I ran into him recently. Or perhaps I should say he ran into me; I merely walked into it, unawares. Sunlight was slanting at the right angle through the leaves, the sky was the correct shade of blue, the trees had breathed out a fresh consignment of oxygen and I had hit that point in my exercise where one feels like a well-oiled machine. Then he came jogging up and told me that “only old people walk” and that at my age, I should be running. I patiently explained that walkers are not lazy runners, that I hate running and love walking, that the health benefits can be accrued either way and everyone must do the exercise that gives them pleasure. In response, he started to give me tips on “transitioning” to running. When he urged me to use an upcoming marathon as my goal, he confirmed what I’d suspected all along – he’s a run-for-a-causer, close cousin of the candle-light-vigilante, so he wasn’t going to relinquish his righteous ignorance easily.
I explained much less patiently that re the marathon, I couldn’t imagine anything I was less interested in, except maybe skiing. He gave me a pep talk on saving the planet. I asked him sweetly how him running a marathon was saving the planet. He side-stepped the question like a good evangelist should, switching to a discourse on carbon footprints. I reminded him that a marathon involved ambulances, TV and refreshment vans, sponsors’ vehicles, track-keepers’ cars, police motorcycles, thousands of little plastic water cups and the garbage trucks that presumably needed to come after. He called me a cynic and said that India needed more believers. I told him India’s problem was too many believers. And added that I could argue for the Olympics, so he should just move on. And set a good example by moving on myself.
I wish I’d thought to ask him what he meant by “old people”, considering the oldest cyclist on the 900-km Tour of Nilgiris was 60. But I did manage to out-holy him a few days later – I met him buying bread and found that he drove one kilometre to do it, whereas I had walked two. Idiot.
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