Outdoorsy like trails in the city? You have to believe they still exist; Amit Bhowmik, a Freelance Web Developer by profession, an advocate of Linux and Open Source Software; has always been into outdoor activities like Mountain Biking, Trekking and long distance walking.
Read on as he shares his discovery and new found love for outdoor running trails in the city.
Earlier this year, I registered for the Mumbai Full Marathon scheduled for January 2015. With that, the training runs started getting longer and the experience of running on city roads more tedious. By carefully selecting the time and route, I was managing to avoid the traffic and noise (on occasions) but the pollution and smog was a constant fixture. It just wasn’t enjoyable. As a break from it all, I decided to head to the Vasai beach one day for a sun set run. It opened my eyes.
Running on a virgin beach shoreline with not a soul in sight and just the sound of the waves for company… it was pure bliss for this city slicker. I remember having a goofy smile plastered on my face for the first 15 minutes. My lungs thanked me. The joy was unparalled. Soon after that, I returned to the same beach for a few more runs. Each one exploring a different stretch. The Vasai shoreline is long and spreads across 3 beaches. During low tide, one can probably run across all of them in a shot.
After that, I started to explore more of this green locale that is Vasai. I ran and explored new forest trails, hill paths, off-roads, open farm fields, lakes and more. Each terrain and route offering a different set of technical challenges while running.
Things I learned from the past few months of active trail running:
1) You can run the exact same trail route multiple times and each one will feel different. There are a lot more variables on the trail as compared to a concrete city road.
2) There’s a lot of flora (and tiny fauna) on trails. Stop. Observe. Touch. Smell. Move on. Take photos. Look them up in texts later to learn more. It’s not just a fitness activity anymore. It’s educational.
3) Trail Running is a sensory experience. You hear nature’s sounds, smell the muddy road or morning dew on grass, see misty hills in the horizon. And sometimes, you can even taste the insects which fly into your mouth while moving 😉 (Yay for Free Protein)
4) Running shoes get worn out faster on trails 🙂 They take quite a bit of beating even on a single off-road run. Dry Weeds, thorns, sharp stones eat away at the materials. Then there’s the sand, mud, loose soil which means a lot more wash cycles.
5) Trail running can cause injuries. I’ve returned home at times and only realised later that some parts of my legs and arms were scratched deep and bleeding. Happens easily on trails with tall dry bushes. The leaves are like needles! Also: Don’t stop for more than a few seconds on a sunset trail run. Mosquitoes eat you alive.
6) Running on trails teaches you to be self sufficient. Since you’re usually quite far from the nearest shop, carry enough water, energy snacks, phone battery backup, a powerful mini torch in a backpack. I learned this the hard way on one my first runs on an empty beach. I had run the entire course of the shoreline and it was a 15km run back to the main beach entrance and cycle park. I was out of drinking water, mouth completely parched and it was almost dark. The tide came in from nowhere and suddenly I felt like I was walking through quicksand for the last 10kms. It was one of my toughest runs till date.
7) Most importantly, Trail Runs allow me to unplug from it all. It’s a solitary exercise. Away from the city din, objects, cars, buildings, crowds, social media, tech and every other element bombarding me through the week. Trail Running is about Me connecting with Mother Nature and getting back to the basics.
Amit is training for the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2015 Full Marathon and also enjoys biking as a part of his cross training routine. If you would like to know more about his thoughts on training in the outdoors you can get in touch with him at @amitvelo on twitter or write to him at [email protected]