Category Archives: Sport

All About The Will

Every time I have a conversation with someone about how my half-marathon went and when I mention that at the time, it was not too hard, the response I get from them is a slight shrug of the shoulders, a look of disbelief and a sentence along the lines of, “I don’t think I could even run one mile, leave alone 13.”

While I understand people not wanting to try a half marathon or any race because running does not hold an appeal, what I sense the most is a feeling of desire. A longing to do that elusive half-marathon or even a 5k. And I tell you it is not that difficult.

I had always wanted to run a half marathon but I never knew where to begin. When I was studying, I was irregular in running so I could not train well enough for a proper run. When I started working, I saw that my evenings were mostly spent watching something on my laptop so I decided to go back to an old love – running. Running once helped me lose 25 kilograms. I used to weigh an impressive 97 kgs.

I decided to buy a good pair of shoes and started running again. But this was still informal running. It was running to keep fit without any real point to it beyond not sitting at home and gaining weight. But come 2012, I wanted to seize the opportunity and run my first half marathon.

Up to that point, I was able to run up to three miles continuously on the treadmill but 13 miles? It seemed impossible. But I downloaded a training plan and started to stick to it.

When you do something often enough, it becomes a habit. Running gives me a real high and so it wasn’t so difficult to start running. What really got me was the ever-increasing distance. The first time I ran 5 miles, I couldn’t wait for it to end. I felt every step and I just wanted to give up and start walking slowly. But I always recalled what Patton said – “Make the mind run the body”.

It’s not about the muscles, it is about the will. Yes it gets hard but surely you can’t want something like this and imagine it would be easy. That rush of adrenaline, that realization that it’s all going to be over in a few more feet, the view of the cheering crowds and that finish line. It’s all worth it. So just get out there and do it.

 

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All About Teamwork

On a glorious, sunny Sunday morning, I finished my first half-marathon. I ran a time of 2:09:56 and in-spite of a niggling neck sprain, I managed to beat my previous personal best.

Long distance running is not about competing with others. First and foremost, it is about competing against yourself. The first mile is relaxed, the second is where reluctance sets in. The daunting prospect of 12 miles looms ahead large and should a hill approach, the urge to stop running and walk up the hill is almost overpowering. But you  have to let the mind tell the body what to do.

After the 2nd mile, it is usually smooth sailing till the 10th. Then you start thinking,”Come on. You have already run 10 miles now! That’s a lot. Why don’t you just relax now?” Again, at these moments, slowing down or stopping is best avoided.

The best part about running an organized race rather than going on a run alone is the people around you. When the first hill hit, I started to buckle under the pressure but voices encouraged me from either side. “Good going!”, “You got this!”. And it kept me motivated. At various points during the race, we kept shouting out words of encouragement to each other when we showed signs of tiring.

There is no gloating involved as you speed past someone. Because you want everyone to finish. You want everyone who is running with you to show off that shiny finisher’s medal. And it feels like you are part of a team. A team of odd members from every age-group. It’s a like a wolf-pack where the survival of the pack depends on everyone doing their bit. And it helps.

It’s not just your fellow runners who are part of this team. It’s also the volunteers who direct traffic away from you, offer water at the hydration stations and constantly shout out to you about how great a job you are doing and how this is the last hard bit and it’s smooth sailing ahead.

I ran for almost 10 miles alongside a middle aged gentleman today. And in spite of all the stress we were under, we shared some light moments together. We groaned in agony during the hills and flew while going downhill. A veteran of several marathons past, he had  some fantastic tips to share.

But the best moment of the day was somewhere near the 10 mile mark. A bunch of 5 year old children were standing on the curb and cheering on the runners and as each runner approached, they gave him a high-five. And as I heard the hoots and claps and cheers and as I high-fived my way past the kids like any professional athlete would, I smiled. They were part of my team too.

 

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IPL Whores Reach a New Low

Please. At least spare the Gods from the incessant whoring of cricket that has been the norm at IPL 3.

This tournament has been extremely disappointing. I am not a cricket fan. I could not care less about the Mumbai Indians or Deccan Chargers or the soon to be unveiled Pune Pussycats and Kochin Karelas (or Keralas if you will). But I care about the sanctity of any sport. In their quest to make as much money as possible from this cash cow, the promoters of the IPL have reached one low after the other quicker than Brett Lee’s yorkers.

A ball that crosses the boundary without touching the pitch is a six and NOT a DLF Maximum.

If a fielder catches the ball before it touches the ground its a catch and not a Karbon Kamaal Catch.

I can only thank the people in charge of football for not selling out to their sponsors. I shudder when I imagine the day a goal is a General electric Explosion or a free-kick a Ford Fusion kick.

And what the hell is the fascination with the “blimp”? This is a blimp. It moves on its own. It does not need to be tied to the stadium like this oversize balloon.

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Some Football Writing

Its been a while since I have updated. The past few days have been spent in some fledgling football writing for Bleacher Report.

My first article, a match report, can be found here and this is the second match report.

I have also written another article on the under-performers at Arsenal FC and a piece on Sol Campbell.

The writing is still very Arsenal centric as it is the team I know and understand the best. I hope to soon branch out into writing about the premier league, the champion’s league and Indian football.

Sunil Chhetri has made his debut for the Kansas City Wizards. Let’s all give him our support and wish him the best for his stint in the MLS.

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We are lucky

It has been almost 16 years since I started following football. My first memory of a match is the 1994 World Cup semifinal between some random team and Sweden, which is also the first time I heard of Sweden and somehow the name stuck. The day after the final, my teacher asked me who won the world cup and I enthusiastically replied Sweden. The Goan that she was, my teacher looked suitably scandalized, before informing me that Brazil had won the world cup. This was the first time I heard of Brazil. And they were the random team who had defeated Sweden in the semis.

But after that my interest soared thanks to ESPN and my father’s encouragement and I usually watched the Euro and the World Cup before discovering the Premier League, Sirie A and La Liga. At times, I listen to my father and other uncles talking about famous matches and players they had the privilege of watching live and I feel I have missed a lot. But I realize am also blessed to have seen some truly brilliant players live for so many years now. Here is a list of 10 footballers I am proud to have seen playing and maybe 50 years later when I am sitting with my grandkids, I can regale them with stories about these greats. So in no particular order, here goes:

1) Paolo Maldini
One of the greatest defenders in the history of the game Maldini is the epitome of loyalty. He spent his entire career at A.C. Milan and was a brilliant leader. He captained Milan to glory countless times and remains the best defender I have seen. When he finally retired at 37, he left behind some big boots to fill and I fear football will never see a player like him again.

2) Dennis Bergkamp
He was not the main striker at Arsenal or Holland. The role never really suited him. But as a supporting striker he was deadly. He had an impeccable first touch and great ball control. My abiding memory of him is when he scored that goal against Newcastle United. There can only be one Bergkamp.

3) Thierry Henry
France, Arsenal or Barcelona, Titi has always been brilliant. Always a prolific scorer, he has turned so many games around with his skill. Though he will be missed at Arsenal, he will remain a Gunner forever.

4) Christiano Ronaldo
He may be a complete cunt and a diver but never for a moment can anyone question his talent. He wreaked havoc on the opposition in the premier league and continues to do so in La Liga. His pace and skill are enough to win any game and he has done so on more than one occasion.

5) Ronaldinho
Not in his prime right now but around 2005, he was as good as a player can ever get. He danced around the pitch and the ball seemed to be attached to his feet. His cheeky free-kick against David Seaman in the 2002 world cup still brings a smile to my face.

6) Zinedine Zidane
Enough said.

7) Lionel Messi
There have been so many Argentinians who have been called “The next Maradona” but Messi is the only one who seems to deserve the title. 2009 was his season and the fact that Barcelona will probably not sell him for a 100 million pounds, says a lot about him.

8) Cesc Fabregas
Messi’s midfield colleague from the Barcelona youth team and Arsenal’s second youngest captain ever, he has admirably filled the void left by Patrick Viera’s departure. Though not quite as successful as Viera, Fabregas has been a delight to watch with his wonderful passing and vision. And he is only 23 so it will be wonderful to be able to watch him for the next 10 years he is at his best.

9) Ryan Giggs
Perhaps the biggest regret is that like the great Alfredo Di Stephano, giggs has never played in a world cup. Easily the first choice left winger for any national team, the Welshman has enjoyed enormous success with Manchester United. On his day he was unstoppable and I am happy to have watched him tear teams apart on a regular basis.

10) Peter Schmeichel
530,000 pounds is what Manchester United paid for the Danish goalkeeper, and they could not have had a better bargain. He is the best goalkeeper I have seen and for me he surpasses even Cassilas and Buffon. If it were not for him, United could never have won as many titles in the 1990s and even if those two goals were scored by Sherringham and Solskjaer, the real star of that game was Schmeichel. If it was someone else, United would have been 4 goals down with no hope left.

I could probably name a 100 more names but I think I will end it at this. All said, I feel it is these men and others who make the beautiful game what it is and yes, we are lucky……

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Revenge, best served cold?

This report in Mumbai Mirror about a 5-3 win for Mohun Bagan against arch rivals East Bengal in the i-league claims that with this victory, Mohun Bagan finally avenged their loss 5-0 in the 1975 IFA Shield Final.

Ask any football fan, is any victory in a league game, no matter how many goals are scored, ever compensate for a defeat in a final? Revenge is complete ONLY when Bagan defeat East Bengal in the IFA Shield final. I am sure the Maroon half of Bengal would agree.

Only goes to confirm my belief that Mumbai Mirror is a crappy newspaper.

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And we keep running

After months of dithering I finally re re restart running. Its an amazing thing running. Its called a democratic sport. Have feet, will run. A slow jog, an energetic trot or a full sprint, it doesn’t matter and neither do the reasons.

There came a time a few years ago when I got it into my head that I needed to get fit. I started swimming, I played various sports, I started going to the gym, I started yoga and I started running. I still play the occasional sport but slowly gave up the rest. I grew bored with the routine. But something, and I don’t know what, brings me back to running. Whenever I sense a thickening of the waist, whenever I feel the need to be left alone, whenever I feel the need to think, I feel like running.

In most cultures, running is primarily viewed as a way to attain that perfect shape. Lardballs feeding at burger joints and a million other insufferable places view it as a great way to become a “stud”. And why not? But to many other people running is more than that. Its about spirituality. Its about feeling one with nature, feeling one with the wind, the grass (ok maybe concrete), the earth and with oneself.

So I put on my shoes, do a few stretches and set out. I pick a destination which I can cover in 15 minutes or so. And I am off. The first few minutes feel great. The weather is perfect, cloudy with no rain. I reflect on various aspects of my life and people around me. My thoughts go to an advertisement featuring Thierry Henry in which he is running alone, just like I am and it feels cool. Just for the first few minutes.

Then the pain starts. It begins just below my ribcage and spreads to my calves and heels. I huff and puff like the steam engine to Matheran struggling up the slope. I check my watch and see that not even 9 minutes have elapsed. Its the inertia of the previous sedentary months I suppose. A voice keeps telling me “Dude 9 minutes are enough for the first day. Just stop. Tomorrow you can do more.” But I refuse to listen. The destination is only 6 minutes away. All thoughts vanish from my head and only the white line, which would mean I have arrived, fills my eyes.

I labour on gamely despite 75 kilos of Rohit dragging me back. 12 minutes. So very close and I put on an extra burst of pace hoping it will help me forget the pain. The adrenaline surges as I stagger on. I know I can do it……….. 14 minutes………. I see the line. I have timed this run to perfection. As the seconds count down and the line approaches ever so close, I feel a sense of relief.

As I cross the line and slow down to a walk to prevent my muscles from seizing, my breathing begins to slow. The pain lessens. But my heart soars high. Higher than the clouds that obscure the sun. It is a feeling like no other. The sweet smell of success is intoxicating and makes me forget everything else. As I walk back, the sky darkens and it begins to drizzle. Rain falls on the thirsty earth triggering that sweet smell and drenching everything.

I walk home through the downpour a proud man.

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