Run your way to a better you
Architect, marathoner, single mother, and debutant author of The Running Soul, Parul Sheth lists the many ways running has helped her evolve
I've found my meditative space: Running is therapeutic. It lifts the fog from my brain and makes me realise who I am. The repetitive action lets my brain process underlying thoughts and provides solutions to problems. It helped me recover from the unexpected loss of my husband 11 years ago.
I challenge myself: Setting goals and achieving them has given me the confidence and courage to keep setting larger goals, though it is always scary at the start. As I move from strength to strength—from running five signals to five roads with about 10 signals each—I've realised that distance is relative, everything is just a series of steps.
I've learned to dig deep: It's when you're just about ready to quit that you have to convince yourself there is more to you. You have to keep telling your brain, “I can handle this”. Our minds set limits to prevent us from being foolhardy, but once you learn to over-ride these, you will find tremendous reserves of strength.
My dreams have become bigger: “The longer I run, the bigger my dreams become,” says the architect, marathoner, single mom, and debutant author. She's run a long long way, from casual runner to half-marathoner to marathoner, to running at a pace she once thought beyond her capacity.
I'm more grateful: Running is humbling. It doesn't matter what car you drive or what you do for a living. The amount of goodwill I have gathered just because of my running is amazing. The bonds you develop with fellow runners, whilst in pain (as voluntary as it is), are honest.
I'm always growing: With each run, I realise new things—how much stronger I am than I thought, how my mind can be my worst enemy or my best ally, how patience always pays, how your best timing does not always mean your best run...
I've become more positive: When you run, the chemistry in your brain changes and you come back a positive person. A good mood is never further than one run away, according to Parul, whose kids are liable to ask whether or not she ran, on days when they find her irritable.
I've learned to shift focus: I've realised that anything that you focus on grows. So instead of focusing on my fear of uphill runs, I focus on the strength I'm building as I run. This strategy also works when you deal with the setbacks and inclines built into the road called life.
It's turned me into a great multi-tasker: I've learned how to prioritize in order to make the most out of life. We are all evolving into a generation of multi-taskers; you have to, when you try to pack so many things into your life. You have to schedule things according to your shifting priorities, otherwise it is very easy for your work or your runs to consume all your time. I've become more disciplined about work and life. This has made me more productive.
I've learned that it's okay to ask for help: As a single mom, there is no way I would be able to do this without friends and family. My family has seen how happy it makes me and they pitch in. At the recent SCMM, it was my friend Mulraj's pacing that helped me pull through the last 6 km and meet my sub-four-hour target.
It's not all going to be perfect, and that's perfectly all right: I allow myself to not feel guilty about not being somewhere or not doing everything perfectly, all the time. It's not always about the nitty-gritties. You have to look at the bigger picture.
I've learned to let go: Whether it is a specific running pace, a technical problem at work, or a particularly tough piece of piano music—I trust that if I don't get it today, if I keep at it, it will eventually resolve itself. Instead of reacting in frustration, I now respond with patience. I stop, pause, think about it and respond. If something doesn't happen today; it will tomorrow.
I've stopped worrying about what people are going to think or say: When I moved from running in tracks and a t-shirt to shorts and a racer back, simply because comfort became more important to me, I realised that my fears about what people would think or say were unfounded. That was just me judging myself, as most people are wont to.