I turned eighteen that summer. Three months at my grand parents home doing nothing but training every evening at the race course ground and eating parathas (a desi version of whole wheat bread — only nicer — made with flour, oil and love). Drinking liters of mango milkshake and being immersed in that special grand parental unconditional affection was enough to reverse the damage done by my bout with viral fever in June that year.
That fall, twenty eight years ago, after a summer like no other of training I ran the Karachi Inter collegiate athletic championship for the fourth time.
I remember the month. December 1989. A cinder field lined with chalk. Just before I started the computer science program at FAST ICS. The tally was two medals. A bronze in 800 meters and a silver in 1500 meters. My first after two seasons of competing. I still remember my personal bests from that meet. 2:07 seconds — 800 meters. 4:45–1500 meters. I switched my shoes just before the race. Ran the 800 in borrowed spikes for the first time in my life. Locked my legs in the final stretch. Made it to the finish line just in time. Threw up after the race — a standard for the course. Not good enough for a slot in the city or provincial team. But good enough for a life time of memories.
My last competition. My first medals. Butterflies in the gut.
Ironically, it was on the same cinder track at National Coaching Center; the track that I will run again on tomorrow morning. This time with two of my children in the field, my students and friends in the enclosure. Older legs, better shoes, lower expectations and a stop watch in my hand.
Nerves, jitters and goosebumps. I know its just going to be a group of 40 year old out to enjoy the morning breeze and a fast cross country track. Just friends and fellow runners. Nothing that requires heavy lifting or stress or tension. No medals at the finish line. But that still doesn’t help. The butterflies are back.
Come see us run. Give us a hand. Help out. Write. Share. Shout an encouraging word. Help shoo the butterflies away. Make sure that I do step on to the track and don’t run away at the last minute. It’s one thing running by yourself in the dark. Completely different running in front of crowd made up of your students, strangers and friends. I am out of practice. It’s not the competition I am afraid of. It’s the stopwatch and stage fright.
Nerves. jitters and goosebumps. Butterflies in the morning.