It Wasn’t Just Running

by shz

I was on the dishes at the sink when Fakhrul mentioned about that thing Cedar Wright wrote about ultrarunning. “Read it up, seriously hilarious..” he said. I did saw the headline but never gave a second thought to click it. But when I thought about the coming Sunday’s Great Eastern Live Great Run the BFF made me sign up few months back, and the fact that it will be 12 km, it might do me something good. As I scrolled down and read, I couldn’t help but relate.

I just wasn’t that impressed. I mean… it was “just running.”

Watching someone run was at best boring, and I just didn’t think it was all that rad.

I accepted that even if I had to crawl in on bloody knees, my main goal was to finish.

Secretly, I wished that I never had entered the race.

My pace slowed and I entered the realm of type-two fun: when fun isn’t fun anymore. I went into my pain cave.

Prior to the race (I’m chuckling as I’m typing the word. Race lah sangat!) I was told off in a serious manner by the usual goofy BFF that I needed to practice running. Practice running – sounded so out of this world because how do you practice something that you know how to do since you learned you have legs, really? I was totally underestimating this whole new sport until I ran, like really ran my first 2 km.

It felt really off, practicing running when all I should be doing was catching up with climbing. Two strikingly different things almost on every aspects of it had me overwhelmed a bit. Unlike climbing, there was no overthinking whether 60 meters of rope is enough for this route, wiregate or straightgate quickdraws, if I have enough of them until I reach the anchor, should I wear my downturned shoes or the flatter one, did I do the double figure eight knot right, the fear of falling, will my belayer see me tremble to prepare for the fall.. to name a few worries! With running, all I needed to do was put on a shoe and lift off.

Getting into something that is all about the pace, going faster and enduring longer distance starting to become more and more alien to me as I ran. With climbing, it was all about taking your time getting into the right move and positions – as long as you get up there, who cares if you don’t get there fast enough? Suddenly I felt it, something I haven’t felt in a long time – that pain on your waist. Pancit! Like any other sport, you can easily get obsessive a little about it. Once you’ve known your average pace and the distance you went, you just couldn’t help but wonder whether you can do better the next time around. And so there I was, “practicing”, on some weekdays afternoons doing my rounds at Kampung Sungai Kantan.

Prior to the GE Run, I could only run 3.5 km until going down to walking pace. I had only ran 5 km max and that almost floored me. So deep deep deeeep down inside, I really didn’t think I could finish 10 km, let alone 12! I was already plotting an evacuation plan out of the crowd in case I just couldn’t go anymore. I was like, what if I cramped? What if I fainted in the heat? But with a bit of motivation from my friends and husband who are already pro runners in my eyes, I braced myself for it.

I gotta tell you, running in a crowd is a whole different feeling than running by yourself. Somewhere between the stampede of the bloody hills of Bukit Tunku, I knocked on the road cat’s eye and scrapped my knees. The other runners were so concerned I got so many people asking me whether I was alright. Yeah, I was alright with scars, especially the one that will mark my firsts. I was not alright about tearing my brand new running tights though…

Most of the people I went to the race with are the girls I’d known most of my life and the two that stuck running with me were both the best of friends of 19 years, Ewa and Shareena. At about KM seven, totally drained in sweat, trying to catch whatever breath I could, possibly already hallucinating, I suddenly had an incredibly sentimental moment. Watching Shareena struggling the same, not answering any of our questions “saving” up her energy and Ewa jumping around trying to keep the pace whilst throwing motivational short speeches at us, I was happy. I truly was. Most people would pick some fancy hipster cafe, eating fancy food, all dressed up smelling nice to play catch up with old friends. Instead there we were, running, enduring and making an experience that will sum up who we are. In pain and one of the most tiring condition I had ever been in my life, I laughed a little. Suddenly there were flashback of memories in my head of what these two looked like when they were pimpled-faced teenagers who had very little idea about anything. The people who make me feel like I am already at my best self, challenge me by their example and who I genuinely enjoy. The ones that I take time every week to be in touch. The ones that contribute to my survival and enjoyment in life.

Had Musmarlina been there with us instead in cold Sheffield, I would’ve cried in the middle of the race having this epiphany.

At KM 10 I was totally bummed that my phone was running out of battery and had to turn off the Nike+. I was sure Fakhrul had finished by then and wanted to save up in case for phone calls. I glimpsed at my time and was happy enough I did a 10k with 170 meters elevated route under 90 minutes. At this stage I could already feel my legs getting all wobbly, it hurts just to even step on the feet. It didn’t feel like it was just 2 km more and I was ready for it to be done with. “We have to finish it in style. Resuming run at the roundabout!” jerked Ewa as my eyes were already half closed. And by God did we ran at the roundabout. I suddenly found a bit of energy to just ran the hell up to the finish line. Either that or I was totally struck by her voice shouting “Come on! Come on! Come on!!!” as we did. My eyes wandered for le husband. He better have his phone ready for picture and thankfully, he did.

I did it. 12 freakin’ km. 12.5 actually according to my have-to-be-accurate friend, Yeen. Who cares what my time is (actually after seeing the official result I cared a little haha), I was a 12 km finisher! At this point we didn’t know where Shareena was but after few pictures taken and ready to retreat, I looked back and there she was! I don’t know but it was as if we were all welcomed back and survived from a horrid war. We cheered, laughed hysterically, ate our bananas, paraded my wound and torn up tights, and that was it.

I still don’t feel like running is my thing, but funnily enough I already signed up for the next run. Sometimes I think enduring a pain like this can be a little bit addictive. Because no matter how worse it gets, after recovering from it, you’re actually OK. It was not all that bad. And then you started to think…

I wanna have a go again.