Incredible India– by plane, train, automobile and running shoes...
on Honk if you Like Curry (India), 25/Nov/2010 12:51, 34 days ago
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No pain, no gain they say and I definitely have to agree with that, especially on Sunday when I was puffing my way through 21km of pain, AKA the Delhi Half Marathon. Over the last three weeks, my training schedule had become a bit more exotic, as I got the chance to run across India in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Rajasthan courtesy of my lovely family who came out to visit me and whisked me away on a very jolly holiday...I think the one thing that all volunteers miss the most is family and friends. The longer you live in a developing country as a volunteer the harder it gets. I’ve certainly found the last few months tougher and reached what I like to call my ISP (India Saturation Point). I think it’s quite natural when you only have a few more months to go and civilisation awaits (decent coffee, high heels, a soft bed, wine, a good hug and cheese) you start to becomemore irritated with the rhythms of life that can be India on some days (honking, no rules when it comes to anything, groping, staring and harassment) so I was greatly looking forward to seeing my family, showing them around my home for over a year and getting a good hug or two.Adventure seems to be in our DNA and we had an ambitious itinerary starting in South India ending back in Delhi. We must have travelled over 4,000 miles by various mode of transport over the three weeks, but I have to say it was one of the most relaxing holidays I have been on. It certainly was an upgrade in travel style from the usual volunteer mode (let’s just say one night we stayed somewhere there was a bed made of marshmallow, a bath and a roaring fire in my room... heaven!). In the South the highlights were Ooty a picturesque hill station (cold enough to wear jumpers and I got to run on a treadmill as the early morning mist rose off the teaplantations) and Hampi, stunning fourteenth century ruins situated in lush plantations which could have easily been the set of the next Indiana Jones film.By two overnight trains and a plane we got back to North India and to Rajasthan which was truly magical. We firstly stayed in Udaipur in a picturesque hotel looking over the lake which was the film set of Octopussy and had lost none of its Bond charm. I had some very memorable runs in Rajasthan, the peak of my training was a 1hr 55min run which I was not looking forward to. But as I headed off at 6.30am from a remote village in Rajasthan (and from the comfort of a bed made of Angel Delight in a very nice boutique hotel) to run on sandy tracks around a lake as the sun rose, the pain seemed worth it. When you are lucky enough to run with the soundtrack of the tweets of the three Ps of the bird world (parakeets, peacocks and pigeons of course) and cause most of the male members of the local village to nearly fall of their motorbikes in shock of seeing a puffing blondie saying‘namaste’ you can’t help but fall in love with India again.We then headed into the desert and even did a camel trek. Rajasthan is truly enchanting. With palaces, fortresses and legends of princely maharajahs worthy of a fairy tale book, you see a side of India that is straight from a Merchant Ivory film. By the time we reached Jaipur and had reached out TSP (Temple Saturation Point) we were joined by my sister and brother-in-law who had just spent their honeymoon in Bhutan. It was lovely to get more hugs and catch up with them both. We ended the trip with a dawn visit to the Taj Mahal which was definitely worth the 5.30am wake up call.As everyone headed to the airport early Sunday morning to return back to London, I was shivering like a whippet in a hail storm as we reached the marathon start line at 6.45am. Delhi has suddenly got cold, so I had an incentive to keep running. But as soon as the sun came out it was baking, 40 minutes into the marathon when the lithe elite runners were 6km from the end and passing me in the opposite direction I realised the heat was not going to help. My only aim was to run the whole thing, which I managed to do but it got tough after 12km. I don’t know how anyone does a full marathon, I have complete respect for anyone who is brave enough to give it a go. But after 2hrs 30mins I made it across the finish line, slightly delirious and relieved it was all over. We rewarded ourselves with a slap up afternoon tea at the posh Imperial Hoteland despite the fact I’m still walking like a robot and stairs feel like climbing Everest it was all worth it.Highlights:it’s a family affair – a big thank you to my parents in particular, for coming out to visit me, treating me to an amazing holiday and it was so nice to all catch up together (thanks also for sharing your final bit of honeymoon with me sis!) and to have the chance to show everyone around India, surviving an earthquake – it was only 4.9 on the Richter scale but it rocked and rumbled in Rajasthan one night and has to be one of the weirdest ways to wake up at 4am, money, money, money – I am truly chuffed at the amount we all raised for the marathon of just over Rs10 lakhs (that Rs 1 million!) and that we beat last year’s total by 100%, I think I am now officially a true fundraiser, a slap up tea and a sighting of Bob – it’s not often you get to have a guilt free afternoon tea post completing a half marathon, nor is it that often when the conversation randomly turns to celebrities and Bob Geldof get’s a mention that 5 mins later Sir Bob walks into the hotel to be greeted by three volunteers laughing like hyenas, I blame all that sugar..!