The Art of the Start

Anu Vaidyanathan

‘Twas an unremarkable Thursday. As Thursdays went, I caught myself oscillating between nonchalance and self-loathing in pondering my run. I was mostly angry about not caring to start my run at a certain time. After what has been a slow-ish work week, I felt outwardly relaxed but inwardly scattered when it came to the carpe diem equation, which I could paste on my forehead, in reverse, to remind myself every time I looked into a mirror. Which could be more often, according to most. Considering that an unknown street vendor once jumped out of one of the many human matchbox-sized stalls in T-Nagar, on a busy Dussera shopping day, offering me a free comb I had come to realize that my bad hair days were not entirely idiomatic. Just as I grabbed my keys, I realized my iPod had no power. Not to be dragged down by a simple matter of Physics, I quickly ran into my home office to charge my blue space-device. Clearly, the Mac that was connected to power was a newer one and iTunes ended up erasing all my music, placing only three new podcasts in my library. Having a vivid imagination, catching myself swiveling to Katrina Kaif’s famous numbers in Dhoom-3 was part of my run routine, which made me dig up my old laptop, faithfully stored in a graveyard of electronics, and charge it, in the hope of charging the iPod, transferring all my songs back on there as well.

As I put on my shoes, thirty minutes later, I realized my orthotics were in my gym-bag, after a forgettable weekend trying to avoid the rain. As I dug out the swim gear, some very smelly half-eaten bars promptly stuck all over my orthotics and then some, I realized an hour would have passed before I left the house, at this rate. I realized that I had been overly optimistic once I saw my phone light up with a busy-and-important-client’s caller ID. Deadlines, while the sworn enemy of any good run also pay bills so, two hours later I found myself on the road, iPod charged, orthotics washed and seriously wondering if running on a Thursday was at all a good idea. I am too old for posters but too young for a bad memory – I rake out Uta Pippig from the corners of my brain, who famously said “Take The Magic Step is the first step of the journey, the first step out the door”, if every day be a journey then mine did start, albeit several hours later than the already delayed estimate. For the uninformed, Pippig is credited with being the first woman to win the Boston Marathon three times in a row, running out of very tough conditions in divided Germany. I think of a fitting rejoinder in an imaginary conversation with Ms. Pippig, the fated Kural 664 which translates loosely to “Easier said than done..”,  but I realized she probably wouldn’t understand Tamizh anyway.

I laced up my shoes and stepped out, dreading the outcome. In the first five minutes, I could think of a number of reasons to stop. In the next ten, I started to obsess over more looming deadlines and even more busy-and-important™ clients. In the following twenty, I realized how wonderful it was to breathe easy when running outside in the sunshine, albeit one which took a while to find, and then appreciate. In the following thirty, I completely stopped thinking, which was really the unstated goal of every run. After my run, I thought about the many starts I had been a part of. Some poetic, some not. Some adventurous, others disastrous. Some that led to unbelievable finishes, others that blew up well before the finish-line. Consistently however, starting felt good. What felt even better was knowing that finish or no finish, the art of the start permeated my consciousness at many different levels, on many different occasions. Starting my first three-kilometer run in the dead of a mid-western winter. Starting a bike ride with a group, as an adult. Starting a swim in an unheated pool in Bangalore winters. Starting a business. Starting a training block for a race. Starting a new writing adventure. Starting every single workout. Starting to realize that running is a poor-man’s sport. Being a member of the proletariat often translates to base habits, running being one of these habits that I have grown to love and cultivate as a part of my identity. Running does not require fancy memberships, crazy costumes (although these seem obligatory of late at major city marathons) or diabolic diets. In fact, I have often seen it as an antidote to an indulgent life-style and appetite.

Almost a decade ago, I pondered out loud what five reasons to start something might be – my muse came back promptly with the answer that you don’t need five reasons, just one – because you want to. Ever since, I have held on to the increasingly rare moments of clarity in my life, where starting something does not need to be predicated on much more than that.

This article was  first published in Hindustan Times’ LiveMint.

Anu Vaidyanathan is a lost sole moonlighting as a Cartesian co-ordinate from the 12th Parallel. She is the first Asian to compete at Ultraman Canada, having a 10Km swim, 420km bike and an 84.4km run. Her website is at Her book Anywhere But Home is out in two months. The link to pre-order this exclusive Hardcover copy is here: The discount code is: WILDCRAFT for an exclusive 15% discount on the signed copy


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