So, about six weeks ago, I took up running.
Loosely translated, that means I ran every few days for about three weeks.
And loosely translated, that means I merged a variety of human activities (walking, breathing, running, trudging, gasping, crawling, dragging my heels, plodding, more big gasps, releasing body fluids from the surface of my skin, releasing body fluids from my tear ducts etc) in order to travel from my house in a pointless 4km circuit back to my house.
The first time I went out was hilarious really. A car flew by and honked its little horn and for a moment there I thought I must look pretty cute in my running gear. I found out later it was my sister and one of her friends. Apparently they were dying with laughter.
I went out a few times with Dad, and then a few times on my own, enjoying the night air and scaring fellow runners with sounds of pained gasping, as if I really was breathing my very last breath. And then, a few nights later, I went out running with my sister.
If even attempting to run was my first mistake, this could very well have been my second.
If any of you know her, you’ll be aware of the fact that she is like the blonde, white female version of those Ethiopian long distance Olympians. Seriously, she could probably run all day and not even break a sweat.
However, I’ve learnt something about life when I’m running with my sister.
Kate is a pro at running, not just because she’s naturally built like a gazelle and has endless teenage energy. She’s a pro because she’s learnt how to run well.
For example, I get all hunched over and dig my head down deep when I’m trying to power up a hill. Kate, on the other hand, keeps her back up straight, letting her neck stay extended over her body. Something about keeping airways open and allowing oxygen to reach the parts that need it most. I wouldn’t have ever known that without her expertise.
Do life with people who do it well. Don’t do life alone.
Running with a buddy makes goal setting a much more valuable experience. Kate bosses me around sets me goals to reach when we are running. I do this for myself anyhow – ‘to the next light post‘, ‘to the next street sign‘, ‘to the water bubbler‘. But my goals tend to be based on my narrow-minded expectation of where I can get to, or the aching pain in the top of my calves.
Kate’s goals for me are based on higher expectations. She says ‘to the end of the street‘ when I’m thinking ‘to the next light post‘. She says ‘keep running, even at a snails pace‘ when I’m thinking ‘walk the rest of the way‘. She says ‘just keep walking‘ when I’m considering how much time I need to roll into the foetal position on the footpath.
Funnily enough, physically speaking, I am always able to meet the goal she sets. It’s the mental aspect that proves challenging.
Do life with people who believe in your potential even more than you do. Don’t do life alone.
Kate not only helps set goals, she actively takes part in helping me reach them. This involves the odd slap or two to get me moving again. Some neighbourhood residents may have also witnessed her grabbing my hand and dragging me up one particularly long and painful hill. Embarassing perhaps, but desperate times call for desperate measures!
While I don’t think a hard slap is always the best method, take the time to help those around you to reach the goals they’ve set. Nothing is more encouraging in a moment of self-doubt than the kind word of a friend who can see the bigger picture! Don’t do life alone.
Kate and I might go running again tonight. I’m slowly getting better. I see it as a journey, a process, a pilgrimage from ‘walker’ to ‘jogger’ to, one day down the track, fully-fledged ‘runner’. The first time I went running, I couldn’t even breathe properly, let alone speak.
By last Thursday, when Kate bounded up our steep driveway with the utmost of ease, I actually managed to let out a faint “show-off“. Maybe tonight I’ll be able to verbally protest when she slaps me, not just collapse in a heap on the footpath.