334. Running

A brief history of me running:

I’m 7 years old, walking up to my grandparents’ place (this was before my paternal grandmother passed away). The house is a 7-minute walk from where I live, and we’ve done this many times before. Dad is not too far behind me. I skip along merrily towards the house, and that’s when I hear the rattle of chains, a feral barking, and I see a dog bolting for me.

I ran like hell.

I’m 11 years old, and it’s P.E. lesson on a weekday morning. I had some coconut biscuits for breakfast, and I can feel the weight of it in my belly, the taste of it at the back of my throat. Our class teacher, who, by default, was also our P.E. teacher, had us do a lap around the school field (400m) after some warm-ups. Then we get into pairs to play some badminton.

I hold up the shuttlecock, ready to serve, and my arms drop by my side. My class teacher looks at me, confused – until I turn to one side and throw up my breakfast on the trimmed green grass of the school field.

I’m 14 years old, and the school has decided to hold a “jogathon”, which is like a marathon, but much shorter. Our trail takes us through the local park, and I had a deal with a friend that we’ll just walk along at a brisk pace for the whole trail. My friend, sure of his capabilities of running the whole trail without stopping, left me behind. I pound my legs hard against the asphalt to try and keep up, and the strength in my legs give up while going down a hill about 3/4 of the way through.

It was a long while before I got up and dragged myself through the last quarter.

I’m 18 and straight out of National Service, intent on getting fit once and for all. I wake up at 7 in the morning, while the sun is still brightening up the sky in pink and purple hues, and I do 20 laps around the local playground. I feel the fire in my lungs, the mercury in my legs, the sweat like a crown of glory that I wear over my brow.

On the journey downhill, back to my house, I have to stop and lean against a pole. The burning feeling in my chest feels vaguely familiar. I then turn around and heave the apple I had for breakfast into the drain.

I’m 23 and my mom has bought a condominium unit. Since the utilities are being paid for, it makes sense for me to make use of the gym, even if we’re not living there. I become quite fascinated with the treadmill, and set it to “burn calories” mode for 5 minutes. By the time I stagger off the machine, my legs feel like jelly.

But at least I didn’t throw up. Or I didn’t until the month after.

I’m 23, and I’m back on the treadmill for the 4th month and counting now. I hit “quick start”, because “burn calories” take too much time to get started. I run – not 5 minutes, not 15 minutes, but 30 freakin’ minutes – with 5-minute breaks in between each sprint – and for the first time, I think I may actually be able to run properly.

My legs are sore at the end of the day, and mostly feel like they’re in need of a good masseuse. But that’s okay.

That’s completely okay.

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