The Fastest Foreigner In Chennai

For the last 12 months I’ve been beating up my body on a near daily basis at the local gym and the results have been nothing short of spectacular. I can now do 8 1/2 press ups without pausing for breath and given enough time to recover I can go on to do another 6. I’m really getting my money’s worth out of it.

Every month the gym does challenges; a few months back it was the grand bake off and unsurprisingly the only entrants were the female members. Last month it was an Iron Core challenge which tests you inner core strength by seeing how long you can hold a position for before your body gives up. Core strength isn’t my forte, I’m more of the explosive push ups guy as mentioned above, so didn’t even try entering this challenge which is a good job because the winner lasted for over 6 minutes and I last about 30 seconds on a good day (which is actually an improvement from when I started).

Anyway, this months challenge was the 1KM run and when the details went up on the notice board I knew I’d kill it. You see, while I’m rather mocked on in the body building area of the gym, I kick ass in the cardio section.

I know this because the machines have very big touchscreens which displays all the important info and I’ve noticed that most people who go to my gym think they can shed weight by setting the resistance to level 0 and spending 10 minutes free wheeling, burning approximately 5 calories in the process. Even on the treadmill, people see it as an opportunity to catch up with the gossip on their mobile phones than a chance to get your sweat on. I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say that a sizable minority of gym goers spend 20 minutes on the treadmill doing nothing quicker than a brisk walk while chatting on the phone.

Since this was my competition I knew that the 1KM run challenge would be mine to own. When I do a cardio workout I go for maximum sweat and take the view that if you have the breath to talk you aren’t working hard enough. Sounds pretty hardcore, right? No dilly dallying on the phone, tough resistance on the machines – I’m there to lose weight.

“So Pete, are you going to do the 1KM challenge today” the instructor asked, “You bet your ironic pot belly I am, Mr Instructor” I replied, brimming with confidence of a challenge I already knew was mine. “What speed are you going to go at then?” “I’m going to open up full tilt and set it to 12 km/s” I said, waiting to see their look of shock and awe. Except it didn’t quite have the same effect I was hoping, “Oh, only 12 km/s, Peter? I thought foreigners are supposed to be fast.” Huh?! “The fastest person so far has run at 15 km/s” the instructor continued, my self assured cockiness was proving to be rather misplaced, “Umm, well, maybe we’ll start on 12 and see if we can go faster.” I said.

Since I was going to be running like a bat out of hell the instructor had to be there for supervision and I even had to use the safety clip so that if I tripped and went shooting off the back of the treadmill at least it wouldn’t keep going with no one on it.

The challenge started. The belt began to roll and it climbed up to my target speed of 12 km/h which is actually the fastest I’ve ever had it. “Shall we try for 13?” the instructor asked after 30 seconds, I nodded my head, so far it wasn’t too bad. After 60 seconds the instructor asked if I wanted to go to 13.5, I nodded in agreement. Another 30 seconds and he asked if I wanted to go to 14. I hesitated. The instructor took this as a yes and increased the speed, I was now 2 minutes in to the challenge and beads of sweat started to form down the side of my head. According to the computer I’d done a little under 400m. I could feel my heart banging away inside me.

“I think you can go to 14.5” the instructor said, I glanced at the instructor and tried to communicate that I was more likely to juggle snowballs on a cold day in hell before I could get to 14.5, I think he is telepathic because he moved his finger away from the speed button.

3 minutes completed. By now the beads of sweat had become well established gushing rivers and my heart was pounding like crazy. I could feel my knees losing their strength and felt that they could buckle at any time. I checked the distance, 700m, still another 300m to go.

My breathing was now short and heavy. A sickly feeling was growing in my stomach. My chest started to have a prickly pain. I felt sure my knees would buckle under me at any moment. 100 metres to go. I was gasping for breath. My ankle faltered and I nearly tripped. And then…

The instructor hit the stop button, I had done my 1 KM run. I thought I would kill it, but it ended up nearly killing me. I fought for some breath and looked at the time, 4 minutes 26 seconds. Not flipping bad I thought, or probably thought because mostly I was thinking about the sick feeling in my stomach and the weakness in my knees.

“Well done, Pete!” The instructor said, “Great job, give me five!”, I didn’t have the energy to raise my hand, “Am I the fastest so far?” I asked between shallow, rasping breaths. “No, Pete, the fastest so far is 3 minutes 50 seconds.” My face must have looked crestfallen so he added “But don’t worry we’ll add a new section to the competition and you can be the fastest foreigner”.

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