work habits give you a health scare, fear compels you to adopt a physical activity. In my husband's case, he took up running and made drastic changes to his lifestyle and it paid off in terms of his health and happiness. Alan Deustchman, in his book “Change or Die," points out that nine out of ten people are not able to change their habits, even when their life depends on it. And whether I like it or not, I am glad that signing up for his first half marathon helped Uttam beat the odds, and change for the better. Truth be told, I am still getting to know this transformed person.

Sometimes, I think that runners are a different species of humans. Their actions can be completely inexplicable. For example, a combination of run-walk is acceptable, but the term jogging is not. They will pay $40, wake up in the wee hours of the morning, and stress over a 5K race when they can run that same distance around the neighborhood at their preferred time, and free of cost and stress. No, the free t-shirt does not justify it. They may not understand or care for the difference between semi-formal and formal shoes, but they know the nuances of running, training, and trail shoes. To the untrained eye, they all fall under one category, sneakers.

Running enthusiasts and observers will spot my husband when he runs on the YMCA track or the backroads in our area, and report back to me. However, no one seems to notice my dash to the grocery store or the miles I collect when I make sure everyone in the family gets to their destination on time. This is how Race Directors must feel. They do not get a sparkling medal in the end, even though their efforts ensure that all participants have a smooth marathon experience. Like them, I've reconciled to having accomplishments that don't earn medals.

On the bright side, Uttam's dedication has led him to develop dogged determination and resilience. Over the past seven years he has covered approximately 10,000 miles, finished five marathons, 10+ half marathons and numerous 5Ks. He has mastered the names of muscle groups like a medical professional, mainly because of the variety of aches and pains he experiences. Another skill he has acquired is to politely dodge comments that are either discouraging or annoying, even if he is fuming inside. So, please don't ask if running will ruin his knees. The best by-product though, is seeing our children going on runs with him and learning the value of physical fitness from an early age. For that reason, you will find me holding up a poster that says, “Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever" and waving to Uttam as he crosses the finish line.