It ain't just a trophy : by Brijesh Gajera

| Thursday, February 26, 2015 | |

It was Sunday night. I was walking back to my home thinking about the work waiting for me in the office in the coming week. The weekend just passed by with all the running and party and meeting friends. The one km road from the Kundanhalli Gate signal to my home is one of the worst stretches in the world! I was trying to avoid getting rammed by the vehicles coming from behind as well as in front of me for everyone was vying for that little stretch of road existing among the potholes and construction debris lying all around. I heard loud footsteps getting closer. Thinking that someone was in hurry to get back home, I moved aside to give the way. A young man, may be in early twenties, caught up with me.


World cup trophy hai kya?”, he asked huffing and pointing his finger at the trophy I clutched in my hand. From the accent, he seemed a Bihari to me.


I remembered that India defeated Pakistan in their first match in Cricket World Cup 2015 today. I smiled, took a deep look at the trophy and said no matter-of-factly.


Humne socha aaj India ne Pakistan ko haraya to aap celebrate karne world cup leke aaye ho.


I almost chocked laughing.


Pakistan ko haraya to world cup jeetne ke barabar hai. Aur kya chahiye? Kabhi nahi haare unse.” He continued further.


He was echoing the belief of the most of the Indians. For them, beating Pakistan in world cup is no less an achievement than winning the championship. That is the bare minimum they expect our players to do.


Achha khela Virat Kohli. Bande me dum hai. Paise bhi bahut kamaya hai. Mehnat kare to paisa bhi to milna chahiye.” He cared a dime for my opinion or reaction.


He drew my attention to a bhelpuri thela on my right and said, “Ye hamara hai. Aao kabhi.


I nodded, waved and marched on. Here was a man who was not complaining about our filthy rich cricketers or millions of rupees they earn in IPL or thru advertisements. I wonder what my socialist or communist friends, who scoff at all things money, would say to him, seemingly a poor man. What they do not realize is that these heroes and stars and wealthy businessmen all represent hope for those in lower strata of the society. They believe that they can succeed and become rich like them if they have talent and they can do hard work.


But I am digressing. The trophy he referred to was the one I got that day for the best marathon performance for the year from coach Pani sir and my beloved PaceMakers group during our annual party. Patrick gave me 30 seconds to say a few words. Now runners are glib talkers and it is quite unreasonable to expect them to finish their speech in 30 seconds when they take more than 3 hours for a marathon! I wanted to ask him if I could do 20 repeats of 30 seconds speech in the true spirit of our interval training workouts :P


I blabbered something for those 30 seconds or so though i had much to say. Primarily I wanted to thank a handful of people. So I decided to pen it down. After all, writing is the medium where one can indulge endlessly without worrying about running the clock down. So here it goes:


If there is one person who has made a lasting impact on the way I approach my running and training, it has to be Prakhar. I consider myself fortunate that I happened to get into running the same time as he did. We trained together for 4 years, first on our own and then with PaceMakers. I have learned a great deal from him to be disciplined and methodical. Missing the training was quite frequent for me when I started running but once I started training with him, it became a habit to get up and go for the run no matter what. In the scorching heat of Nagpur or the fickle-as-ever weather of Bangalore, in that small loop of less than a km around his apartment complex or climbing the smoke-filled KR Puram Bridge, he never fails to do his run. Unfortunately he does not come and train with us in Kanteerva stadium anymore due to professional and personal commitments, but he never misses his run. Add to that, the world of advice and analysis. I wish everyone has a friend and mentor like him. He is the person who converted me from an occasional runner to all-occasions runner.


Gopal da - for your sheer perseverance, I bow down to you. You may be slow, you may not have set PBs after PBs, but you just continue to run and inspire. You are one of those rare runners who enjoy the process of running so much that the results become quite insignificant and merely a footnote. You keep on running even when everyone else is gone. I believe running is an act of meditation for you. And then that bagful of gossips you seem to invent while meditating - pure entertainment gold :)


Mera bhai, Murthy RK, or MRK in short. My guide for matters professional and personal. You may not be coming for training regularly due to other commitments, but every time I talk to you, I learn something new. The way you lighten up the things, simply superb. You have mastered that art of keeping the proper balance in life. You are my elder brother, though you look much younger :D


Shilpa, Sandeep, John, Rohit - my beer buddies. We guys talk about cycling, trekking, mountains, football, tennis, cricket, politics and what not. We drink, we dance, we bitch about people - oh yes, what is indulgence without brutal honesty! Makes us all humans thankfully. The time spent with you guys is rainbow time - with a whiff of all the colors and flavors of the world. No wonder I cannot stop remembering this song when I think of you guys:


dil dosti yari yari
satrangi duniya ye saari
kya pyaari dildari
………………………………………
nasha nasha, nasha
rangeen nasha ye
rang mein dil rang gaya


Jagdish and Sindhu - people of action. Your social work inspire me a lot, be it raising funds for literacy or spreading awareness about child rights or counseling the needy or taking the green initiatives. That you can come up with innovative ways to club your running with social causes is indeed remarkable. Being your crew or helping you guys in smallest possible ways always gives me great satisfaction.


Giri - Magic is not trickery or deception but it is real, I learned from you. Life is magic and you are a master magician. Did your heart really stop for those 20 minutes or you managed to pull another magic from your hat? So much of positivity and vigor. You know the art of living. Hats off to you!


Asima - our very own Annapoorna. You never get tired of feeding people or getting out of the ways to help them. You are truly living embodiment of generosity. You spread smiles and happiness all around.


Sister Saroja - you are our conscious keeper. Not just humans but you care for all the creatures and the environment. House cat or wild cat, you are always ready to save them. And then you are super cool. You can encourage us to be wild and in the same breath admonish us for being foolhardy.


Neera - that conditioning and strengthening can make world of difference to one’s running, I first learned from you. Till then, running was only a function of two legs - fresh to start with, and dead weight after a while. That was the only truth existed in my book. We can all learn a great deal about planning our races from you.


Bobby, my long term training partner - training with you has helped me immensely. Lot of my training runs I manage to finish at target pace because I have your company. You are that moving finish line I try to cross and most of the times I fail miserably at it but that constant push has done a great deal of good to my running.


Finally, my biggest thanks for the man without whom this performance, or for that matter any of the performances in the last 3 years, would not have been possible. I remember we were on the flight to Bangalore after finishing Mumbai Marathon in 2012. That was my 13th consecutive marathon in 13 months and to say I was dead tired after that would be an under-statement. Pani sir was sitting two rows in front of me. There was something instantly likable about him - he was smiling, discussing his run and training with anyone who approached him and offering help to whoever asked. I already knew he was a fast runner, but now I realized he was quite humble, helpful and approachable. Those were the qualities I would like to see in a long distance running coach. Anoop was already at the initial stage of discussion with him regarding coaching. I made up my mind there and then that I would train under him if he decided to take up coaching else I would train on my own by following some online plans and tweaking them for my need. Thankfully he agreed to coach us and the PaceMakers group was born.


Pani sir might be concerned about him not being a certified/trained coach at that time, but I had different apprehension. He was a runner, first and foremost, and quite fast at it. I wondered how he would allow Pani sir the runner to take the backseat and let Pani sir the coach do the work. In fact my apprehension was born out of observation. No trainee of any of the long distance running coaches from the running community was faster than his coach till then. It is quite true for most of the coaches even now. Fortunately Pani sir the coach overpowered Pani sir the runner. No, he did not slow down. His trainees just got faster due to his well planned training. That he introduces new training regimen and workouts frequently shows how much he keeps learning even now.


Around mid-2012, I decided to leave Bangalore and take a job in Ahmedabad. My mother was extremely happy about my ghar-wapsi(there are no political connotations to this word here, this is how it is supposed to be used normally) but somehow I was not fully happy about it. I did not want to leave the PaceMakers group and miss Pani sir’s training. I was in two minds. My situation was exactly what Ghalib had in his mind when he wrote:


Imaan mujhe roke hai jo kheenche hai mujhe kufr
Kaaba mere peechhe hai kalisa meray aage


I chose to stay back. My mother still thinks that I am a kaafir for that act of blasphemy. But I never regretted that. There was no looking back after that. In the last 3 years, I have managed to get PB every year in all the distances I ran - 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon. For me, to be successful at something, you need to do just two things: (1) Find a right coach, mentor or Guru. (2) Follow him blindly once you find him. Once I found him, that’s what I have been doing - follow him without any doubt.


Thank you Pani sir for being that guiding light, that master, that guru!


I realize that if I have achieved something, that is because I have been riding on the shoulders of some giants. These people help me not only to run better, but to live better. And once your life is in order, you are set for the escape velocity. The trophy sits pretty in my show case. It ain’t just a trophy though. It’s the force which guides me and lights up my way.

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