One night in July, a smothering sadness overcame me.
It crept up in the worst possible way— unexpectedly and without warning— and like wildfire, the smothering sadness spread quickly all over my body— gripping my throat, piercing my eyes, churning my stomach, paralyzing my heart. It was an overwhelming kind of sadness, and so suddenly struck I was by it, I wasn’t even given a chance to cry.
All I knew this one night in July was that if I wanted to have a shot against my grief, I needed to move. I had to do something to kill my despondency before it got the best of me. I had to fight back.
It was that night in July when I learned to run. With my insides still stifling from dejection, I managed to lace-up a pair of sneakers, put on a pair of shorts and a shirt and bolt out of my condominium door, just when the temptation of hiding and crying under my bedroom covers got real.
I made a beeline for the overpass leading to my university, strutting with a rushed gait. I brisk-walked like my most fearsome nightmares were snapping on my heels— and in a way, they were. Finally, when I landed on the other side of the road, a breeze from some towering trees welcoming me in, I literally made a run for it.
I ran so fast, my legs started cramping two minutes into the sprint. I wasn’t a runner— never was— and my body didn’t take the strain of repeatedly pounding on sidewalk concrete well. But I kept running. I ran through my pain. I ran with a heightened mania, overtaking casual joggers and serious runners. I ran without knowing where to go, through building hallways and fields and parking lots. I have long forgotten my disoriented route, but I will never forget the five words that cycled through my mind during that first, painful run.
I need to get away.
And for a long time, that’s how I ran. In the gym, in villages, in city streets, I ran with a kind of overbearing anger that I would only let loose when I picked my legs up again and again and again and again and again. I cursed a lot during my first few runs, and I conditioned myself to keep going in hopes of being able to let all my anger out. And mind you, there was a lot of it.
But somewhere along the way, perhaps when I started getting stronger and breezing through my once-staggering 3Ks, I learned to enjoy running. These days, I run with a sense of tranquility and fulfillment, always pushing myself to go on the next kilometer— no longer to escape— but to see just how far I can go. I no longer have to get away, I just need to keep moving forward.
I can count on the fingers of my elbow the people I know who take me seriously when I go on runs. Hell, even I find it hard to take myself seriously. Just a few nights ago, when I was avidly going through a stack of Runner’s World magazines I had gotten for free, I thought— seriously, who am I kidding? I had a good laugh over the image— me, madly flipping through an article about interval training. Interval training! When I think about it, it still makes me laugh.
The thing I try to remember is, I don’t run to prove a point. If it sounds strange to you— a girl who talks an octave higher than most chicks, whose idea of a tragedy is a broken nail, somehow manages to run through five kilometers in 30 minutes flat— then it’s because it is strange. But it’s also real.
I’m a fake runner. I don’t train or take supplements, nor do I run with technique. I run for the hell of it, because running to me makes sense— it wakes me up when I’m tired, calms me down when I’m mad, and makes me even happier when I’m already happy.
I run and I keep moving forward.