Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Joggers Park - walk the walk

We have a home! I haven’t really shared much of our never ending house hunt as it has been frustrating to say the least but I am delighted to announce that we have found a home in Bandra. Bandra (as I am told) is the THE suburb to live, it’s where all the cool kids live. In Mumbai that means the Bollywood stars and now Indiadam and me. Being a fierce South London lover, I feel a bit disappointed in myself having moved to what sounds like the Shoreditch of Mumbai but here we are and I will share some more stories from Bandra soon.

As mentioned before, one of the things I miss in Mumbai is exercise. So when we found a flat close to “Joggers Park” I was very excited that I could step up my curry consumption another level once we move to Bandra as I would be burning the associated calories while running in Joggers Park. It’s located right by the sea so I was picturing myself running in Mumbai’s Battersea Park but rather than being next to the Thames, it would be next to the Arabian Sea..

The sea view did not disappoint

On morning #3 in the new flat, I get myself to set the alarm a bit earlier so I can be out on the road and on my way to Joggers Park by 7am.

It looks like a lovely morning and running through the streets surrounded by palm trees where people are going about their morning routine is a really nice feeling. After living in Mumbai for nearly half a year, I am also less bothered by having to run on the street as the pavements are covered in loose cables and I don’t get freaked out by the rickshaws whizzing around and hooting at me at regular intervals. By the time I arrive at Joggers Park (max 5mins from my house), I have “warmed up” considerably – even at 7am in the morning it is already around 30 degrees which is about 10 degrees more than any weather I would go running in when in London.

However, the prospect of running a few laps amongst like-minded sports men and women before most people even wake up in Mumbai keeps me going. Arriving in Joggers Park, I realize that you actually have to pay to get in. 2 rupees which is 2p but I obviously don’t have any money on me. With full sports gear and a determined German pokerface I get in anyway (don’t worry, I will pay double next time). Charging some money is actually not a bad idea I think as it means the place is kept quite well and they even have a water fountain (which I haven’t dared drinking from yet) and some very nice flowers.

As I walk into the park, I start to realise this is different to what I expected. NOONE IS RUNNING. The park is made up of a running track (which is apparently is 400m but looks a lot shorter than that) and 99% of the people on the track are casually walking in a circle. Walking in Joggers Park. This is made even better by the sign at the start of the track welcoming you as well as saying which direction to WALK around the JOGGING track. Feeling a bit too keen for the running community in Mumbai, I still start JOGGING in a circle overtaking everyone else on the track who are more or less in sports gear but clearly not interested in any serious exercise.

This is one of the advantages of living in India. I am quite sporty but I am not a runner. I find it quite boring and tedious but like it for the fresh air (the irony of that moving to Mumbai) and getting my head clear. When running in Battersea Park back in London, I would be in the slower 50% (if not 25%) of the runners in the park, I would get overtaken a lot more than overtake and would only really push myself when I went with a friend of mine who was more into it. On my 5 laps in Joggers Park, I did not get overtaken ONCE. No one, not a single time. So if your sports ego ever needs a boost, do move to Mumbai. Unless you play cricket (where you won’t have a chance) you will feel like you are in the top 1% of the sportiest people in the city. Not a bad feeling but then I do know that if I went back to Battersea Park tomorrow, I would be even slower than before.

In everyone’s defense – it is fair to say it is too hot to run even at 7am in the morning. While running in Joggers Park with a light breeze it is just about bearable at 7am in the morning but as soon as I got back home and stopped outside the house, I understood while everyone was walking. It’s so hot. Looking in the mirror I very much resembled a tomato dipped in oil and even after a long cold shower it took more than 30mins to actually cool down and stop sweating (very nice, I know).

What rounded off the rather odd exercise morning was that while running back to the flat, at least two rickshaw drivers slowed down next to me, signalling me the "do you need a ride" question. I am not sure this was because I look so exhausted or because most Indians only reaction to seeing someone run around is: They are in a hurry so why are they walking/running and not in a car. I like to think it is the latter rather than me looking like I needed a lift :)

It did feel nice having exercised in the morning and I will definitely try and run again in the morning but I might try the promenade instead of joggers park – running slalom in a circle isn’t that much fun in the end and even though you would never expect it – I did feel like I was in the wrong place jogging in joggers park. If I ever meet anyone of any importance among the cool and influential kids in Bandra, I will suggest renaming it to Walkers’ Park. Walk this way!

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