“Running’s not as hard as you think it is” - trailing together with post-run samosas
In the fifth and final of our series, woo and New Balance meet Jag, who’s part of London’s Sikhs in the City
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Against the backdrop of east London’s surprisingly expansive green spaces and parks, the fifth and final in woo x New Balance’s Run Your Way series takes us to Barking.
This time we see illustrator and designer Jasmin Sehra get down to some ground-stomping runs with the help of Jag Bassi, who’s been running with Sikhs in the City for over a decade. Founded by a group of older Sikhs (all aged 79-88!) Sikhs in the City has expanded to include people of all ages and ethnicities. The idea is to bring health and wellbeing to the local community in Ilford, East London, and show running to be inclusive and welcoming to all backgrounds and ages.
We caught up with Jag to find out how his running club addresses mental health stigmas, brings a community together and how heavy metal amps him up.
Jag first got into running through a charity colour run for an unwell friend: “One of my friends and his sister were doing the Colour Run, which is the 5k run, raising money for Cancer Research. They asked me if I wanted to join and I was like ‘Yeah, I’ll do it!’. I’ve been interested in running ever since.”
Soon, he discovered longer runs existed: “I discovered the marathon completely by accident: my train didn’t stop at the station it was meant to stop at, instead it went off to another one, the same day it was the London marathon. I always assumed that when running a marathon, you don’t stop, but obviously you can – I just didn’t know this at the time and knowing it made me feel better. So I did my first Colour Run and after that, I started training for a 10k.”
He wasn’t always that committed to the run though, admitting that, “I wasn’t consistent with my training, it was like once a week here and there. But once I started doing the parkrun, that’s what really put my thoughts into perspective. I thought, ‘if I’m going to get good at this, or if i want to get good at it, I’m going to have to put some effort in.’”
He then met with Sikhs in the City, discovering it through the man who trained one of the oldest marathon runners in the world. “He was telling me, ‘I was the one that trained him, I’m also the president for the club if you’re interested.’ From there I just joined a training session, enjoyed it, and then decided to be a full time member.”
And now Jag’s a huge advocate of the running group: “The best part about where I run is the people I get to meet along the way. I’ve got so many runner mates now, because the running community here has actually grown since I first started 10 years ago, as more people are becoming interested in running. There’s lots of newbies who end up getting the running bug. The people are definitely the most exciting part, because I never know who I’m going to meet or who's going to become my new training partner.”
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He sees the world differently when running, too: “My senses are heightened when I run; I have to be wary of my surroundings. Not just because of lampposts - I have actually run into lampposts a few times - but because I’m just lost in thoughts. Predominantly I watch out for potholes, cars, any people around me – so I would say my senses are super heightened, I see everything a lot more clearly visually. I need to in order to have a slow and easy ride.”
Lampposts be warned, Jag is now up for all sorts of runs, including ultra-marathons: “The longest run I’ve ever done is 100 miles and though I tend not to listen to music during ultras – I get bored too easily - I really like listening to heavy metal on a run. It just distracts me, keeps me going and gives me that motivation and pump.”
Jag is clearly great at running on his own, and needs little encouragement, but when running with Sikhs in the City, he sees the benefits of teamwork: “Running on your own is just good self-therapy, you get to unwind, listen to your favourite music or your surroundings. But when you’re running in a club, you get to meet like-minded people, and meet a running buddy – people you can train with.”
There can even be pros to running with people either faster or slower than you: “Obviously you will meet people that can run much better than you, but they can be your target, someone that you want to try and keep up with. They can be your pacemaker, which is good for speed and endurance training. That’s something you wouldn’t get when running alone, unless you’re imagining something in front of you that you are chasing.”
“This is what I used to do at parkrun when I first started – I would choose someone as my pacemaker in front of me, and make sure that I could just about see them in my line of sight. Eventually, I was able to get quicker and quicker, improving my time overall. You have someone to talk with as well. It just helps with the run – running is an exercise, and not everyone enjoys it. But running while talking to someone makes the time pass so quickly, and before you realise it, the exercise is done.”
Best of all, after Sikhs and the City go for a run, the community spirit is kept alive by people serving the community, handing out drinks and even post-run samosas. And as he explains to Jasmin, the group works to help get Sikhs talking to each other, particularly about mental health, an issue which is often stigmatised in the community.
As Jag tells Jasmin in woo x New Balance's video: “Mental health is not really considered, but we talk about whatever’s going on, and before you know it by the end of a run you just end up feeling so much better”.
This article has been brought to you in partnership with New Balance, which is working to get people on the move with its 2023 TCS London Marathon range.
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