On Running

I hate running. I don't know but I just don't like the feeling of being out of breath, of gasping for air while looking ahead at a vast stretch of pavement I have to cover. I'd rather hit the pool any day or lift weights or walk the cat than run. Truth be told, I fear running. I think it's because when I was younger (around 12 or 13), I used to have a recurring dream (more like nightmare) that I was running away from bad people but instead of moving away from them, I was still in the exact, same spot as before. I was running in place! Since then, the thought of running has given me a silly fright. So I don't run to exercise, more so run in a race. I had actually listed to run a marathon as one of the top 30 things to try before I turn 30. But I knew at the back of my head that I would never get around to doing it :D But just last night, for some reason I felt the need to run. So I went to the NUS field and ran. With wisps of hair being blown by the wind, with my heart pounding, and arms flailing, I willed my legs to work.

I often hear people use running as a metaphor for life. I'm guessing it's because the essentials of running well and running fast are exactly what the latter requires of us – hard work, endurance, and focus. Perhaps it's also because the running field consists of the same elements that life is filled with – competition, distractions and motivation. Or maybe because people, even if we don't admit it, are always running after something (or someone).

Several minutes into my graceful-warm up-that-quickly-turned-into-panting session, my mind went blank. I lost thoughts of work or dinner and found myself just staring out at the open space before me. My feet moved mechanically and the rest of my body seemed to follow the rhythm they created. I was running. Without the familiar fear.

I now understand why most people are fond of running. It's exhilarating. It makes one feel strong and powerful. Running allows for an exhibit of youth and vigor. But one gets tired, too. Eventually. Then one would become fully aware of its limitations. Five kilometers, 10, half a marathon... It then becomes a series of conquests that are dependent on physical strength and commitment.

I started to slow down as I felt my lungs struggle for oxygen. The slight chill brought by the evening breeze was a contrast to the heat that every pore in my body was giving off. And then I sensed it, creeping in a stealthy form until its full sharpness engulfed me. Pain arrived.

Yet, as tears began to roll down my flushed cheeks, and though my heart was racing like a freshly-tuned engine, I smiled in spite of the pain. Conscious of my finiteness, I reveled in my frail existence. I ran with weak knees, short breath, and exhaustible strength. Then it dawned on me what this was really about. Having faith is what running's all about.


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