Running is not just about fitness, it's about happiness, too

Who is to say for sure whether I am in the middle or at the fag end, if not still in the first quarter or the second trimester of my life?


Abhishek Sengupta

Published: Sun 20 Oct 2019, 9:45 PM

Last updated: Tue 1 Sep 2020, 4:51 PM

I may be about two days late but I am glad I have finally managed to jump right into the Dubai Fitness Challenge that began Friday. Running it was for me after a long hiatus yesterday and truth be told, it's always a grind the first day. You don't just fight heat, humidity, soaring temperatures, fatigue of the previous night and lack of sleep but also slay million demons in the mind that come as excuses - from shoes that don't fit any more to socks gone for washing. You let one touch you and your resolve to fight back sloth and slumber is gobbled up in seconds.
Yet when you overcome all that and actually get on to the running track, the feeling is incomparable. A kilometre in just about six minutes and about 100-odd calories burnt - nothing much to rave about but what comes out of it is absolutely cathartic, especially the long trudge in the sweat-drenched shirt back home. If you have ever run even a mile, you would know the feeling.
I suffered a bit of a blip last week. Call it a meltdown, a blackout or what you will, but for a brief moment I had thrown in the towel. I felt enough was enough and that it was time to take a dip in the ocean. Am sure all of us have gone through this at some stage for various reasons. Some call it mid-life crisis although I have always snickered at that expression. After all who is to say for sure whether I am in the middle or at the fag end, if not still in the first quarter or the second trimester of my life? Some have even labelled such things an existential crisis in what should be a complete disdain of the views of Jean-Paul Sartre and his ilk of existentialists. Yet honestly, if I were to describe it, I would call it just a moment of big freeze as they know it in the world of tech - when either a computer program or system ceases to respond to all inputs. It happens to us humans as well by the way, and the best way to reboot is to run.
No one underlined this as best as the troubled computer scientist, mathematician, and all-around supergenius Alan Turing, whose stints as a runner perhaps are not as well documented as his role in breaking the Enigma, the powerful encryption device used by the Nazis during World War II. If you didn't know, the man who laid the conceptual framework for the modern general-purpose computer, was also a cracking good runner.
As an undergraduate at Cambridge, he preferred rowing over anything but after securing a fellowship at King's College, he put on his running shoes with a greater purpose - often completing routes of 50 kilometres within Cambridge.
Such was his love for running that Turing often even ran to London for meetings, a distance of over 65 miles and in 1947, after only two years of training, Turing ran a marathon, completing it in little over two hours and 45 minutes. More people wrongly know about how Apple's iconic logo, a stylised apple with a missing bite on the right side, may have perhaps been inspired by Turing's death. A troubled man despite all his genius, he committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple in 1954 but during his life and times, he ran as far and as long as he could. It was as much an integral part of the 2014 Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer The Imitation Game as much as his outrageous crypto-analytical and mathematical skills.
Those who have ever run - run to escape, run to be free, run to be lighter, run to be saner, run for life - would probably know what it means. Fitness is just a happy byproduct.

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