Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane

While I will perhaps revisit this decision, when I finish my reading for the year, this is likely to be my favourite book of the year. The author is remarkably articulate and writes with a sense of wonder and calmness which has made me eager to read his much acclaimed "The Wild Places" as well. His felicity is matched by his love for the mountains as he provides a somewhat abbreviated history of mountaineering as well.

I will leave you with some excerpts from the book to let you understand why I think this book is such a lovely read.

....

"At bottom, mountains, like all wilderness, challenge our complacent conviction - so easy to lapse into - that the world has been made by humans for humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not easily respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia."

....

"The true blessing of the mountains is not that they provide a challenge or contest, something to be overcome and dominated (although this is not how most people have approached them). It is that they offer something gentler and infinitely more powerful: they make us ready to credit marvels...Mountains return to us the priceless capacity for wonder which can so insensibly be leached away by modern existence, and they urge us to apply that wonder to our everyday lives."

Great read


Friday, September 13, 2013

Another year of living dangerously

Last year, I wrote this, in case you are wondering about the title of this post.

Unlike the last year which began ominously this year I have been healthier. I also got married a few months ago, but more on that later in this post.

At the time of writing this post, I still haven't qualified for the Boston Marathon for my 2nd time. The 1st time I did, I didn't get in. So I wrote this for MINT which was published almost 2 weeks ago, about what I am doing about it.

I joined a gym this year and have kept up the running. I am fitter than last year though slightly heavier than I was in Dec 2012 when I ran CIM. But I am more muscular and am hoping the extra muscle will help.

One of the things I discussed in last year's post was how my parents were concerned about my being unmarried. That is now history as I am married to a good woman. She is still settling in, getting used to my waking & sleeping hours, which are very different from hers, which is just one of the aspects that has changed in my life. I am also, settling in, being unused to another person in my life. Actually being rather selfish I have carried on mostly as I was living earlier, with a few checks, while she is still adjusting.

Am attempting to make up for time not spent with her by taking a trip of Europe right after my race on Sep 29th. So that should be fun.

I now live within 15-20 min of running from Lalbagh, in a house different from that of my parents who I lived with, till a few weeks of getting married, which gives me great joy and I make use of it, every week. I have cut down my motor vehicle use thanks to this shift in my residence and run to and from Lalbagh at least once and sometimes twice a week.

One pain from last year remains. Due to training and coaching, I have managed to read even fewer books than I did last year although I will use the remaining 15 weeks of the year to catch up. But I managed to write for the MINT twice in the last year (this was the other piece I wrote), which was great for my writing ambitions.

I have had a running related injury in my left shin which has dogged me for almost 2 months now. I even took a break of almost 2 weeks (my longest involuntary break in a while) due to another reason which was a big health scare, which vanished just as quickly, although it gave me occasional reminders till about 2 weeks ago.

My bank balance is better than last year since my coaching gig has grown from last year although I keep it under check since I need more time to train.

One interesting upside from running included a trip to Coimbatore on a running related note.

I continue to learn a lot from my coaching gig and now the learning has a new dimension since I coach 4 non Indians in addition to the several Indians I coach around the world. About 20% of my trainees are women. So that's a useful source of learning. When I look back, this one year, due to circumstances, I have stayed away from both my running and writing coaches. So a lot of my learning has been from my own experience, unlike the previous year. And some sad events in the life of at least one of them have served to remind me how ephemeral this existence of ours is, and how we should make the most of our time in this world.

As Graeme Obree, who remains an inspiration for an ordinary human such as myself, puts it rather bluntly (in the context of the quest for beating the landspeed record for a human powered vehicle (HPV)), "The fear isn't not reaching 100mph, the fear is being 90, in a chair in an old folks’ home, saying ‘I should have gone for that.'"That fear of a life which was ordinary, continues to drive me.

Sep 29th will help me take a few big decisions, not least of which is the question of what I will do next, if I do qualify for Boston again. In 3 weeks I will know better. Regardless of that outcome, I am happier and healthier than ever before. Being married has added another dimension to my life. So that's fun too.

So I will continue to coach at least till Apr-May 2014, after which we will see.

As in the last year, I owe thanks to a bunch of people, too numerous to be named. I am grateful to be alive, healthy and happy, pretty much in that order.