Tag Archives: Running

Run now.

Here is a sentence a 16-year-old will never believe: “we slow down as we age.” I know that because I have one. The disbelief probably stems from a teenager’s simple inability to even conceive of a future so far ahead. They live in the present, as they probably should.

Yet, precisely because teenagers cannot, and do not, particularly focus on a too-distant future, I hope to share with them a piece of advice I wish I had been given myself when I was a young girl growing up:

Run now. So that when you’re older, you can slow down to a brisk walk. 

I am not old. Yet. But what is for sure is that I am not young either. Let’s just say that I probably have less to go with the same health benefits I have been the grateful recipient of so far.

When I was young, I hated running. I was the slowest, the most breathless, and the least graceful. I used to hate getting sweaty, dirty and I certainly hated pushing beyond what was absolutely necessary to achieve the minimum required results. I had other talents and aptitudes but neither I, nor my parents, saw the need to develop them any further. VCRs and game consoles were a new thing then and there were plenty of movies to watch and games to be played.

Also, I couldn’t see the point of running or exercise in general. I was brought up believing that exercise was for the sole purpose of losing weight a.k.a. suffering. Why suffer? There was a good movie on the new VCR and a bag of chips to be enjoyed. Where was I going to get to by running anyway? 

Here is the question I didn’t, and should’ve asked: where was I getting to sitting on the couch? 

Now I know.

In my 20s I really wanted to be a runner (I still do). I loved the idea of it, the rosy cheeks, the runner’s high, and of course, eating what I wanted. I dabbled with running. I was slow, I was breathless and as soon as I reached the goal of running for 30 straight minutes I would stop. Going further was absolutely out of the question. Too much hard work. There were drinks to be enjoyed and TV series to watch.

Idem in my 30s—except that now I had the perfect excuse(s). I could go out for a run but the children might go hungry. (They didn’t.) Also, I needed my daily glass of wine to get me through the boredom of young motherhood. 

When I was 40 I decided I to run a marathon. All the running manuals said to get mileage under my feet first, to stop the alcohol and to watch what I ate. But I had no time and energy for all that. I had three kids at home, I was trying to get a writing career off the ground and I had something to prove: that I was, and will be a runner. During the race, I pushed really hard. I pushed so hard for over 5 hours that I decided this was way beyond how long anyone should push for. The marathon was my one and only. I stopped running for years after that.

Today I want to run but the most I seem to manage in my Zone 2 training is a brisk walk. But if I am at a brisk walk now, what of the future? How slow will I get?

Now I wonder what would have been had I pushed through my slog when I was a little girl. If I just had it in me to run through the shame of being the slowest, the least graceful. I wonder where I would have been if I had the tenacity to push beyond the 30 minutes of sweat, if I could only stick with the tiredness, embrace the suffering for just a little longer. Just one more day. Just a minute more every day. 

I most probably would have still been the slowest, the most breathless, the least graceful. But I would still be running. And then maybe when I’m older, I could slow down to a brisk walk.

Of boys and falling down

The mother of boys has to be very fit. She needs to be fast and have quick reflexes, with enough mental stamina and explosive power in her arms and legs to get to the uncovered plugs before her crawling dumpling does. Or to skid fast enough to cushion the fall of a miscalculated jump, catch a vase that has just been shot off the shelf, or to simply pick her little boy up every time he falls. Because boys fall a lot. Physically and mentally.

And so it was, that at the tender young age of 45, I took up triathlon training. I had always been relatively fit, I had already trained for and run a marathon, worked out in the gym, dabbled with yoga and pilates and spinning, but this was serious s**t, with a coach and a training program that covered most of the hours of the day, most days of the week. There was no room for excuses, exceptions, justifications or pretenses. Here’s the program, shut up and do it.

And so it was that with a runny nose and a blocked ear (from the previous day’s swimming workout) I picked myself up early from bed and went running. Naturally, I was feeling very sorry for myself, I wanted to be in bed with my books and my box of soft tissues, not out here battling it on the streets of Beirut. I cursed myself, I cursed my coach, I cursed my boys and was thinking how perhaps this Christmas, as a way of getting back at them, I should teach them about the art of giving instead of receiving by donating some of their gif…

Then I fell.

Or more like thudded. Thumped. Clunked.

Crashed. Smacked. Clomped.

It wasn’t very elegant.

But whatever I did, I seem to have tripped over a piece of badly paved road and I found myself kissing the ground with a bloody nose, scraped knees and hands, a lot of pain and naturally, a bruised ego.

I think it was providence’s way for punishing me for feeling sorry for myself. But it went the extra step because I was still a mile away from home. With no money and no phone.

And that’s when the mental stamina needs to kick in.

I must have looked bad after my trudge home because it took my youngest only 20 seconds to realize something was wrong with me.

“I fell,” I whimpered.

He gave ma a quick reassurance hug before running around in a few circles and shooting off to grab cotton, disinfectant, ice and a towel, all neatly displayed on a tray. My middle one had by then got wind that I was hurt and, very un-teenage-like, also started fussing and looking for any sleeves we had for sprained knees, ankles and wrists. They fussed and swarmed around me with such tenderness and love and affection that I started making my Christmas list again.

After my shower and unending enquiries as to how I was feeling from all the boys in my household, I started tidying up the mess they had made while looking after me and thanking providence for allowing me to salute the street so intimately and being at the receiving end of so much tenderheartedness, compassion and care.

Tomorrow I may just fall off my bicycle.