Don’t just run with your legs. Run with your mind!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

So far, I had been running long distances from my legs. But last week, I did run 10km distance not just with my legs, but with my mind. I remember reading somewhere,  “Come on, young man. you’ve been running with your legs so far. Now run with your mind!” For a seasoned runner, 10km run is no big deal. He can cover well within 45 minutes. But for me, it was an uphill task. While I was warming up for the 10km run, with my left knee in pain, I was not sure, how long I could run. I had not run long distances for almost 2 months. Thoughts of staying out of the cross country passed through my mind. But I wanted to give it a try, and didn’t want to give up so easily.

The first mile
Half way

I managed to run first 7kms without much of a difficulty. Body was completely warmed up, breathing was steady, “legs were moving one after another”, rhythm was good and was sure of covering the distance well within an hour. But after 7kms, I started feeling the pinch. I wanted to go on, but felt like giving it up. Every time I saw a vehicle on the road, I thought I should just get into it and cover rest of the distance. But the joy of crossing the finish line, kept me going. I covered another 2km. The last 1km run, I must say, was one of best I have experienced in my life. There was absolutely no control over my legs, they just kept moving at the same pace. I started counting every step to cover rest of the distance. For a moment I thought I lost control over my body, but managed to get my steps right. “Come on! It’s all in the mind”, I shouted to myself, literally! I don’t know what happened to me after that, those words seemed to work like magic. All I remember is that my left leg which had bit of a pain in the knee was moving swiftly, following the rhythm of my right leg. I increased my stride, started breathing fast, kept going with the increased pace and my left leg was still following the right leg! Last 300-400m to the finishing line was an inclined road. I increased my pace again, started feeling breathlessness, but kept going, and finally, managed to complete 10km distance in 49 minutes!

I can see the Finish Line!

Crossing FP, the last step!

What a joy! I was happy, really happy, on top of the world. Not because I covered 10kms, but because I covered that distance with an injured leg, because this was the first time I ran the long distance with my mind. And it was yet another rare opportunity to take my limits to a new height. I feel this experience has a deeper meaning. It’s the last mile that matter the most. Its not about our physical ability or not even our talent, “but by the mental strength to stay the course, and run the extra mile. When you run with your legs, you allow the pressures to weigh you down. You allow obstacles to come in the way of your progress. You find yourself saying “I can’t!” But when you run with your mind, you become unstoppable. Your mind says “I can!”[....]

All my life, I have failed quite a few times, not because I didn’t try. But may be because I didn’t try enough in the last mile. The effort which matters the most. Thats where the mind plays a significant role. “Don’t just run with your legs. Run with your mind!”

5 days in the jungle: An odessey with Greyhounds

Friday, September 7, 2012

When I stepped out of the bus, it was 11.00pm, clouds seemed to race across the sky, moon was playing hide and seek with clouds, calmness of the empty road leading to jungle was disturbed by the gentle breeze. Entire atmosphere seemed to be welcoming us for a wonderful jungle experience.

I was not sure of carrying a haversack weighing 18-20kgs and 4kgs rifle in the hand for a distance of 4-5kms in the middle of the night. But, surrounding atmosphere (and the peer pressure?) made me enjoy that night walk which lasted almost for 2 hours. Soon after we reached the destination - a “safe” place to sleep -  at around 1.00am, the sky opened up and rain began to fall. Sky was the roof and hills around us were the walls. Literally, we were guests in the house of nature! We slept under the cover of our ground sheets. When I woke up before the first light, I couldn’t believe I actually slept under the rain!

Thanks to Greyhounds training which provided an experience of lifetime! The Greyhounds are an elite commando force of Andhra Pradesh. The force was raised in 1989 to control the Maoists/Naxals. As a part of our training, we had one week attachment with Greyhounds, they trained us for anti naxal operations and jungle survival. We had to spend five days in jungle like a commando - without any contact with outside world, cooking our own food, making our own shelter, finding every means to survive ourselves. We were simulating the life of a commando in the jungle!

For me, it was a challenge to truly test and scale up my physical and mental potential to new heights. No internet, no mobile phone, no communication whatsoever with the outside world for five days. No bathing, not even washing face for five days so as to save water, wear the same camouflage (Dangri) dress and same shoes (and socks!) for five days. Ration given to us was limited, pure drinking water was a rare commodity, had to carry 3-4 litres of drinking water in my haversack despite its heavy weight on the back. Rifle, GPS, walkie talkie, etc added to the burden.

Watching every move?

Home in the jungle!

We were thoroughly briefed to treat every corner of the jungle as naxal affected area. Our moves had to be tactical, no unnecessary sound, every place we halted had to be recced and guarded by sentries to pre-empt any attack! Same place cannot be used for halting so as to keep the enemy guessing. Any place we used should be left undisturbed so that our footprints are not left for the enemy. Cooking of dinner must be finished well before the day ends so that our location is not revealed to the enemy because of the fire! Proper drill had to be followed to fetch the water so that enemy attack at the water source is avoided!

What's cooking?

Delicious Rice and pickle! :)
Every drop counts in the jungle

Sentry? Who is next?

Tactical exercises which were taught to us either early in the morning or late evening. Day time didn’t have much of action. We spent most of the day time in cooking, eating and of course sleeping, except those who had to do sentry duty! Cooking wasn’t that easy because wet firewood simply refused to burn and it was not easy to find completely dry firewood due to the rain in the night. And there were not many ingredients to showcase our culinary skills, all that we had was rice, dal, soup powder, cashew, and milk powder for making tea. Many of us tried all possible permutations and combinations to cook a tasty food. Some tried cooking khichdi, few of us tried to cook pulav using bit of onion and potato but ended up making just rice! Some even succeeded in cooking rice-kheer using milk powder. But easiest and tastiest was maggie, all that we needed to do was boil some water and mix it with a cup of maggie. Trust me, whatever combination we all tried, everything tasted so good that the satisfaction after eating was rare to find in day to day life outside the jungle!

The last light of the day (Sun)

The first light of the night!(Moon)

Night in the jungle was serene and beautiful. As soon as the sun sank and moon was bright, entire surrounding changed its beauty and became alive in a matter of minutes. I spent plenty of time lying on the grass and watching the beautiful sky full of stars and bright moon. In fact on one night, we were resting on an elevated area from where one can have a 360* view of the surrounding area under the bright full moon light. At times, moon was playing hide and seek with clouds, the moment bright moon was engulfed by the clouds, everything fell silent in the darkness. Within minutes, moon was freed and everything around us was painted with moonlight.


Apart from tactical exercises which taught us how to fight naxals / maoists, there was so much to learn from the nature and from our own experiences. The hardship we face in the jungle reveals the true character of a person. Once we exhaust our stamina, the tired mind reflects our true nature, it reflects our ability to help others even in the face of adversities. If one succeeds to show compassion during tough times, be assured, he is the person who you can depend and trust for rest of your life. My heart goes out to those commandos and soldiers who not only master the art of overcoming physical exhaustion, but also master their mind to continue fighting for the country even in the face of adversities.

We got a feel of difficulties faced by a commando in the jungle during anti naxal operations. The five day exercise helped me realize what it takes to be a commando who wears his heart on his sleeves and stakes his life in the most deadly situations to fight the naxals, ensuring that we enjoy the leisures of our living room, ensuring the unity and integrity of this nation.

In the end, i felt, “I took a walk in the jungle and came out taller than the trees!”
 

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.