Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Why do I run?

One of my favourite pictures of my son is a blurred one of him running. Not running to get anywhere. Not running as a part of a game or sport. Just running! The smile on his body says it all – he loves running [period].
In some way, I even envied him. To have something you adore doing, and to be able to do it anytime, anywhere is perhaps the greatest gift anyone could ever have. At that time, I was not sure I had anything that gave me as much unadulterated pleasure.
There was a time when I was much younger and much fitter when I could run, but I never really enjoyed running. Two kids, five years and several kilograms later, when I got on a treadmill, I could barely run for 30 seconds before my lungs gave way. I grimly accepted the fact that my running days were over, and concentrated on walking and walking really fast.
A couple of months after starting my fitness routine, something made me push up the speed on the treadmill and start jogging –I jogged for 10 minutes at a stretch that day.
That did it. I was hooked. The next day, I added 2 more minutes, and the following day, I actually managed 15 minutes. The fourth day, I tried to sign-up for the 7 kilometer Dream Run, and ended up registering for the half-marathon. With less than 9 weeks to go, I knew I was mad to even attempt it, but the die was cast.
The next couple of weeks, I ran because I did not want to drop out of the half-marathon. All sorts of things upset my training schedule, and more than just once, I contemplated dropping out – but I knew I could not face myself if I proved myself to be a quitter, so I didn’t. The day before Race Day, I wanted only two things – to be able to complete the half-marathon and to do it in three hours. I managed both – with a time of 2 hours and 34 minutes, I even finished within the top 100 of the women contenders.
After the mandatory break of one week, my running shoes were back on the treadmill. Why?
Not because I wanted to start training for the next half-marathon – that was a year away. Not because I wanted to lose weight – I had lost quite enough.
I was back, because I’d realized I loved running, and did not want to do without it if I could help it. On some days, the legs and lungs are fine, but the mind refuses to run – but when I get the rhythm right, I sometimes feel like I could go on forever. I am my son’s mother after all.
And why do I still push myself while running? Because I have set myself a target time for next year – a time that is challenging, yet manageable, a time that will probably push me up a dozen places in the rankings.
Why do I not aim for something better than that – because unless I know it is doable, I would not even try.
But why bother to set a target at all, when the target it not all that great – you may as well ask a bathroom singer why she sings when she knows she is never going to be able to cut a disc.
Life is about doing things you enjoy, as much as it is about enjoying what you do. Life is also about constantly setting the bar a little higher just so you have something to strive for.
What will happen if I don’t finish within my target time next year? If I know myself, I will be back on the treadmill as soon as I can, doing my best to achieve the target the following year.
And maybe someday, my son and I will run a race together, and he will be cheering me on as I cross the finishing line.

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