It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment running ran into my life (pun intended :D). There was no defining ‘Eureka!’ moment in my life that running came to be. I guess it doesn’t come as a surprise that I’ve never reflected running’s raison d’être in my life. Then why the heck do I run?
Sure, I’ve run quite a bit since young; primary to secondary school, through JC and national service, NAPFA tests, college runs, IPPT, to name a few. But these were merely obligatory activities that left me milling around. Little did I realize that this world was more vast than I could comprehend.
Back in the army (yes ladies, we boys have an unexplainable fetish for bringing up NS in every conversation), I served under a Warrant Officer with an unimaginable morbid interest in running. His physical training sessions were fixated so much on running that there wasn’t a day in camp that I was popping feet-bound blisters. Being the scrawny pasty dude that I was, the large volume of running took the life out of an already moribund me. As harsh as training could get, there wasn’t a way I could avoid it. Gradually, it dawned on me that the toughest opponent wasn’t my officer. No it wasn’t my buddy that I was busting my butt off to outcompete. It certainly wasn’t the aunty in the cookhouse serving hor fun.
It was me.
You see, the reason I failed in the past wasn’t due to my physical limitations. More often, I succumbed to mental walls even before my body give in. It is exactly in running that I come face to face with my inner demons. And it is exactly through running that I’m still learning to conquer these barriers.
To quote at great length, ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
I ran my first marathon in December 2006, completing the Standard Chartered Marathon with a timing of 5 hours 50 minutes. No, it wasn’t fast; in fact, to me it felt terribly long and gruesome. But I finished. That alone, was reason enough to give myself a pat on the back.
Coming to NUS, I joined my hall’s road relay team. There I met many others whom continue to inspire me, meeting Yannick and Kelvin. Then Alvin took up running as a hobby. From a non-runner to a marathoner to an ultramarathoner in such a short period (And now he’s on to bigger things :D). Then I met Patrick, who still thinks easy runs, fun runs, long runs and tempo runs mean the same thing (my good friend, they are not). It’s cool to have friends that run. It’s even cooler to be able to phone a friend and arrange a run in 15 minutes 🙂
In my 3rd year, 2nd semester in NUS, I joined the cross country team. My little penchant for running was insignificant against everyone else’s. More awkward than anything else I felt that my efforts in running were in retrospect, dismal. There and then, I experienced a renewed passion for running; not to show that I could keep up, but to prove to myself that I was capable of much more.
Running educates the runner of the harsh reality of his/her physical and mental limits, but also gives opportunity to push these limits. Each time I pushed myself, I broke walls. Each time I broke those walls, I wanted to push myself more. In essence, running is more than just physical and relentless perpetual motion. The split second where both feet are off the ground, it makes the seemingly impossible things in life, possible. Running defines life, yet defies its limits. More than just a sport, running is life.
You ask then “why run?”
I’ll tell you “why not?”