Running a Mumbai 5K (Iain)

I sometimes go to the cinema by myself because Nic thinks my film choices sound awful. For example she said no to Bumblebee – a film about a Volkswagen beetle that becomes a robot. How could that possibly sound awful???

When I go, I often get asked by the cashier – “do you want another ticket for after this one?”

NO! I might be in the cinema by myself but don’t rub it in by assuming I couldn’t possibly have friends or plans for after.

Worryingly I’ve asked other people who go the cinema by themselves whether this has every happened to them. They said no it has never happened to them. I’m not sure what this says about me….

My love of film goes back many years. At school I was part of a group that ran a weekly cinema for younger kids, I’ve read every book going on film theory and I’ve even made my own film!

The film was for a project called the 48 Film festival. I had to put together a film in 48 hrs based on a premise, name, plot and genre given to me at the start of the first hour. I had to create a film about a cleaner caller Norman which features a ring in a documentary format. It was screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

You can see it here:

I think the lead actor has allot of talent! 😉

Considering other teams had multiple people, professional actors/makeup/directors etc then I’m quite proud of what we achieved with little to no talent.

Due to my love of film I was excited to run in Mumbai – the home of Bollywood movies. I thought I’d have to go on a tour to see a film but when I arrived at my hotel there was a film being shot straight outside it.

I asked at the hotel desk what was happening and they explained that the rest of the city has Victorian-Gothic architecture but where I was staying is an old purpose-built district called Ballard Estate. Its predominant architectural style is English Edwardian.

This style makes it perfect for Bollywood films as directors can film in the streets and pretend the film character are in London/Paris/New York. It really does feel like those places.

A Bollywood star or just someone with allot of photographer friends.

The estate was great for running. Big boulevards that were virtually car free. Excellent pavements and it was very easy to navigate. I it was great to finish my Indian running jaunts with an easy run

Ease of Running score – 10/10

Sights: 8/10 (Great architecture and nice tree lined streets)

Running a Kerela 5K (Iain)

My surname is Todd. Which meant I was very excited when I saw this shop.

I thought he would have food specifically aimed at people called Todd but the shopkeeper didn’t have any biscuits or sweets. I don’t think he’s full aware of his target markets needs.

What he actually sells is a Palm wine. An alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree. It is known by various names in different parts of the world. In Kerela its called a Toddy.

The shop keeper got very excited when I told him I was called Todd. He got very, very excited. So excited that I started to wonder whether his shop sold palm wine or whether it actually sold Todd’s and he was excited by how much he could sell me for!

I left his shop very quickly and headed on my way to where I was staying – Kochin.

Kiochin by Indian standards is a relatively quiet laid-back city. It very easy to run in as the roads are quiet and the pavements are good. It is hot (35C) so the best time to run is before breakfast when the Sun is rising.

I enjoyed the run as Kochin has an annual art festival which lets artists paint murals on walls in the town. This meant the run was very similar to a Glasgow style mural run.

Ease of Running score – 10/10

Sights: 7/10 (Lots of murals)

One of the many murals.

Cycling in Kerela (Iain)

Nic and I did a four day bike trip through the Kerela countryside. You can find more details here https://www.spiceroads.com/tours/kerala

Kerala is one of the wealthiest parts of India. Its
a serenely beautiful state and a world away from the frenzy of India elsewhere.

That was the marketing blurb. It is quieter than other Indian states but don’t underestimate it. The roads can be busy. The traffic can be scary and the infrastructure can leave a lot to be desired. Don’t expect nice coffee stops!

Day 1 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2080013255)

Our guide picked us up from our hotel. I was worried that we’d be the only people on the tour but, thankfully, another group was doing it too: a mother and two daughters.

They were a lovely family and great company on the tour.

The tour comprised a guide who biked at the front and a driver who drove a van at the back. This was a good setup. It meant we always had access to food and water from the van and if the road did come to a busy crossing he would park the van across it and stop all traffic until we had gone through.

The tour is advertised as being on quiet roads but I estimate there was at least 10% of the ride on busy roads. Indian roads seem scary because traffic undertakes, overtakes and generally ignores all road rules you might be used. I was scared at first but it was OK once I told myself that the traffic was like a river. Everything floats along and as long as I jump in and go with the flow then it will work out fine.

Which worked well. The only hairy moments were when I either hesitated or stopped which you can’t do when floating in a river of cars as it confuses all the other road users.

It seems scary but it sort of works. I’d not recommend it for the feint of heart but I’ve felt more unsafe cycling on some Glasgow streets than in Kerala.

Day 2 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2082213616)

“Today will be hilly….”

Which is not a phrase I want to hear before setting out on a 60KM ride

The guide then added

“…and hot”

Which is the other phrase I don’t like hearing!

It wasn’t actually too hilly. It was like biking in Perthshire. Some good roads, some bad. Some minor hills, some short steep sections but mostly small undulating sections BUT it was hot. Very hot! 37C by lunchtime. So hot that any shop only sold soggy melted chocolate bars.

I was thankful we reached the end after only 50KM. It seems the Indian idea of a KM is less than a UK one as every day the guide would say how far we’d need to cycle and every day we’d finish short of that goal. Thankfully!

Day 3 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2086045301)

Day 3 was a ride to a houseboat. We were all looking forward to this section and thanks to an early start we got to to the boat in time for lunch.

The boat came with a cook and butler. Which sounds fancy but it actually two greasy men who also do the driving, cleaning and all the work on the boat.

It reminded me of the time I took a Megabus to London. One of the ticket option on the bus is to get two seats so you can sleep across them like a double bed. I’d booked this thinking it would be more comfortable and because it was relatively cheap. Only £10 more than a single.

As I relaxed in my double bed/seat a man walked past and said “Ooooh! Look at him. Little lord Fancy and his double seat!”

Well this time he would have been justified saying it as every-time the butler/handyman got me a drink all I could think of was that voice saying ”
Ooooh! Look at him. Little Lord Fancy and his beer” or “ooooh! Look at him. Little Lord Fancy and his dinner”

Day 4 (https://www.strava.com/activities/2086572187)

At the end of the week the guide told me that I reminded him of someone famous.

I was hoping he’d say Ryan Gosling or Brad Pitt but he actually said “Lional Messi!”

I’m 6ft 1″ and Lionel Messi is 5ft 5. I’m 13 stone and Messi is 11 stone. I have a beard so does Messi. This is the only similarity yet he was so convinced by my likeness to the Argentinian superstar he said “We should charge people to meet you. You could sell Autographs and photos!”

Some white people say Africans/Indians/Chinese all look the same. In his case he might think all white people look the same!

I’ll let you make up your own mind about the similarity.

Overall

A great few days biking. I think it’s probaly too hard (due to road conditions and weather) for casual riders but it’s great for slightly adventurous riders.

Running a Bangalore 5K (Iain)

Bangalore is the craft beer capital of India. In Delhi when I asked for a beer the waiter replied “I’ll get the beer menu”. I got excited at the prospect of choosing the perfect beer from the menu. The waiter returned and I looked at the menu. It said

Kingfisher
Kingfisher (large)

I’m not sure why he needed a menu!

There was a similar limited selection in every other town we visited. In some places alcohol is strictly regulated and only available from state alchohol stores which were usually down a back alley surrounded by dodgy looking geezers.

I bought beer in one and the man changed me twice the price of the beer even though the price was clearly visible. I didn’t argue with him. You don’t argue with fierce looking men you meet in back alleys.

Working in a bar is a pretty good occupation in India. A typical waiter in a good place makes 25K rupees a month but, in a bar, he can make 80K rupees a month. Which shows how much drunks tip

Running in Bangalore was surprisingly easy. I was staying at a friend’s house in a posh neighberhood. The roads were quiet and the pavements were good. The only problem was the danger I might get lost. Hence my Strava shows I mostly sticked to running up and down roads near the house.

Ease of Running score – 10/10

Sights: 5/10 (There was nice park nearby and the streets were nicely tree lined)

Running a Goa 5K (Iain)


“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes” is true if the bad weather is rain or snow BUT, for a pale skinned Scotsman, bad running weather also includes sunshine.

Which is why in Goa I’d run as soon as the Sun came up. The 45 minutes after sunrise was the only time of the day which was cool enough to have an enjoyable jog.

I wasn’t the only one with this idea. There was normally a few other joggers out too. One Indian man ran every day I was there. On the first day he spotted me and immediately ran over with his hand in the air. I wasn’t sure what he was after so I did the only thing I could think of – I gave him a big smile and a high five. Every day after this he did exactly the same when he saw me. I’ve no idea who he was but I always looked forward to spotting him.

Another man would always run with a stick. I thought this was a bit strange but didn’t question it until I saw another man running in the opposite direction also carrying a stick.

The next day I saw exactly the same thing happen. I asked a local what is was about. “Is it a relay team practising?”

“No – it’s to protect themselves. If a dog gets too aggressive they use the stick to give it a whack. The dogs on the beach have been known to attack lone joggers!”

Up until that point I hadn’t worried about dogs but after hearing this I gave all dogs a wide berth.

Yoga in Goa – Part 2 (Iain)

One of the yoga workshops in Goa was called “Ecstatic Dance”. Now you might think the class sounds like something I wouldn’t normally attend but I’m as open minded as the next man…if the next man is an uptight British man who can’t imagine anything worse than a dance class! Despite this I gave it a try.

During the class the tutor said:

“Stand with your eyes closed. Imagine you’re standing in front of yourself. Imagine that self is a better version of you. Now step into yourself and feel how you move. Move in any way you like. Feel how your arms move. Your legs move. Your whole body moves.”

Now watch this clip of Peep Show.

I was the Mark of the class!

As everyone else moved I stood still. As people contemplated their better selves. I contemplated what I was going to have for dinner.

It was a great class. Expertly enabled by the tutor but I was too British to enjoy it.

At the end of the class everyone hugged. Some cried. I offered a handshake and a: “Well done. Let’s never talk about this ever again”

Yoga in Goa (Iain)

A few years ago I visited Club La Santa in Lanzarote for a triathlon training camp. It was a week of swimming , biking and running. It was a fun week but the accommodation wasn’t great. I was one of six middle aged sweaty men packed into to a room that barely fit four.

As soon as we discovered this we requestes a room upgrade. The new room was better but not by much. I assumed this was as good as we could get.

A few days into the trip I went to visit a guy who was having a holiday nearby. He had access to five swimming pools, four restaurants which were all inclusive and the TV in his room had Sky Sports.

I asked him how much he paid for it. I was expecting it to be allot. It wasn’t. He was paying half of what I was paying.

That night I went back to my my place with its one swimming pool (which I had to book in advance to use), three restaurants which all charged money and I had no TV let alone one showing Sky Sports. For the rest of the holiday I called the resort – Prison Camp La Santa.

It’s fair to say I had trepidation about signing up for a week long yoga camp. Would it be a similar prison like experience?

This was my typical day in paradise. Which isn’t an exageration. It was quite literally where I was as the local beach was called Paradise Beach.

Which is a pretty cocky name to give it. What if there was better beach nearby? They’d think Paradise Beach had got ideas above it’s station. In Scotland we’d be too modest. The beach would be called Nae-bad Beach.

Paradise Beach

The yoga retreat was for 7 days. You can find out more details about the 2019 one here https://yogagoaindia.com/guest-yoga-retreats-in-goa/ (Look for Retreat to the Motherland with Jala Yoga)

A typical day would be

7am – Chanting
I’m not big on chanting unless its at a football match and the chant is “the ref is effin idiot”. So instead I went for a jog on the beach. Goa is very hot (35C during the day) so this is the only time a run was pleasant. I’d try to get 5k in before heading back for …

8am – Asana Practice
Most days this was a mix of ashtanga and yin. It was a good balance of poses/breathing exercises.

Ohm!

By having the same teacher each day I got familiar with her favourite yoga cues for moves. As the same cues would make daily appearances. My favourite the teacher used was:

“You are welcome to stay in this pose for as long as you like but when you’re ready…”

I wonder how long I could stay in a pose for. Would everyone have to wait for me? Maybe I could spend the whole class asleep.

After class I’d head for….

10 am – Breakfast.
Usually an Indian option and a scrambled option – eggs, chickpeas or paneer. I was happy when it was eggs. Less so when it was paneer. They also had nice rolls, and fresh fruits and salad.

The cafe area was the only place for WiFi and annoyingly it had a a limit to the number of folk who could connect. Most days I would go to breakfast hoping to check social media but end up with a “could not start networking” message. The upside of this is that i forced everyone to be social with eachby chatting about how bad the WiFi was.

WiFi is very important to Indians. One time the whole town had a power cut. There was no lights, no TV, no kitchen equipment working BUT the WiFi still worked. They kept that on a battery so it wouldn’t go out. That priorities – selfies first, self preservation second.

After breakfast I’d head to town for a swim in the sea. The sea was a 20 minute downhill walk from the Shala which meant it was a 20 minute uphill walk on the way back. This was a hard slog in the heat of the day.

There was allot of stalls on the way to the beach. As I passed the shop keepers would shout out “hello my friend. Come look. I have great pashminas/sun glasses/shoes etc” or whatever it was they thought I might need.

Strangely the one place they didn’t bother me was when selecting a seat on the Beach. In most Mediterranean countries you can barely look at a seat without someone coming over and asking 10 Euro’s for it.

1400 – Lunch
I’d head back to the shala for lunch. It was a similar selection each day . I usually got the hummus and veg wrap. To balance out the healthiness I’d eat a twix afterwards. At the start of the yoga retreat there were 7 twix’s in the local shop. By the end of the week there were none.

1600 – Workshop
At 4 o’clock there would a workshop on yoga topics ie headstands or mindfulness. They were very useful but I skipped the ones I wasn’t interested in. One day I did an ecstatic dance workshop. As an uptight British man this was a challenge. I’m still too traumatised to talk about it!

1900 – Dinner
The highlight of dinner was deserts. Sometimes they’d have home made cookies but other times they’d go to the local shop and buy chocolate bars and cut them up.

Strangely. They never once had twixs. Someone must have eaten them all.

The twix eating champion

Yoga in Delhi (Iain)

I visited Delhi 10 years ago. I was attending an Indian wedding. It was a very glamorous affair as the bride and groom were both from very wealthy families.

The celebrations lasted three days. Day 1 was at the groom’s house. He paid to have his street closed off and then rode a horse down it whilst wearing full regal clothing. I’d like to see someone try this in Scotland. “Why is my street closed? Some prick is riding a horse whilst dressed like a fud!”

I don’t think it’ll catch on.

Day 2 was a ceremony for the bride in a luxury hotel. She sat on a platform getting her wedding henna tattoos applied. As she had to sit very still various people would go in front of her to entertain her. As the only white person at the wedding I was pushed forward to entertain her. I asked what I should do. Most people dance I was told. So I told her I’d dance a traditional Scottish wedding dance. Unfortunately I didn’t know any so I did the Macarena instead and hoped that song had never reached Delhi

It was a great occasion but I remember Delhi as being dirty, noisy and busy. I’d stayed in a dive of a hotel in the old town. This time I wanted to stay somewhere better so at least there would be some respite from all the craziness.

Thankfully the exchange rate and the power of the pound means Indian hotels are very reasonably priced so it’s easy and affordable to stay somewhere good.

Although they are Indian so their happy to rip you off if you let hem. For example a taxi from the airport costs 400R. The hotel offered to pick us up for 4000R! We turned down their offer!

Indians hotels have a lot of security which is a good thing in that it makes me feel safe but it’s a bad thing because it also make me question why ? What do they know that I don’t! Especially as India is a very safe country to travel in where I rarely feel troubled.

We tried to get a yoga class but they didn’t have any so instead we used their activity room to do it ourselves.

I was very impressed by the lights to the swimming pool

I was also impressed by the first television we had in a week that had more than just BBC World as an English Channel. After yoga we watched an episode of Friends. Sometimes it’s the small reminders of home that help break up a journey.

Running a Delhi 5K (Iain)

Delhi was also a failure when it came to runnign a 5K. My hotel was in an awkward sport near allot of very busy roads which were tricky to cross. I could have run laps of the block but I preferred to walk instead.

Indians in Delhi are very helpful when I’m walking. They would often stop me and ask “where are you walking to?”

Which would swiftly become an interrogation. “Why are you walking? Why don’t use use a rickshaw? Tell me again where are you going?”

I reply that I’m heading to Lodi gardens.

“You’ll not get to Lodi gardens this way. There is a protest on. It’s very dangerous. You should go to Connaught square to the shops instead.”

I’m sure it’s fine. I’ll give it a try.

“No, no, no. You can not go that way. Tell me where your going next. Have you booked plane? Have you got accommodation?”

I decide to ignore him and head in the direction of Lodi gardens. Within a few minutes another man has come up and demanded to know why I’m walking. I tell him I’m going to Lodi gardens.

“It is closed today. You won’t get in.”

I thought it was a public park that’s free to all and open all year.

“No, it’s definitely closed. You won’t get in. You need to go to market. It is open”

I ignore him and continue walking.

There is no sign of any protest anywhere. It’s just a normal road which for once in India is surprisingly quiet and easy to walk.

Of course, a third man approaches. I’ve now worked out that all they care about is getting me to go to wherever their own shop is. I don’t even bother speaking to him when he asks why I am walking.

Eventually I reach the garden. Its full of Indian families enjoying the late evening sun. It is definitely not closed.

Ease of running score – 4/10 (The pavements are great but the roads are busy and tricky to cross)

Sights 9/10
– Lohdi gardens is beautiful.

 

Running a Varanasi 5K (Iain)

Running in varanasi was impossible. The roads were too busy (at any time of the day and night) and the the paths were so uneven it would have been too dificult and unsafe to even attempt a run. Instead I went for a 5k walk

Negotiating with taxi drivers is an art. There are two problems:

1 – Indian taxi drivers rarely know where anything is.
2 – They want to rip you off as much as possible on the price.

Problem 1 is fair enough. Varanasi has thousands of streets and lanes and no one could possibly know them all. Also the name I might call it might not reflect the local name for a place. Even the name Varanasi is a misnomer as it’s local name is Banderas.

The best thing to do is to give them something famous near to where you want to go and then guide them from that. I use an offline downloaded map on my phone to get about as I didn’t want to pay a fortune for roaming mobile data.

Problem 2 is annoying. My normal gambit is to approach the taxi driver and ask for a price. They tell me an outrageous price. I counter with a much much lower offer. They argue and tell me why I’m wrong before they drop the price slightly. I’ll then offer a slightly higher offer which they’ll reject. I then walk away. As I walk away they shout a new price. I make my final offer. We agree and off we go. It’s a tiring and annoying process but it seemed to work until I got to Varanasi.

I tried it but as I walked away the taxi driver just let me go.

Darn I thought. That normally works!

Just as I was about to turn around another man came up and said he do it for 100R but it would be on his bike.

I said yes. Myself and Nic got on his bike and the man started pedaling but we didn’t go anywhere. The ride was on a slight incline and my weight was too much for him!

He started pushing instead. Thankfully after a few minutes it got flatter and he hopped on and managed to bike. Unfortunately he had no idea where we were going so after another few minutes he declared we were at the destination. We weren’t. It was still a couple of miles away.

He called over another man and they studied my map trying to work out where the destination was. After some to-ing and fro-ing and some questioning of others they worked out it was straight down the road he was currently on. I had tried to tell him that but he hadn’t believed me.

I felt sorry for him as he hauled me along. The road was extremely busy. I’d never drive it let alone cycle it.

Eventually we got to our stop. I gave him 100R but then pointed at Nic and said “no 100R each”

An Indian taxi/bike drivers scam work is never done.

If only people in the UK were so entrepreneurial.

Ease of running score – 1/10 (it might be possible but it would’t be fun)

Sights 9/10
– the Ghats are a fascinating place. Take it slow and enjoy the sights.