How To Run With Yourself

Conventional wisdom has one job, and it does that one job pretty well. Its role is to tell you what others thought, not what others did. It usually believes in caution, and tends to tread where most men do. What it fails to account for is the fact that the person in this situation is ‘you’. Your perspective of life, your motivation, your attitude, all of which conventional wisdom will conveniently ignore.

Whenever you think of running as a sport, up comes a picture of a fit-looking man or woman, having an athletic build and wearing perfect running gear. And you can’t forget the bulging calf muscles. One look at the mirror brings you back to reality, and a certain truth dawns upon you — if you’re going to run, you’re going to have to do it with yourself. The negatives are numerous, obvious and hard-hitting — your body is ill-prepared for the task, you have no love for exercise, your legs are more accustomed to reaching out from the edge of the sofa to the centre table than to crossing finish lines and the last time your endurance was truly tested was when you binge-watched the last season of GoT.

The positives are more difficult to spot, and even harder to believe in. Which is where we come to this guy’s story.

2 weeks to go: He Who Wants To Run

He is not unfit, but does by no stretch of imagination look like an athlete. He has no real reason to run, except that it will challenge his body, and he wants to see if he can do it. Seeing that the date for the run is approaching fast, he realizes that he needs to start practising again, running for at least 30 mins a day, and that he needs to curtail his intake of junk food and alcohol. But owing to the common talents of procrastination and self-justification he carries on with the occasional indulgence with friends, the late waking hour, irregular eating and a regular diet of motivational videos on YouTube. 

2 days to go: Looking for Conventional Wisdom

Typing in the Search bar — “How to run a marathon with no training?”

The search results are all portents of difficult times that lie ahead for anyone who is foolhardy enough to attempt such a task. Every article is a warning; even the ones titled “Preparing to run a marathon with no training” are just trying to lure you in. He stares at the laptop in disappointment and prepares to tell his sponsor (his girl-friend, she who registered his name for the event) that he won’t be running the half-marathon after all. And his reasons are Search Result No’s 1, 2,4,7,8 and so on.

Less than 2 days to go: She Who is Not Running

His sponsor has refused to give in to his quitter’s attitude. She knows squat about running, but she wants him to make an attempt, even if it is a failed attempt.

“You can run at least 7km. Take a lift after 7km if you feel tired. Or they’ll put you in a car if they see you sprawled on the pavement”

So it shall be, he agrees.

1 day to go: Preparation

All the useful links from the Google Search said “Drink lots of water”. So the day is spent between the water fountain and the washroom. He drinks a lot of water and spends 5 minutes of every hour emptying his bladder.

1 night to go: Plans

The next day begins at 3:30 AM with runners expected to reach the starting line at 4:30 AM. This seems so daunting that he promptly gets into bed at 9pm only to twiddle his thumbs idly before falling asleep at his usual time past midnight.

2 hours to go: Intent

It is before dawn. With his sponsor still curled up in bed, and while struggling to get out of bed himself, he begins to enjoy the total solitude afforded to him by the hour of his waking and the purpose of the morning.

20 minutes to go: United by Purpose

Everyone is busy indulging in their own warm-up routine. He sidles up to one very nice-looking girl and joins a group in an industrious warm-up. Very soon, it is going to be runtime and the unruly mass of runners gathering at the start line prompts him to look around expectantly for an arriving local train.

20 minutes gone: Strength in Numbers

First pee-break has been taken. He’s looked comfortable so far, but he’s getting to the point where he’s losing steam. But he can already see that he’s not the worst of the lot. In fact, he’s easily mediocre. He gets some energy from that thought. More energy comes from the increasing adrenaline inspired by his being part of the collective, by the idea of all these people waking up thinking that they can run this imposing distance before the organizers pack up that ribbon on the finish line.

100 minutes gone: Strength Within

Picking up some more slices of the orange on offer, he is stumbling through, having set aside thoughts of not completing the race. At worst, he will walk the rest of the way now. But this is the moment when he thinks of all the underdog stories he has read, of stories where the spirit triumphs over all else, of great personalities who never let up in their pursuit of their goal, and of what his sponsor would say when he’d complete the race against all expectations. Surprisingly, he finds that the songs playing inside his head are songs of God, the traditional way of gaining strength when all seems lost. It’s working.

150 minutes gone: Dragging Feet

Almost done, but still running. Very slowly and without gaining much ground. Cheered on by the gathered spectators, he carries on knowing that there isn’t long left now.

Finish Line: Run Like Hell

That finish line is just something that must be run past, no matter how tired you are. So he goes all out, the last 1km is a blur. He made it.

Post-Half Marathon: Wisdom

There are undiscovered qualities in each one of us. There will be challenges that push us into finding these. All that is asked of us is to give it a shot.

Because ultimately, you only have yourself to run with.