I have a marathon next month in Canberra, the capital city of Australia with a population of about one-tenth of Sydney – perfect for holding a 42.2km race without the need to disturb any traffic or anyone.
In preparation for this event (my second attempt at the distance), I decided to go for a long 24km run this afternoon. Not nearly enough but neither is the availability of time, what with my weekend bathing duties with the kids and the witching hour that is dinner.
At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, it is amazing how far I have come though. If someone had told me in 2006 when I picked up running again, that I would reach a stage where 24km of non-stop pounding of the pavement and the heart will become as nonchalant a task as cleaning the car, I would have laughed at his face. I still remember the enormous struggle I had just to run 4km in those early days, and suffering the next morning as if I had done 40.
Looking back, the journey from then and now has been an arduous one, littered with excruciating physical and mental experiences. There was a time when no matter how hard I tried, my running not only didn’t improve, but got worse, in terms of speed and/or the way I felt after each outing.
I also went through a foolish stretch where I wasted time reading “How to run faster, better, stronger, sexier” books, just to learn the basics of this exercise.
There was even a period I seriously doubted whether I was cut out for running, as niggling injuries sprouted all over my body (knees, feet, rib cage, hips, you name it), while mentally I was forever thinking of walking in the middle of races.
However, I persevered. I did so for one and only one reason – I just love running.
It gives me something to look forward to. It provides an outlet for me to contemplate and to put into perspective all the shit that goes on in life – the menial stuff that I am the world heayweight champion at sweating over. And despite the infuriating way that running often goes pear-shaped (especially in races), I just keep on coming back for more, for no other reason than because I am deeply and weirdly attached to it.
The funny thing is, I picked up running back in 2006 when my elder son was born. I picked up the intensity when his brother joined us 2 years later. While ostensibly I started running so as to get some “me time” away from the rigours of raising these two, everything that I said above about running is equally and eerily applicable to my feelings about parenthood.
After all, who in his or her right mind would pick up parenting as a voluntary exercise, unless he or she is bat-shit crazy about the joys of raising children?
And who in his right mind would volunteer to run 24km on a Saturday afternoon, in preparation to run almost twice that distance in a few weeks’ time, unless he is bat-shit crazy about the joys of putting one foot in front of another with joggers on.
Keep on pounding.