Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Addicted to Running?

It is three days since I last ran. I have been struggling with whether or not to run. The last two days it was easy not to run because I had aching muscles. But now I have no aching muscles and the next marathon is twelve months away. I don't have to run now or next week or even next month. So do I continue with a "normal" life? I have tried doing push ups, squats and crunches and stretching in the morning but I don't feel challenged. I don't feel pushed. I feel numb. Sedated. I feel as if I have done nothing. I feel as If I am living in an egg that has not hatched. Like a parked car.

I have not developed a training program. I just ran a half marathon and I am happy with the results I got. I have lost all the weight I wanted to lose. I can never run like Wanjiru and I have no interest to ever win any money in a running event. So why should I leave my relatively warm bed, albeit lonely and without all the other facilities that make bedtime interesting, and walk into the biting 5 am cold risking death?

I can sit for some months and start training in January. So why the hell should I bother with running? Running is hard work. It can tear your muscles and shatter your ligaments and induce early arthritis (as some nutjobs allege). If I am to run, I have to wake up early then struggle with the hard tarmac and risk getting mugged. I have to risk stepping in some open manhole and breaking my leg. I have to risk being hit by a car when the street lights are off and I have to run on the road which is less treacherous than the pavement. Then I have to run back, warm down, stretch, hang my sweat-soaked clothes and be late for work.

I have a job, I don't look too bad. I have some money and an education. So why should I run? Running does not put any food on my table. It doesn't get me any promotion. It can wait. What the heck. Okay, it has helped me lose some weight but I was okay anyway. I didn't have high blood pressure or a big pot. In fact, now people are saying I look too thin. Ati I should change my wardrobe, ati I am floating in my clothes, ati I was looking okay before and all other sorts of inane blather. Most of the times I want to tell them to go and order one big bowl of shut up and sit down and enjoy it but I am too nice so I instead explain to them patiently that they need to adjust to the new me. But I digress.

So anyways, I have been struggling with the above questions. Today I was called for a meeting in the afternoon. There was plenty of sausage, samosas, croissants and mandazis to go with the tea and coffee. And I had a sausage and croissant. What will my body do with them if I don't exercise? It will carefully and dutifully store them. Easy as pie.

So I thought about this life of attending meetings, drawing models, solving business problems and tinkering with computers and I realized why I run: Its the only thing that stretches me and makes my life interesting. Everything else is so boring it essentially renders my life in a "shutdown" mode. Irrespective of how many tasks I do at work and at home. I feel as if there is something I haven't done when I haven't run. Running is the only something I can do to make me feel like I have done something. Nothing else registers. I feel like a zombie. Sweat pores blocked, heart rate flatlined, muscles flaccid, my vital signs in hibernate mode. Another bugger in the rat race that is life. Plodding along like a simple person with simple problems: bills, a boss from hell, traffic jam, little money, problematic relations with friends and relatives, uncertain future etc etc. I feel like a ship moored on a harbor, safe from the raging waves, away from the wind tearing the water. Yes anchored ships are safe but that is not what ships were made for. The brightest corals are the ones facing the sea, the ones regularly buffeted by raging waves. The ones in calm waters are dark and dull.

I don't drink beer or go for those out-of-town nyama choma experiences that people go for to break the monotony of town life. So how do I shake things up? How do I stay sane and balanced? How do I stay interested in life? How do I do anything else?

I have to run.

I have realized, with some measure of regret, that that is the only way I can maintain my normalcy. Its the only way I can stay sharp and on the edge. Its the only thing that makes me feel I am still here. It has grown on me. It has become a way of renewing myself, getting my "me" time, affirming myself and turning the page on old feelings and old experiences and welcoming the new, the unexpected, the fresh and the unpredictable everyday. Its a ceremony. Its a celebration. Its an outlet and its my only means of reincarnating. The very act of running represents freedom. Maybe I feel caged and running is my veiled metaphor for the freedom I subconsciously feel I lack. Could it be? I don't know. Do I have a restless personality? Am I on the prowl for a constant thrill that I get cheaply through running which gives me the "runner's high"? Maybe I am a drunkard in gestation getting drunk on endorphins instead of alcohol? After all, the runner's high is basically a euphoric feeling caused by a flood of endorphins rushing in the brain in the midst of exercise. Could it be? I don't know. All I know is I gotta put on those shoes and hit the road. Feel the cold wind and the early morning traffic.

So tomorrow I will be on the road at 5 am. I don't know whether it will be a recovery run or a fast one. All I know is that I have to run to get me back.
I think I should probably start working on running four times a week: something I have never done.

So lets see if and whether I can run continuously for the next four days and see what happens. Maybe I don't like running as much as I think I do. But hey, you learn a lot from discovering something you don't like just as much as discovering something you like. If its a mistake, the better because we learn more from mistakes than we do from non-mistakes so lets do it!



Justo said...

Well put man, well put. You spoke for me and many others. Running for me is so personal like a thought and yet so fulfilling, rewarding. I love my morning runs for they free me from the fears and clutches of an ordinary, simple life. It clears my mind, makes me focused and allows me to be alone and just me.
keep up the posts and the running. In 2009, hope to see you at the finish line having clocked sub 1:30. I'll be right behind you.
Thanks too for being my mentor and inspiration.

Sikuku said...

Justo, i thought there at the end you'll say i will be there at the end to hold your hand, having finished earlier. Am starting on Monday following Hal's plans.

Jacob Aliet said...

Thanks Justo.
I don't know if I am all of that but lets try and be the best that we can be in this hobby. Running is more than being about fitness to us now. And I have realized that it cannot be avoided because no sane person can choose not to be fit, or choose to be fat. So either way, we have to run. There is no choice (usipokimbia utafanya nini? Join a gym?). Hata ukipumzika wiki moja, the next week you have to resume. Until we die.

You have motivated me by starting. I ran yesterday and today and I meet several runners. Jana I met more than ten runners. So what motivates them? I don't know. All I know is that I am not alone. Plus, many people go to the gymn everyday and those who love futa and bball play every evening and deal with their injuries as they go along. Guys who love beer drink beer. Me and my running we will be together.
I have been having weak legs from 2006. From September this year, my legs have been strong so by end of November I will have known whether I can run 5 times a week. 4 times looks possible. What I have been told is that to do a 1:30, we should be clocking between 50 and 80Kms a week. We have to prepare ourselves for that then we can attain those goals.
I will make a program and share with the group.

Anonymous said...

Very poignant. Inspiring. Keep it up. You inspire more people than you know ... meanwhile, the rest of us'll just serve ourselves huge bowls of 'shut up'!

Jacob Aliet said...

It was with a light touch so go easy on the shut up bowl. And thanks for your kind words and for passing by.