Dr. Preeti Aghalayam talks of the joys of running.
The alarm goes off. I reach out sleepily to snooze. Five minutes later, of course, it rings again. The time is 5:05 now, if you must be particular about it. I love my coffee, especially in this quiet dark hour of the morning. Dark and strong, without sugar, that is how I enjoy it, thinking about what I am about to do, where I am about to go, with a hint of excitement, and just a bit of sleepiness.
Sometimes, I bring my ID card with me, in a little pouch that clips to my outfit. Most times, I forget. Waiting to cross the road at the Cancer Hospital is hateful. I know I ought to be extra careful if it is dark, with trucks trundling down like that. But at normal human times of the morning as well, there is so much more traffic, and I am forced to wait, sweat dripping, for the lights to change.
The feeling of exhilaration as I step into the campus gates is unexampled. There is a perceptible quieting down and a peacefulness that envelops you. I still recall the first time – back in 1991 – gosh that was a long time ago – we were royally fleeced by the taxi driver and then, the campus felt endless. Today, twenty years later, I am on my feet, and it doesn’t feel that big any more, although it feels right. Just right.
My usual route takes me to Delhi Avenue. The clanging bells of the temple, the beautiful new residential towers, the ‘ShopC’ as we used to call it, and I know I am almost at the stadium. But not quite, there is always one more curve before the Durga Peeli Amman temple’s yellow sign-board (which tells you that the stadium is now a mere 20 steps away). The stadium is our meeting point. Always.
I barely glance at GC as I run past it. It used to be such a big deal in my youth. The elephants, the beautiful elephants, I used to wail during Diwali when the litter and noise around the circle turned unbearable. Somehow I am not too worried about them anymore. I don’t even recall what color paint they currently sport. Maybe its because I have discovered the ‘other’ elephant on campus finally after so many Delhi Avenue trips. That one looks scary with its trunk chipped off. It looks like it means business! Have you seen it?
Back in those days, I ran from Sarayu hostel (where I lived) to the gate and back. Not good enough for me anymore! I like the wide road between Jamuna and Ganga, and the slight downhill towards Mandak. And recently, I discovered the road to Research Park, which crunches funnily under my feet. The most favourite part of the campus is Madras Avenue, which I enter right after the really brightly coloured buildings of the KV school. A long, untouched stretch, with faint noises of the outside roads- makes flagging spirits soar, no doubt.
We have been mapping out the 10km route on campus for a while now. The excuse is that we have a race on Nov 6th to conduct. The reality is that this is runner’s mecca. And everyone wants to come back again and again at the slightest pretext. Everything is a bit stressful all around, as all of us – Ram, Karthik, Soundarya, Senthil, VPS and others at Chennai Runners, and Shankar* & I, on campus, are trying to get everything sorted out for the race. But, in the mornings, when our feet automatically find their way to this campus, life feels perfect. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen, this slice of heaven on earth will remain, and I always forget everything else and pound these roads with my feet.
Come Run With Us:
MARG Chennai Runners Half Marathon & 10km Race
Nov 6th; IITM, 6:00 am
Sign-up at: http://tinyurl.com/5r4jy4j (Its free for campus folks!)
Training plans available, just write to me: preeti [at] iitm.ac.in or Dr. Subramanian: shankar_sj [at] iitm.ac.in
Dr. Preeti Aghalayam is an Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras. Amongst other things, she is especially passionate about running.
*Dr. Sankara Subramanian is an Associate Professor, Engineering Design, IIT Madras.