the runs

[Picture by DC Runographer]

I had been waiting a long time for this moment. It usually hit me around the end of April & December every year, but when end-2010 and April 2011 passed by with nary a whisper of the moment, I began to get really worried. Was I doomed to be an eternal sloth? Was all my equipment going to junk-sale heaven? Was I growing to become like my dad’s sisters, whose only source of entertainment was eating and gossiping? Thank God then, that it finally happened tonight.

Yes, I am inspired to start running again.

[Picture by DC Runographer]

It’s not for the fact that the half-marathon is a mere month away and I haven’t trained at all. Neither is it because I need to be slimmer, want a cathartic channel, or that I saw my flabby reflection in the train windows. None of those things propel me off the chair and on to the tracks. Even when I’m in the midst of a run, competition is the last thing that urges me across the finish line. If anything, seeing others get all sweaty and glow-y with their sense of accomplishment makes me want to sink deeper into my metaphoric couch.

No. The one thing that inspired me was the idea that I could take pictures while running.

I know, it sounds odd. But runography (it has a name!) has actually been around since… well, since the iPhone met the runner, though the term was crystallized by John Wood, an amazing photographer (just click on his name to view his feed).

And I think it sounds just brilliant – combining my love of photos with the need to be distracted while I run. But honestly, the thing I loved most was finding out that someone else out there was a complaining runner.

Every blog I read about running is all about how exhilarating pounding the pavement can be. It made me want to give up because even though I do love running, I usually hold dialogues with myself – stuff that I dare not put in print as they consist of complaints, curses or general bitching about my fellow runners. It’s fun. It’s motivating. And… it’s how I get through my weekly 10k.

The DC Runographer’s blog is therefore, my savior tonight.

[Picture by DC Runographer]

His pictures are gorgeous, his stories, hilarious. The fact that he’s serious about running is also very inspiring. After reading his blog, I actually began missing my dear old Asics shoes & Nike shorts! Taking them out of the cupboards, I think I heard them sigh with relief when I said, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow morning darlings.’

I haven’t quite found a solution for a few things though:

  1. How am I going to run with an iPhone in hand? I have a tiny shuffle that I clip on to my top because my hand usually grips a towel.
  2. How am I going to take nice pictures? I usually run at night. No nice flares there, and I might need to battle with low light conditions.
  3. Is there a way to be subtle, if I need to stop to take a picture? I’m shy. I run alone. My area is crowded with people at all times of the day. I might end up looking like a fool.

I guess I’ll find a solution somehow, with a little experimentation. It doesn’t quell the urge to lace up and sweat it out though. Not one bit. I’m just happy that the moment finally arrived.

I’m going running again.

PS. Am I the only one who thinks that the word run looks funny?

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huffing and puffing song

I have found the perfect song that defines my running attitude from the 8km marker onwards. It’s extremely poetic, consisting of a few words that anyone can hum along to when they’re huffing and puffing away.

‘F%$k it, f%#k it, f%#k it, f%#k it!’

I know many say that encouraging remarks helps one to cross that mental barrier we face when we hit a wall. ‘Picture yourself running with ease’ or ‘ tell yourself you can do this! You can make it!’ and I’ve tried all that. None of it works. Chanting the above in sync with my footsteps however, causes me to smirk. And that propels me forward.

Especially if I meet Red Runner again.

I saw her last night, as I did my circles around the pond and for the first few rounds, we were in sync. She was running the other way around the course and we crossed each other at the same points for the first three rounds. Our only difference? I was struggling while she was obviously doing an easy pace. I hated her for that.

‘Damn it,’ I muttered to myself as I struggled to bring air into my wretched lungs. I dreaded seeing her again, which I did, unfortunately, as I walked around the circuit. I could have sworn I saw a gloat in her demeanor as she flew past me, over and over again.

‘F%$k it, f%#k it, f%#k it, f%#k it!’ Daftpunk was never more eloquent.

*

The longer I run, the faster I run out of things to think about. Try sitting in a chair and staring at a wall for two hours. Wonderful, isn’t it? Even the usual stories I make up about other people turn into sarcastic commentaries as I begin to find little things about my random companions annoying.

That said, I love every passerby with all my heart. They are a good break from the tedium and monotony of putting one foot in front of the other.

Yes, even Red Runner – god bless her darling heart.

I wonder what she does on a normal day?

*

So Smiley said that my knees hurt purely because it’s doing more than it ever did before.

‘You just need to recover. Take it easy this week and slowly build up your stamina and strength again,’ he said.

‘But they ache all the time,’ I whined.

‘You just did a 10k run last week,’ he stated. ‘It’s more than you ever did before. Just relax…’

Has it only been a week? But yes, Smiley is right. I did a little more reading today and found out that these aches and pains are normal. I, being the over-dramatic person that I am, have been entertaining images of me injured, over my short runs. Forgetting the simple fact that prior to this season, the only running I ever did was to walk quickly in my heels to the office was I was late. I didn’t even break into a jog to catch the train/bus, always preferring to take the next one that came along.

Right. So there’s nothing to worry about. It’s just… pain.

Altogether now, ‘Pain is inevitable. Suffering, optional.’

Now where’s Daftpunk?

a wedgie of a problem

No! No! No! No! No!

I just came back from a run and although my knees didn’t feel awful while I was out on the track, they ached when I climbed the stairs up to my apartment. To be honest, they ache all the time, especially when I wear heels. And I wear wedges and platforms a lot (they are my magic ‘fat-day’ solution). Thinking that I’d better do a little research on the types of exercises I need to strengthen them, I found out something I wish I hadn’t.

Now we all know heels are bad. Whatever. The results (I tell myself everyday I come home with sore feet) are worth tottering around on my 4-inch wedges. But in a study performed in 2001, both American and UK scientists found that compared to thin heels (killer stilettos), thicker heels actually put more stress on the knees as it adds way more pressure on your quadriceps – 30% more than walking barefoot – which in turn, deteriorates the health of your knees.

Their advice?

Wear trainers, walk to work and lose weight.

What the… ?!

No. I cannot accept that. I am going to work on strengthening my knees with exercises that sound very futuristic instead.

Every morning now, I shall devote at least 15 minutes to 3-D Matrix Hops, 3-D Matrix Lunges, Single-leg Balance Squats, Mirror Matrix and Two-legged Jumping. I will put my row of wedges in a line and stare at them (in case I lose the will to do the work) and do this for my shoes.

Oh yes, and for my knees too.

*sob*

This cannot be happening…

Just in case though, I have planned a week’s worth of outfits that match flats instead. I guess a part of me does recognize that when I wear the heels, my knees do ache that little bit more. I was just hoping it was my imagination.

(See the original BBC report here)

*

When I began overhauling the state of my health life, I never expected that it’d extend into my wardrobe. You see, like any other girl, I love my clothes and shoes. I have carefully collected a very wide selection of garments that span almost 15 years of devotion to personal style.

My wardrobe now takes up an entire room and to be honest, there’s not enough space there. My clothes have somehow creeped into other parts of the house and there are pieces of random jackets, tops, dresses and bags hanging everywhere. This has been made worse by the recent renovation works I had to accommodate in the bedroom/closet.

When I began running, I realized with a little sadness that I stopped styling myself every morning. There were days when I was contented to leave the house in a simple top, cardigan and jeans, sans my arm-filled bangles and various accessories. These things became less important as I focused more on preparing a healthy breakfast before I left the house.

I used to rush out in a hurry after spending almost an hour dolling myself up. Now, I spend about 20 minutes extra in bed, 20 minutes on myself and 20 minutes on breakfast. I have become (horrors!) a little slack in my personal style.

Now to lose my shoes too?

I guess I just have to ask myself… what’s important to me now?

*

My first thought as we confirmed our trip to Nepal (we’re doing the Annapurna circuit) was ‘how am I going to style my hair every morning? Can I bring my flat iron? Do they even have electricity in the cabins?’

Don’t mock me now.

what did I learn?

‘What did you learn over the weekend?’ I asked JapGirl.

‘I learnt not to assume that others see themselves the same way I see them. I also got me a lovely new book!’ she said, holding out a plain hardcover ring-bound set of brown papers. I oohed and aahed appropriately before bending downwards to sniff them.We both like papers. They make us high.

‘I like…’ I smiled.

‘What did you learn?’ she asked in return.

‘I realized that it’s great fun overtaking people when I run,’ I gleefully replied. ‘I also found out that it’s hard to drink water while running, how I need to start reading books again and that I truly love eating oatmeal.’

We do this every week with each other and it’s lovely to think back on a weekend gone by and recapture our ‘wow’ moments of revelation. Personally, I ask myself that same question too, every night I sit down to write.

What did I learn today?

*

I entered the derelict mall and wrinkled my nose in slight disgust. It reeked of old boiled soup, unwashed clothes and corners that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. Glancing at the scrawled unit number in my hand, I took the escalators and rode up to the second floor. I was on a hunt for new shoes.

My knees had been hurting the past two weeks after every run and I took it as a sign that I needed a new pair.

’02-35, this should be it,’ I murmured to myself as I stepped into a tiny cramped shop filled to the ceiling with shoes and running gear, and marveled at how one could ever keep track of anything in that space. There was barely any space to walk. Still, this place came highly recommended by The Sister’s podiatrist so there had to be some value in the chaos.

‘May I help you?’ A plumpish man dressed in shirt and pants asked me.

‘Yes, I’m looking to get fitted with a new pair of running shoes,’ I replied, ‘My current pair is a little worn out.’

‘Did you bring your old pair?’ He asked.

‘No… but they are Nike Zooms,’ I said.

‘Nikes, pfft. Those are only for looks. You know, they used to make really good running shoes but these days, they changed their marketing strategy and spend more time on superficial design. Come here and take off your shoes,’ he told me, ‘Now turn around and walk to the wall over there. Let me look at your gait.’

Obediently, I did as told and walked up and down the shop several times.

‘You have an arch but it tends to flatten when you place it on the ground. Basically, you over-pronate. You’ve also got very wide feet and your left foot’s big toe has already started to angle inwards,’ he said. Then grabbing a ladder, he climbed into a hole in the ceiling and disappeared for a while. When he returned, he handed me a pair of Asics.

‘Here, these should do well for you.’

I tried them on and honestly couldn’t tell the difference except that they felt more solid.

‘These will do you well for long-distance running,’ he explained. ‘Do your knees hurt when you run in your old pair?’

‘How did you know?’ I asked. At that moment, I felt as though he was god. Sure, it’s basic science and if I bothered to do a little more research, I’m sure I’d have found out the same things on my own but it felt good to get some advice.

‘Good thing you came. Otherwise, the next thing you’d face is very tired calves and back ache,’ he continued. Sheesh, I did suffer from tired calves after running. Sometimes, they felt so sore and tight I wondered if I was doing something wrong.

‘Come back after 8 months and bring your old pair with you. I’ll check how they wear out and see if you need something different,’ he said as I paid for the new shoes.

‘Does a person’s gait change, the more they run?’ I asked.

‘Yes, it can change. But I’ll be able to assess more accurately once I see how your shoes wear out. You say you land mid-foot and not on your heels?’ he asked. I nodded. ‘That’s actually a good thing. Makes for a speedy runner. Well, all the best and see you next year!’

Tonight, as I ran, my pace improved and I did an average of 1km in 6.9 minutes, an improvement from Sunday’s 7.5 minutes. And guess what? My knees didn’t hurt.

I like my new shoes.

*

‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.’

– Albert Einstein

What did I learn today?

I learnt that I tend to over-pronate when I run and that while the shoes didn’t necessarily improve my timing directly, it helped me believe I could go further, stronger… And sometimes, that’s all we need to do greater things – we need something to believe in.

My new shoes aren’t magic but they gave me confidence that I had a solution to my old problems and my new goal of finishing the next 10k run in under an hour is therefore, somehow… possible.

Belief. It’s strength for the mind.

And the mind? It propels the body and person to do things once thought unachievable. It’s that simple.

What do I believe then?

I believe… I can fly.

*

What have you learnt today?

virgin run

‘No… not yet…’ I looked at my alarm with bleary eyes. It read 4.45am. Out of sheer habit, I snoozed it and rolled over. ‘Just five more minutes…’ I said to my conscience.

Fifteen minutes later, I scared the Husband when I sat up with a shout.

‘Darn it! The run is today!’

My warm-ups began then, as I ran to the bathroom to wash up, out to the kitchen to make a healthy oatmeal-banana meal, back to the bedroom to change into my running outfit and pack my bags. By then, it was already 5.45am, and Pale Beauty was waiting downstairs in the car.

I was almost out of the door when I remembered my race kit so I charged back into the bedroom, grabbed the still-unopened bag and dashed out of the house. Panting, I entered the car and sighed. It didn’t bode very well for my virgin run.

I tried to read the instructions for tying the electronic sensor onto my shoes when I realized that every girl in the car was dressed in green – the official running attire for the day.

‘Wait, are we supposed to wear the tee-shirt they gave?’ I asked them.

‘No, I don’t think so… but since they gave it to us, why not?’ Pale Beauty answered.

Right. Back to tying the sensor and pinning my number tag onto my purple top. I surreptitiously eyed the other girls in the car and they all looked fit, tanned and experienced. I looked back at my legs and could have sworn they glowed under the lights of passing streetlamps.

‘Umm… am I the only one here who hasn’t run before?’ I asked.

‘Well, the last girl we’re picking up hasn’t run before so I don’t think you’re alone,’ Pale Beauty answered as she nearly swerved into another car. ‘Oops, sorry. I can’t multi-task when I’m driving…’

‘I did a biathlon this year and a half-marathon last year,’ Ms X replied. ‘But I don’t think I’ll do too well today because I got a cold.’

‘What about you?’ I asked Liz, who was sitting beside me.

‘I’ve run before, nothing competitive, just to finish the race. Did you train for this?’ she asked me.

Snapshots of my mid-night practices and trails flashed across my mind, as did images of me gasping for breath.

‘I ran a little… but have never actually completed running 10k,’ I answered.

‘Oh you’ll be okay. It’s not that hard. Just walk if you can’t do it,’ she smiled.

We finally reached the start point 15 minutes before flag-off and there was a scurry to find an empty washroom. While the girls lined up, I stood at the side, watching the thousands of girls in green, feeling intimidated. I didn’t even dare stretch in case I looked like an inexperienced fumbling idiot. Every girl just looked so… good. I quietly hid myself behind some women and snuck in a few ankle rolls and calf stretches.

Over at the starting line, the deejays were warming the crowd up with exercises, while some performing cheerleaders did their stunts. As each minute passed and the girls weren’t back from the washrooms, I felt more and more vulnerable. I heaved a sigh of relief when I finally saw them walk over to where I was hiding.

‘They’re starting!’ Pale Beauty exclaimed. ‘Ooh, let’s take some pictures!’

‘Umm… let’s not?’ I gave a wry smile. ‘How about after the race? Then it’ll be more meaningful,’ I suggested, thinking of offering to be the photographer then.

‘Ok, that’s a good idea,’ she said as we started jogging to the start line.

‘Do you want to keep pace with each other?’ I asked her. I was actually a little worried that I might not find her at the end of the race. The place was akin to salmon laying eggs on a river bed. There were too many people who all looked alike, clamouring for a space in our tiny running stream. I didn’t have a phone and my bag was in her car.

‘You don’t run fast do you?’ she looked worried, ‘I didn’t train for this at all.’

‘Trust me, I don’t,’ I smiled.

We set off and I’ll be honest, it was easy. It didn’t feel any different from my usual practices. I had to ease into my stride and by the 2k mark, it was pure rhythm. It was also extremely fun, weaving in and out of people, overtaking them one by one (ah, such infantile pride!) and the usual warnings to not go too fast at the start? No problem. Like I said, I don’t run fast.

Helpers were lined up along the roads to direct the human traffic and we both skipped the 3k water break. At the 6k water station though, we grabbed a cup each and tried to drink while jogging. Hopeless. The liquid sloshed everywhere except into my mouth. I finally stopped to gulp down the water and then with a nod, Pale Beauty and I continued to slowly overtake the runners, one-by-one.

I finally hit a mental wall at the 8k mark. I say mental because I’m pretty sure my body could have gone on longer but never did so when I trained. Frustrated, I changed music and remembered why I was running.

‘Enjoy yourself,’ I heard the Dream Maker’s voice. And so I did. I watched other runners, looked at the trees, wondered about each person’s history and even had a quick chat with Pale Beauty. Then I saw several runners I’d overtaken earlier on pass me by. Inspired, I began running again. This time, I focused on nothing else but putting one foot ahead of the other.

Past the 9k mark, I started walking. ‘I give up,’ I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ll be the last.’ What fine aspirations I had.

Of all times for someone to recognize me? It was then. I heard a woman call out my name and when I looked up, she clapped her hands.

‘Come on! You can do it! Run!’ she hollered in what I assume was her encouraging cheer.

Right. I gritted my teeth and began a painful, slow jog to the finish line.

‘There, look,’ Pale Beauty pointed at the photographers waiting. ‘Whatever you do, look good.’

I burst out laughing as we crossed the finish line at 1hr 15 minutes.

If there’s a photo of me out there, I’m sure it captured the essence of this experience.

It was a laugh.

*

The hardest part of the race wasn’t the running though. It was the collection of congratulatory gifts – a bag filled with freebies and a bracelet to say, ‘I did it!’ We stood in line for a really long time, stewing under the hot sun in our juices.

‘We stink,’ I said to one in particular.

‘But so does everyone else,’ Liz replied. ‘They won’t notice.’

It was then that we realized the other first-timer in our group huddled under a tree. She was suffering from nausea and could barely walk. We collected her things on her behalf and then, the day was over.

‘Are you going to run again?’ Liz asked me.

‘Yeah, I’ve got a half-marathon at the end of the year and my sister told me about another 10k run in October. I’m considering signing up for that one,’ I replied.

‘Absolutely no way,’ a tiny voice emanated from the still huddled form of the nauseated girl. ‘I will never run again…’

‘Really? As in never?’ I asked.

‘Well… okay. Maybe for a 5k, I will,’ she replied.

And that’s the beauty about these races. They are highly addictive.

*

‘I did it!’ I texted the Sister.

‘Oh great! How did it go?’ she texted back.

’10k in 1:15,’ I said.

‘That’s not too bad, for a first-timer,’ she replied.

Hmph, I thought. Not too bad? Hell, I finished! It was a miracle!

‘What’s good then?’ I asked her. I couldn’t resist.

‘Try to keep it under 1hr.’

A new sense of calm and determination suddenly came over me. I do have a competitive streak after all! I am going to beat the Sister at the next 10k. She’ll never know what hit her.

Well, at least that’s my goal. Whether it actually happens, I don’t know.

One thing’s for sure though… I’m perfecting my drinking whilst jogging move. So if you see a girl running with a folded paper cup, taking measured sips every few hundred metres or so, wave.

It might just be me.

iRun

I like to celebrate before I’ve actually done something successfully.

It’s nice to savour the moment of decision, plunging ahead into the unknown where you don’t know what the results will be. Of course, when I’m thrown into a project and scrambling to break through the waters for a quick breath, I don’t get that chance to celebrate. However, when the decision to do something rests in my hands…

I celebrate.

I am going to run my first race tomorrow. I put that word in italics because truthfully, I won’t actually be racing against anyone. I just want to get to the finish line in one piece, and as long as I’m not the last person doing it, I’m happy.

I’ve been holding on to my white iPod nano (one of the most thoughtful gifts from Spike) and actually enjoy taking it with me while I run as I imagine my muscles working that little bit harder… but I thought that maybe, it was time to get another smaller one. It was almost perfect timing when DigiBoy called me from the Apple Shop in Houston.

I missed that call but he helped me one anyway, since he knew I’d been eyeing the latest stainless steel version. And so, today, I got my new baby.

Isn’t she a sparkling beauty?

Even better, I met Pale Beauty at an open mic event and she offered to pick me up early in the morning. We’ll set off at 5.45am (ack!) and hopefully, be at the start line 30 minutes before flag off, with ample time to warm up. I am going to head to bed early today to try for a full 7 hours of sleep.

I’m actually doing it. My first official run in… 17 years.

‘You don’t look like someone who runs!’ Trish, a makeup artist laughed when she heard about my plans for tomorrow. ‘A race for the best shopping maybe, but run? Why?’

‘Well… I thought it’d be nice to do something I’d never done before,’ I answered.

‘That’s a good reason,’ she nodded.

‘I walked yesterday!’ piped up the Designer.

‘Oh really? That’s great! Are you into exercise?’ I asked, looking at him as he set up the lights for our photo-shoot.

‘I used to be, until my body couldn’t take it anymore.’ He said. ‘It’s a miracle I’m walking today, that’s what the doctor said to me.’

‘What happened?’ I couldn’t imagine what type of sport he once did to warrant such extreme accidents.

‘I jumped out of a plane but my parachute wasn’t working well that day. I broke my spine and was told that I’d be crippled for life. Guess the doc was wrong,’ he smiled. ‘Before that, I also broke a couple of bones, twisted both ankles at least ten times each, tore more than five ligaments in various parts of my body… I guess I just get too excited when I do sports.’

‘How about swimming? That’s a low impact thing you could do…’ I suggested.

‘Ah… if there’s one thing I detest, it’s to get into the water,’ he wrinkled his nose, ‘so now, I walk.’

‘Let’s celebrate!’ I said.

‘I already did. I bought myself the iPad,’ he chuckled.

*

Baby steps after a fall.

Haruki Murakami was right. Pain is inevitable but suffering? It’s optional.

Pain comes in all forms, physical or emotional but whether we resign ourselves to a state of suffering, or we get up and walk on is another thing.

Doing this run tomorrow is monumental to me.

I signed up alone – and no longer fear being independent. I don’t need to wait for others till I make a decision, something that I used to do. I don’t need to fear failure, a bad trait I have as the perfectionist in me wants to only do things in which I know I’ll succeed. I may flail and flounder in an environment that’s unfamiliar but for once, I’m getting out of my comfort zone and reaching out for goals that I don’t need to conquer. This is a goal I just want to accomplish, for myself.

I got more disciplined in training for the run. In the past, I relied a lot on others to do the research and pull together plans while I lazily went along with them. This time, I actually got off my ass to make things happened. I went to the library, read a few books, bought a couple of magazines, subscribed to newsletters… all to familiarize myself with this thing called running. Oh yes, and I actually ran too.

The best part of it all? I made new friends. Friends who love running too. Friends who offer tips, advice and support. It’s a weird, wonderful feeling. My world has grown that little bit bigger.

And to think it all started with a question that Smiley asked me months ago…

‘I just signed up for the marathon in December. Are you going?’ He texted me.

‘Yeah, I think I will,’ I replied.

I immediately went to the website and for some strange reason, signed up for the half-marathon (I’m not that ambitious! Baby steps, remember?) and was subsequently hit by fear. ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’ I gasped at the laptop screen.

Since then, I signed up for an easier run (tomorrow’s) and have entered this new world that really, dear reader, is exquisite.

Amazing then, what putting one foot in front of the other can yield.

I am a runner, albeit a slow one.

But unashamedly so.

*

Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game. Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap.

I’m through accepting limits coz someone says they’re so. Some things I cannot change but till I try, I’ll never know…

So if you care to find me, look to the western sky. As someone told me lately, ‘Everyone deserves the chance to fly’. And if I’m flying solo, at least I’m flying free. To those who’d ground me, take a message back from me. Tell them how I am defying gravity, I’m flying high…

– Defying Gravity (from Wicked, the musical)

a penny-rich life

When was the last time you observed an ant carry a crumb off your dining table, stopped to watch the clouds move across the sky, or watched a feather flutter in the wind?

Do we miss the pennies lying along the road because we’re too focused on the dollars we want to make? Have we lost the wonder of the penny moments?

I asked myself these questions as I ran today, watching the people going past me. I was trying to distract myself from the pain and torment of running again, after a two week break. Every step I took was agonizing and I asked myself why I was putting myself through this. It seemed as though all those weeks of running prior to my holiday had evaporated into nothingness. Discouraged, I was just about to stop when I decided to look at the world I was passing by.

And all of a sudden, wonder hit me.

There were the huge rats that scampered near the drains, a large grey cat that sat watching me as it cleaned itself, the cool wind that brushed against my skin and the quiet rippling pond that glimmered beneath the moon. It was all so beautiful. I watched the lovey-dovey couples make out on the benches and made up stories about their relationship. There were three men sitting along the edge of the pond, with fishing gear; did they catch any fish? I evaluated the dressing styles of the other runners and tried to guess which were training for marathons, running to lose weight or running because their partner wanted to and they didn’t have a choice.

I watched them leave as I kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Before I knew it, I’d run for an hour.

I slowed down to a walk, changed music and began to dance around the now empty track.

My penny moments had accumulated into a priceless moment. I hadn’t quit.

*

Every morning, I take the train and observe the people in my carriage. I ask myself if they feel the wonder of life in their existence. Then I look into my reflection on the glass doors and see that my face mirrors theirs exactly. That’s when I break into a smile.

I don’t want to be cynical. I want to be easily awed by every moment that happens – whether good or bad. I want to take delight in the simple things. Like today:

I celebrated when the cleaners did a good job with the toilets in my office. It felt wonderful to step into a fresh-smelling cubicle.

I cheered when we found a table to eat at during lunch, when the food tasted delicious and when my coffee was made perfectly.

I laughed when I found out that I’d been eating expired bread (3 days gone) and sulked when I had a tummy ache after a slice.

I gushed with the video editor over the musical – Wicked, excitedly recalling the moments we enjoyed the most, re-enacting our favourite lines and singing our favourite songs.

I think I overdid it a little when I celebrated a new administrative project that I got landed with. It is not fun. But what the heck.

I shared with everyone the comments I received from the magazine editor regarding my two articles, happy that she liked the concept a lot, although it might get trashed because she wanted a more ‘serious’ tone.

When I finally took the train home, I felt fulfilled although the day was not extraordinarily special. I’d made the moments mean something to me and in doing that, life became precious.

‘Wealth means nothing at all if you do not know, to the last penny, what your fortune is. You might as well be poor if you do not know what you have.’

– Philippa Gregory

What were the special moments you had today?

I’ll give you a penny for your thoughts…

in a nutshell

Too many stories, too little time.

Rain, changed plans from adventure trail to indoor playground.

Rush, run, scream, play, laugh, talk, quarrel, hug, climb, tumble, hungry.

Eat largest ice-cream sundae we’ve ever seen.

House, watch movies, good conversations, Australian footie, share music.

Supper, pizza, fruits, dessert.

Heavy eyelids, drained, cuddle, cab ride home.

End of day. Beginning of new adventures.

*

I have to sleep and get ready for an early morning run tomorrow. The need to run has gone beyond a desire to complete the marathon because I split a pair of skinny jeans on Wednesday, and busted the zipper on my shorts on Friday. Not good.

‘Dear, did I put on weight?’ I ask the Husband, holding up my torn clothing.

‘Nah,’ he replies without looking up. ‘I’m sure they are just old, that’s why they tore.’

‘You didn’t even look at me!’ I say, frowning as I stare at my belly.

‘Okay, maybe you have gotten a little rounder but it’s okay! No one will notice.’

‘Sure. The jeans and shorts tell a good enough story though,’ I whine.

‘Not if you keep quiet and resist writing about this,’ he smirks.

Bah.

*

The more I resist food, the greater the urge to eat.

And so, I run.

*

Me. On the trails tomorrow. Note the frown of determination.

*

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my life in a nutshell.

Feeling like a nut.

the trail of love

We hit the trails today at 10am.

Looking at the other runners doing their stretches, I felt intimidated. They were all tanned and muscular, kitted out in the latest running gear, while there I was dressed in a grey worn out tank top, borrowed from The Husband.

‘I haven’t run in ages…’ I said to The Grouch.

‘It’s easy,’ he encouraged me. ‘It’s all about keeping on, through the tiredness, don’t walk, just keep lifting those knees.’

Right. Easy. I didn’t for one moment believe him.

We set off on an easy brick road that wound around the waters, dodging walkers, serious runners and sweaty humans who’d just finished something intense and were cooling off. Within a few minutes, we entered a canopy of trees. This was where it all began.

We jogged uphill, trying not to slip on the muddy ground, whilst avoiding the roots, rocks and random insects, lizards and monkeys. It was painful going up and down… and within 15 minutes, I was spent.

‘How long is this trail again?’ I panted.

‘Don’t know. But don’t worry, you won’t feel it because really, it’s easy,’ he answered.

I huffed and puffed in reply.

‘Hey… you run as though it’s really difficult…’ he looked over at me.

‘It is, darn it!’ I managed to reply. ‘But I love it.’

And I did. Nothing compares to running in the woods. It was sheer exhilaration, looking at the trees we passed by, crossing wooden bridges, climbing portions that were too tough to run through… My legs were burning but inside, I felt like I was flying.

‘You see that dark patch in front?’ The Grouch pointed out to me. ‘It means… that we’ve finished the first bit of this trail.’

Gee, thanks. I thought he was going to say we were ending. Far from it, we were barely near the mid-point and I already wanted to crawl home.

We took a break 20 minutes later at the highest point of the trail to drink some water and stretch a little. I stood looking out over the top of the trees and breathed in deep.

‘The oxygen levels here are great,’ he said. ‘Although I find the trail boring.’

‘What?’ I turned to look at him. ‘You find this gorgeous trail… boring?! It’s beautiful!’

‘Gah… it’s just trees, trees and more trees. What’s interesting?’ he answered before starting to jog again. I did my best to keep up behind him as we entered the woods again, only to find ourselves by the roadside.

‘Shit,’ he muttered, ‘I think we took a wrong turn.’

I glared at him, but he didn’t see any of it as he took off running. We found another entry back into the woods and continued our course, dodging fresh runners, tourists and student groups… which signaled that we were back on track.

About 100 minutes later, we were done.

‘Hey… why did you ask me to run with you? When you obviously can run faster than me?’ I asked The Grouch.

‘Well, I haven’t run much this year and if I run with another guy, I got to keep up. With a girl, I’ll be faster and can feel good about myself,’ he laughed in reply.

I threw my sweaty towel at him.

But I am indebted, because through him, I have finally experienced a match made in heaven – a beautiful trail.

Slow, challenging and utterly addictive, I am heading back for more.

I’m now deeply in love and have decided to take this new relationship to the next level. I’m getting myself some nice running outfits.

*chuckle*

running

Don’t mock me.

The weather has been terrible – hot, humid, druggy – and I just could not find it within myself to leave the house to exercise. I have a mat, two sets of dumbbells, an exercise ball, a stationary bike and a trampoline in my house. So weather aside, I knew my reason for not exercising was just an excuse. I was running away from having to start… running.

Feeling severely lethargic, I was tearing off pages from magazines to fill my scrapbook when I chanced upon a recommended website. ‘Rated as the best online tool for diet and fitness!’ it proclaimed. Well, no harm trying… I thought to myself.

I joined the program. Like I said, do not mock. I really need all the help I can get.

But if you see me doing weird leg lifts on my chair during lunch, jumping and stretching… be a little understanding. Cheer me on. I’m taking baby steps in preparation for my eventual step on the track again, the mountain in October and maybe, just maybe, a marathon in December.

I will run. Just not today.

*

Running has always been more than an exercise to me.

Years ago, it was a symbol of survival.

I was facing severe challenges in life then, and short of cutting myself, I knew I had to find an outlet for the raging turmoil. I laced up and hit the track. The struggle for breath and the dull ache in my legs were such a beautiful release, a tangible battle I preferred to the unsaid fights in my mind.

I began running at least four times every week. Sometimes, more.

With amazing clarity, I can still recall a particularly difficult night when I seriously considered giving up the fight. I was ready to run away. I need to think, I thought to myself…

I walked to the tracks and began the journey, all the while crying out to the skies, hoping for a release, trying to find an answer, when the running grew difficult. I was entering my fifth round (longer than I’d ever done) and I heard the words rise up in me, ‘It only takes one step. Put one foot ahead of the other. Ignore the elements, the pain, the struggle, it won’t kill you. Keep putting that one step ahead of the next and you’ll get through.’

And I did.

That night, I finished my first ten kilometers.

That night, I chose to be a survivor in life.

*

‘It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive – or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.’

– Haruki Murakami

I think I’ll hit the tracks tomorrow.

It’ll be good to meet my old friend and companion.