I have never ever thought about this. And so, pounding on the roads on a Sunday morning run, I decided to give it some thought. My conclusion: “Everything and nothing at all!”
I don’t have an answer to that simply because I have still been in a constant process of redefining what running is to me. I’m relatively new to the activity and even so, the meaning of running to me has been in a flux. So here goes the evolution:
I started running, like everyone else, in a place none other than the school. Physical education was an inevitable part of the school curriculum. A typical PE lesson would start like that:
Teacher: Good morning class. Let’s do some warm-ups and stretching. Then 6 rounds around the track. After you are done, PE reps take the balls from PE store room and then you can play your games. Okay. Go.
And so that was how running became something that I had to get over and done with. And fast. Else I’d have no time for socializing with my friends over ball games. Here, I run to meet my teacher’s expectations, to get things over and done with, so I can start with other activities.
The ‘A’ Level examinations neared and all PE lessons were cancelled to allow us more study time. Having detested running for so many years, an opportunity to stop running would, I swear, feel like the best thing that’s ever happened. Then obviously, the stress came on, the food came on, the weight came on, the fats came on, and the only thing that left me was my self-confidence.
December 2006, my da jie (elder sister) took out her running shoes and proudly declared to my parents. “Mummy, Daddy. I am going to run my first full marathon!” My sister had always been into running. She had won cross country races, she was the basketball captain, and was faring academically very well.
I looked at myself and asked. What will it take for me to be half as good? I looked at myself in the mirror and asked. Who is this underachieving, fat, and ugly monster? And then I took out my school shoe. Here, I run to lose weight and to prove my value.
3km. 6km. 10km. 12km. 15km. 17km. 21km. I started falling in love with running. The scenery, the animals, and the pounding heart… I LOVE! J
I then started with my first race. AHM 2008. 21km. I didn’t know what made me do it. But I did anyway. 2:10 for my very first half-marathon. I didn’t even do it in a running shoe. I did the half-marathon in my school shoe. I felt good. And so I signed myself up for the SCSM 2008. 5:05 for my first marathon. At this point in time, I run because I could go the distance and prove myself worthy of accomplishing these races. Never mind the time. I wanted to show people that I can complete these races. So running became part of my ego.
By mistake, I signed myself up for a 15km NB Pacesetter’s run in Malaysia. There I found my coach. He picked my sister and I up, polished us up, and put us in more races back in Singapore. Prior to training with my coach, races were about completing the distance. Then again obviously, it was redefined. Mr Goh made every distance of running a feat in itself. And so, I endeavoured in training a variety of distances, although my focus remained where my potential lay, full marathons.
2009, I started breaking my personal bests. AHM 2009 was 1:51. I won my first race. Adidas Sundown Marathon 2009. It was 4:01. I came in second. Running to me, was now about challenging myself. I liked surprising myself with improvements I made to my better running times.
End-2009, I started to run longer distances. Training distances. Not races. I started to enjoy the ability to take my training distances, speed and frequency a few notches up just because I could, and just because I liked the feeling of the wind in my face, the beautiful scenery, and the little animals that came to join me in my runs.
Then a friend came along the way, to join me in my weekly long runs. We chatted as we ran and so running became a very social event for me. It was the best way I could socialise without wasting any extra time of studying. Running became my social activity, and my bitching session. Bitching during your long run is therapeutic by the way. J We bettered our personal bests for our marathons this year!
A great running buddy, really, but good things don’t last forever. He has chosen to move on. So I was back to running alone, just me, the wind, the route, the animals, my shoes, my heart and my mind. During this period, I redefined what running is to me yet again.
I made more friends because I moved beyond training with just one person. I met more people from the NUS X country team and the biathlon team who shared just as much passion as I had in running. And some of them, even the science of running!
I met my long-lost god-brother while running alone on the roads, and made appointments to run together. I met up with my ORC team mates to leisure run on our non-training days as well! I met Darren from the biathlon team who shared just as much love as I had for challenging ourselves in running feats! And I realised that I loved the company I get from running!
(P.S: On this note, anyone who lives near Bishan and wants to jio me out for a run, feel free to sms! i can bitch for hours throughout the run. :p)
RUNNING. A term so easy to spell, so easy to pronounce, and yet so difficult to define! The dictionary definition for running:
“To go quickly by moving the legs more rapidly than at a walk and in such a manner that for an instant in each step all or both feet are off the ground.”
But dear runners, may I now ask you to think about defining running. I am sure you’d agree that the inanimate and unfeeling definition provided by a scholar who probably doesn’t run would be an inaccurate definition of the term.
To me at least, running is way beyond that. It is so complex and such a dynamic term. And so running, to me, is truly everything and nothing at all. I haven’t figured exactly why I run, and that’s precisely why I run.