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)

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.