Monday, April 13, 2015

Cherry Blossom 10 miler 2015

One of the great joys of running (even as an amateur) is the opportunity to rub shoulders with elite athletes, often. Here's a longish version of my latest such experience, reinforcing that joy.

I had signed up to run in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler aka the CUCB in Washington DC, simply because I had read that it was a popular tune up race to the Boston Marathon and has a great history as a running event.

My friend P and I, reached DC after a rather painful bus ride, thanks to numerous jams on the highway from the New York Area to DC and went straight to the expo. We knew Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson (both Boston Marathon legends) were among other elite athletes making appearances at the expo. While Bill had left by the time we got there, Joan had just about begun her autograph signing session. We excitedly rushed to meet her after hearing one of the announcers tell us that her booth wasn't particularly crowded at that time.

It just so happened that I had finished reading Amby Burfoot's The Runner's Guide to the Meaning of Life, on the bus and Amby pays tribute to Joan as one of the athletes that have inspired him. We mentioned that to Joan and asked her to sign our bibs and I got her to sign the page that features her in the book as well. She asked us what time we were planning to run the next day. So we told her. I then asked her what she was planning. She then asked us whether we were from around there. While P said he's from New York, I said I was from India and that I was there as part of my journey to Boston.

She replied that she was running Boston too and she said we will see each other. She then told us that she was planning to take it easy the next day since she didn't want to leave all of herself out on the road. She asked where in India I was from. When I said Bangalore, she also mentioned that her mum served in the Red Cross in the war in Bangalore.

She then happily signed our bibs and my book.

There were several lessons from that encounter but none greater than the humility and simplicity that Joan just radiates. It wasn't a surprise that I ran my best ever time for ~10 miles* the next morn, having been pumped up from the encounter with Joan. To add to my joy, I discovered I was behind Joan by just 11 seconds :)

* The race course was truncated by 0.5 miles due to unrelated accident on the route about an hour before the race started. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Books from Blossoms, others

Thanks to some accumulated winnings from KQA quizzes (one of them in a book quiz won thanks to my super team-mate) over the past few months, I managed to buy the following from Blossoms today. Unlike my past few visits to bookshops, wherein I have floundered around, this time I enjoyed myself (also because I had more of budget than I have had on my previous visits!) thanks in part to two serendipitous buys.

The Men Who United the States by Simon Winchester*
Bamboo Goalposts by Rowan Simons**
The Child in Time by Ian McEwan
Calcio by John Foot
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

* I can't believe I didn't know about the existence of this book. Everything I have read by Simon Winchester has delighted me. This general holiday sort of reading despite its historical nature should be fun too.

** Disbelief redux! The book documents the author's experience about trying to teach football to the Chinese. Considering I love the game, I should have at least known something like this existed. Anyways, never too late to learn. With this, I seem to have built a decent collection of books on Asian countries - Korea, Japan, China and on topics ranging from football to history and cultural obsessions. A book on running in Japan will soon join this collection!

The McEwan buy was largely due to a continuation of my monomania for McEwan's writing. I did find an expensive hardbound version of his latest book but passed it for now.

Foot's book (what a name for an author on football!) is just closure on a long pending wishlist. I had recommended the book to a friend a few years ago and have wanted to read it. Now is the time.

Duhigg's book is something I have contemplated buying for a while, but kept away due to lack of funds. However some recent conversations with some friends who spoke persuasively about it, drove home the purchase.

In other book-related news, a running buddy gifted 2 other books by Ken Follett - The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End a few weeks ago. I have begun reading the former, which is the 1st in a trilogy. Has been very interesting so far.

I have also managed to get Gandhi Before India by Ramachandra Guha thru an opportunistic buy on Amazon Kindle.

As always, next to fresh coffee and new shoes, I guess nothing quite makes me quite as excited as new books :)

Have fun, reading!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Books in 2014

  1. Seeing what others don't by Gary Klein
  2. Drunk Tank Pink by Adam Alter
  3. Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald
  4. Hark! A vagrant by Kate Beaton
  5. Ingenious by Jason Fagone
  6. Shenzen by Guy DeLisle
  7. Jerusalem by Guy DeLisle
  8. Best Efforts by Kenny Moore
  9. Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand
  10. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron by Jai Arjun Singh
  11. The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters
  12. If it's Monday it must be Madurai by Srinath Perur
  13. Calories and Corsets by Louise Foxcroft
  14. My Autobiography by Usain Bolt
  15. The Media Relations department of Hizbollah wishes you a Happy Birthday by Neil Macfarquhar
  16. Running with the Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham
  17. Which comes first, Cardio or Weights? by Alex Hutchinson
  18. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life - by Scott Adams
  19. Gulp by Mary Roach
  20. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande*
  21. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield*
I read fewer books in 2014 than I have in the last 5 years but I am happy to say that I loved every one of them, unlike in previous years. I read zero books for review's sake alone. While that meant I made no money from reading the books, the experience was wonderful in each case. Bolt's book was perhaps the weakest in the list above and Mipham's book didn't leave such a memory as the other 19 did but that's it. Admittedly there' a sports bias and more generically, a non-fiction bias but that's been a conscious choice.

The best book of the lot was not so easy to pick, given the rationale above. However Gawande's book pushed out Jai Arjun's & Fagone's in the end, since it has several overlaps with my current choice of a career and the influence of good health on it.

I am currently reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and Adam Grant's Give and Take, among a bunch of others including Bryson's One Summer. There's a couple of Hitchens' books which have been partially read in the last 2 years which I will try and finish in 2015. So there's much to look forward to in 2015.

Wish you all a splendid new year. Let me know if you have any book recommendations from your own reading last year.

* Both these books were still being read at the time of making this post, but I am so far into them that it felt weird to include both in next year's list.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth

As my credit card provider announced a downward revision in encashment policy on points, I scrambled to make the most of accumulated points by buying the above book, driven by a nice extract in the Guardian, last year.

The search to find something that fit my budget was painful to say the least, given Landmark's increasingly terrible state of affairs. The knowledge of online bookstores selling the same books for at least 25% less was an added burden. Eventually, I just gave up and bought chocolates with the remaining amount, rather the kill myself in the search for a good book to make up the 3 in the 3 for 2 offer :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Remembering Manju - 9 years on

My batchmate, Manjunath was killed on this date 9 years ago. I have made various posts in the past, on this topic - see posts tagged "Manju" on this blog. This eve, Zee Movies will telecast the movie version of the story.

Please watch it if you can and while you are at it, spend a minute reflecting on Manju's unplanned sacrifice. Even if you don't see the movie, spend a minute in Manju's memory today.

9 years since Manju was shot dead, just doing his job. Bless your soul, Manju

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Raising Funds for Child Nutrition Foundation (CNF) by running the Boston Marathon 2015

2015 is going to be a significant year of my life. A long standing personal goal will see its completion. I will be running in the Boston Marathon 2015. To increase the fun, I have also signed up for the Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge.

Throughout my running journey, I have been the recipient of various acts of generosity and kindness from both known and unknown people around the world. While training for my runs at Mumbai in the past, I have raised funds for Parivaar and Udayan, which have made the entire experience of training and racing much more fulfilling than it would be, had the journey been limited to running.

When I was still training to qualify for Boston about 2 years ago, my friend Pooja, had asked me if I would raise funds for Child Nutrition Foundation (CNF), an organization she co-founded and currently runs. My response to her then had been that I would love to do so, whenever I would run the Boston Marathon. Well, the time has come for me to make good on that.

CNF works towards the eradication of malnutrition among children in India. Its mission is to reduce child malnutrition in vulnerable communities in India, particularly in the first 1000 days of a child's life, through active intervention, behaviour change communication, facilitating linkage to health care resources, awareness building, empowerment of families and preventative action. You could read more about CNF's work here. I love the fact that 100% of donations go directly to beneficiaries.

CNF is preparing to launch an 18 month nutritional intervention project called “It takes a Village” in 5 impoverished villages in Shravasti district in Uttar Pradesh, that have a dismal track record in child and maternal health. The project will impact approximately 15,000 pregnant women and children 0-6 years of age. The project will be run in partnership with Manav Seva Sansthan, a respected NGO who
have been working on various child-related issues for over 30 years in Uttar Pradesh.

My goal is to raise $6000, which will benefit 3000 direct and more indirect beneficiaries in one village. However you could contribute as little as $10, which will help 5 mothers/children over an 18 month period.

Here is the donation link.

Your contribution will help make my journey even more memorable and of course, more importantly help change lives. Once you have made your contribution, please drop me an email at dhammonia[at] so that I know we are making progress on this.

You could also write to me at the same email address if you have any queries about CNF.

Thank you.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Persiflage 2014

Thanks to my killer teammates D, master Menon and Raju, my team came a happy 2nd to the team led by the legendary Arul Mani at KQA's annual books quiz "Persiflage" on Sun. My team with D has featured in the Persiflage finals quite often and this is perhaps my favourite KQA quiz, combining as it does, 2 of my loves - reading and quizzing. Joining forces with master Menon and Raju made it even better, as I had to struggle to make my presence count, frequently wondering how my teammates knew what they did.

The resulting voucher from Blossoms yielded

One Summer by Bill Bryson (loaded with anecdotes from a phenomenal year in US history)
Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Sourcery by Terry Pratchett

The Bryson book is a hardbound edition, which makes it tremendously lovely to read. Back to reading now :)