Bangalore Run

I'm a runner awake before dawn, before the neighborhood muezzin sounds the call to prayers. The dulled-pearl light of Bangalore morning filters through the gaps between thick-walled houses and apartments and the dense urban tree canopy: mimosa, palm, mango.

By evening, these sedate main roads will be a weaving, bleating traffic nightmare. Now, women in sari sweep the storefront pavements with short straw brooms; girls in jeans and kurta stroll blankly; men on huge, heavy steel bicycles pedal down the erratic pavement.

The run feels loose, fast, ready, down the long slight decline of 100-Foot Road. I hurdle down. Up. Down. Up. Innumerable half-foot curbs at street crossings and driveway entrances. From sidewalk cobbled of interlocking brick, I dodge onto the street around a slow pedestrian or a tree or mud or crumpled concrete construction rubble. Down. Up. Skim over wide skids of graveled orange-brown dirt. Some dirt is the color of cantaloupe. Some is the color of chai masala. A fine orange-brown grit polishes the surfaces of road, curb, sidewalk. Loose slabs of concrete tip underfoot.

I serpentine a six-mile grid of residential streets, the cross streets with their grand old houses cushioned in palm trees and blooming spathiphyllum, the more prosaic main streets striping like the teeth of a comb north from the spine of 100-Foot Road.

Packs of dogs with golden fur and golden eyes snuffle at streetside trash piles. Enormous fuzz-headed crows pick at banana peels and rancid crumbs in the garbage. Dogs trot in the street, unconcerned. People wake, go about their daily business. Walkers stroll the rain-slicked red brick pathways around fenced, flowering pocket parks. A bright orange carpet of limp, fallen flame of the forest blossoms releases perfume between my feet and the orange-brown street grit.

In narrow streets, women hang their washing. Water heats in blackened iron pots over open cookeries. I am running through their living rooms. I carry a full bottle of clean water in my belt. The clothes on my back and feet cost more than two months of wages on this street. I consider my form. I try to run as well as I possibly can. Bicycles and small motorcycles nestle against a wall. A boy shaves looking in his motorcycle mirror.

The city smells of last night's traffic, trees, morning cooking. Bangalore humidity can stifle, but today the air is warm, barely moist, no breeze. I am so thankful to be running. I think about the first runs, 30 seconds at a time, slow, heavy, six miles unimaginable. I couldn't know then that running in Bangalore is why I should keep running. The last two years of work gets me this: trail shoes on orange grit. Hip. Thigh. Shoulder. Spine. Transmission of power, contact with earth. I am so thankful.

Another runner passes, a young man in a track suit. We make eye contact: a dark flash with no readable message. We run on.


Anonymous said...

i have been thinking of you often. What a great trip. Do you know have a goal of running on every continent? zip