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In the fitness of things

I think we have reached a stage where this running fever that is spreading fast in this country should be officially declared an epidemic.

You want to know how alarming the situation is? I will tell you. My wife has got herself registered for a marathon. And she is a person who must have covered a sum total of 1.7 km in running in her entire life so far. Before long, we will have the country’s vice president, whose toughest job of the day is to get up and go for lunch, signing up for some symbolic run at some picturesque location. Of course, he will run for a few steps, pose for photographs and retire for the rest of the season, because jogging for 3 or 4 yards calls for energy that could otherwise have comfortably served him for a year in his official work. The rest of the run will, naturally be completed by the deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha.

Back in our days, running was not a hobby or even a popular physical exercise. It was simply something you did 1) to catch a bus 2) to escape from a vicious dog 3) mostly as punishment for turning up late for the NCC class.

One of the reasons that running wasn’t all that popular then may be due to the fact there weren’t really any designated running shoes. What you had were the ‘canvas shoes’, the perfect sporting footwear if your chosen sport happened to be carrom or chess. But you also turned out in them for cricket or football because the only sporting alternative to them in those times would have been the Hawaii slippers.

The primary distinguishable feature of a canvas shoe was its sole, which somehow managed to give the same grip and stability that you got on a skating rink. The sole was made of special rubber whose place on the toughness scale was just above paper. Frankly, if you had just tied the laces straight on your feet and played, you would have felt less discomfort than when performing with the canvas shoes on.

These days the humble canvas shoes have become a trendy fashion accoutrement for youngsters, thanks to an important aerodynamic design change, which was to stop calling them canvas shoes and start naming them sneakers. It is a sobering thought the Nike Keds kind of shoes that are mostly possible to buy today by practically mortgaging your kidneys, more or less came free when you bought socks.

Anyway, with the availability of shoes specifically designed for running, no wonder more people these days are taking to it, even though as an idea this is a bit similar to agreeing to get married just because the wedding hall looks cool.

The thing about running shoes now is that they seem to have packed in them more technology than was put in the first spacecraft. Or least that is what the advertisements make them sound. “Laser-designed, flexi-fulcrum-filled, poly-rubber-steel-coated, holistically-holographic”. They may be totally meaningless phrases, but boy, they sure exude cool, compelling science.

Also, when it comes to sports footwear, the choices now are many. But still they are unique to each sport. Here’s a handy chart telling you what footwear is meant for playing which sport:

Shoes with studs: Soccer, hockey

Shoes with spikes: Sprints

Formal black shoes: Cricket at the Lord’s.

And you would be a fool to believe that running is just about getting a pair of proper shoes and running (You are anyway a fool to take up running). Still, once you are done with the shoes, you should get yourself special running attire, made of garments that on first glance may look like cotton or banian-material, but when you take a closer look you will be surprised that they have a totally funky name. They know that when the advertisement reads, “embedded with thermo-energo-elasto-blocks” for “pure running vests that can actually breathe”, you reach for your credit card unthinkingly.

These days you also have specialized ‘apps’ that run on your mobile phone, which you, of course, carry to listen to music so that at the end of the run you not only feel a dull pain all over your body but also have a throbbing headache.

No, seriously you are advised to get these apps as they help you keep count of the calories lost, distance covered, number of dogs that barked at you etc and also monitor your cardiovascular development, the coefficient of your muscle flexibility et al using which you will bore the heck out of all your friends and acquaintances. In general, there are no bigger insufferable show offs in life than the fitness fanatics.

Back to the marathon that my wife has registered for, she insists that I too join her. I think I’ll run a couple of yards, pose for pics and slink away surreptitiously.

No better way to prove that I am qualified to run for the post of vice president.