Ever since I started running, I’ve always wondered what people think about when they run. Especially those who run for hours and hours on end. Those who run marathons. How do they pass the time? What goes through their minds?
I’d signed up for races because I wanted a new challenge, and because I needed a distraction. Precisely because I know it will be more mentally demanding than physical, that’s why I’m doing it. Training for the races gives me something else to focus on.
I spent the first day of 2011 ill in bed. Then I popped two paracetemols, rolled out of bed and ran a 10K on the second day.
10K is the furthest and longest I’ve run yet.
I wasn’t looking forward to it too much because I hadn’t been training. My left leg had been mysteriously hurting so much that each time I tried, I ended up limping home. Together with having been feverish, I thought that I’d just show up at the start line, jog/hop/walk the course, pick up my free t-shirt, and then come home.
But when I got there, the buzz was unexpectedly EXCITING. For some reason, a thousand people milling about on a cold January morning getting their shirt-and-chip packs, changing shoes, shedding layers, and going through luggage storage is actually terribly exciting! Ok, to a seasoned runner, this is probably a scene they’ve seen a thousand times. But to me, there was this electrifying buzz in the air and it got my adrenaline pumping.
After a bit of spying at people from a distance, I figured out how to put my chip on my shoes and how long I can keep my layers on until I really really have to give them to luggage storage and stand in the cold jacket-less.
After a bit of warming up (which involved copying what other people were generally doing), we were told to get to the starting line, someone counted the seconds down, and the gun went off – and nothing happened.
That’s coz I was right at the back of the pack.
It took about a minute of very slow shuffling before I actually got to the start line.
The route was right along the waterfront, all by the sea, which made for really nice scenery. After passing the start line, it was very hard not to surge ahead with everyone else. I had to keep telling myself to slow down, repeating to myself, “You’re gonna have to do this for an hour at least. Imagine running for an hour. You’ve never run for an hour before. Can you last an hour at this pace?” And I held back. At the same time, I kept waiting for the leg pain to hit. It was almost as if I was wishing it’ll hit so I can give up.
To my astonishment, this pain that’s been bugging me for at least 2 weeks – it never came!
At 0:30:48, I hit the 5K mark and noted that I felt surprisingly fresh. I’d already passed lots of people. Since my leg seemed ok, I decided then that my goal was to finish the course within one hour. I increased my speed slightly.
After about 7K, it started becoming difficult. I was running too fast and I was feeling it. I continued to pass more people. I kept a look out for women who seemed to be in my age group and made an effort to chase them down. In the last 2K, I gave it all I had left. My watch was counting down and I was determined to finish within the hour. By then, things were starting to really hurt.
I crossed the finish line at 0:58:02. I made it!
I thought about what I thought about while I was running. I remember looking at my watch. I remember telling myself to slow down. I remember passing water stations and grabbing plastic cups and attempting to drink while keeping my stride. I failed and spilled water down my front. Some lady cheering on the roadside told me to dump it. I dumped it and ran on with water dribbling down my chin. I passed another lady who was clapping us on. The other runners ignored her. I was delighted to have a supporter, even if she was just a stranger. I gave her a high-five.
Most of all, I was replaying the song “Try” from Fame in my head. (I know, amazing taste in music.) Over and over and over again, and thought about how proud Nasty would be of me, mostly because of how much I used to complain about running (and still do).
I finished the race. I saw everyone who’s finished standing in a queue. So I joined the line. I had no bloody idea what I was queuing for. I eventually got to the end of the it and someone put a banana and a bottle of water in my hands. Worth queuing for, I must say.
I found an empty chair, sat down, and for the first time since I finished, really looked around. It felt like everyone had someone waiting for them at the finish. I was estatic that I’ve finished. I’ve run the longest I’ve ever run and I was extremely proud of myself.
But there was no one to share it with. Nasty would be so proud of me, I thought. And then I felt despaired – while you’re trying to do something as a distraction, it’s precisely what you wanted to be distracted from that you think about the most.
I’m running for all the wrong reasons, aren’t I? I’ve read somewhere that, instead of running away from something, you should run towards something.
I ran away from Christmas. Now I’ve run away from New Year’s. I’m still running.