Tramp the world
Run when you can, as much as you can
Self-reliance is probably the greatest gift one can give to oneself. One of the biggest motivators (for me), as far as sport is concerned, is the opportunity to explore the world, on my own two feet, on the seat of my bike, or with my arms and feet, or some combination of all of the above. Going with the Wikipedia definition of the word tramp, “a long-term homeless person, who travels from place to place as a vagrant”, I must admit I have been influenced by more than one tramp in my life.
While in college, I stumbled upon John Steinbeck. Of Mice And Men introduced me to George Milton, a hardy farmhand, who famously said to his buddy Lennie Small, “We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.” Those words were reassuring to me, on many levels, as there was a traditional Iyer stuck somewhere inside the tramp-wannabe in me. Adi Shankaracharya went walking around the country too, however I did not hear about him till I was well past college. Milton was the closest character I could relate to through different colleges and different workplaces in different countries, all with similar immigration laws and hypocrisies. I include India in this list, with social rules that would boggle anyone’s mind.
Running and participating in triathlons has helped me be an unfashionable tramp. I have literally “tramped” all over the world to find enough fresh air to finish my days running.
Be a Roman while in Rome seems to be the most underrated adage of the century. Do famous people on national television really mean to say that running around in sports bras and shorts is a woman’s basic right? I’d rather ride or run in a sack, if that meant I could run longer, not attract attention and slide into a consistency, second to none. Part of being a successful tramp is also being able to appreciate oblivion.
It is only fitting that in the last two years, I have been diagnosed with severe asthma. I suppose there is nothing heroic about getting up at 3.30am to train in Bengaluru—looked at from one angle, you are bound to spend the rest of your life with an inhaler in your bag. On the other hand, given a chance to do it again, I would do nothing different. Being fit in Bengaluru, as a child, came easy. We had plenty of space to run around in, climbing trees was fun and safe, playing hide-and-seek well into the darkness was not a cause of concern for parents. The latest super-mall and digital device had not taken over our imagination or attention span entirely. Today, to run without some kind of device tagging your every move, is unfashionable.
Being safely out of the realm of fashionable runners then, I can definitely tell you that the best way to run faster is to run more. Run when you can, as much as you can, with whomsoever you feel safe with, at any time during the day and night. Recovery is not overrated but if you are training in any Indian city, you probably know that what we really need to recover from every day is our poor quality of sleep. Be it the friendly, neighbourhood dog brigade, wailing well into the night, or the not-so-friendly next-door-neighbour practising 4am Pranayam with loud music. Or the children upstairs running around, in wild abandon, high on some combination of sugar, math homework and cricket. These are worth recovering from.
Running helps me sleep, at the very least.
Being a tramp is serious business. One needs to master the art of falling asleep, wherever, whenever, however. This is an art which I find most difficult to practise at home. Speaking of tramping, I hope to tell you a little bit more about this in a while. Tramping through Bengaluru, Chennai, Manali, Ahmedabad, Ropar, Mandi, Kovalam, Hyderabad, Thanjavur, Madurai, Athoor and then through Illinois, California, Texas, Seattle, Wellington, Wanaka, Coventry, Canberra, Beijing, Barcelona, and some other places I might have forgotten. They will come back to me, I am sure. In no particular order, tramping through these places (in second-hand clothes, pyjamas or some contraption involving flannel) with my trusty running shoes and some spare change has added a lot of perspective to my world. I didn’t give it all up like Alexander Supertramp but I sure felt his hunger to be free, for a large part of my life. Past all the busy and important titles, degrees and bank balances, I have felt closest to this freedom while running. Of course, with the words “It’s not about your colour-coordination” emblazoned on my fashionable behind.
Anu Vaidyanathan is a long-course triathlete, the first Indian to compete in the Ironman and the first Asian to complete Ultraman Canada.