I don’t handle disappointment well.
Long before I learnt how it was possible to “run a bad race/ do a bad training”, my parents used to tell me to loosen up lah, bodoh. I was (and probably still am) the hypersensitive one in the family, since I got disillusioned extremely easily. I could get pissed over a bad test result, or at missing my favourite TV programme – and spend the rest of the day in a self-imposed haze like a quiet recluse.
Then, enter running. I’ve always been told to count my blessings, but on some days I see nothing but missed PBs, dropped-outs during intervals, faster runners and injuries. Sometimes when the running begins, thoughts in the head return to the same themes, and as the distance widens between me and the next guy, I lose my own pace, confidence, everything –
Chun Meng once told me that it’s impossible to concentrate during training with assignments waiting back home. Yes: it’s tough to run to escape when there’s no escape at all. A bad grade for an essay, a poor lunch, maybe even a stray word said during honours class, throws me off balance. Can’t concentrate, can’t run, can’t progress, can’t continue.
On Tuesday, 26 October, I had perhaps one of the worst interval trainings in my 4 years in NUS. Head filled with problem-solving stuff for honours class, I tackled the intervals but just couldn’t keep myself on pace. Running felt wrong. It felt like breathing through a drainpipe and swimming in petrol: limbs disobedient, nose repeatedly discharging fluid, lips flaking, tongue thrashing in my mouth, strides slipping off the track, other runners going faster. In between intervals, I wondered: what’s wrong? What’s going on? What’s the problem?
Warming down with Alan, he said: “If you can’t push, then give up. Don’t kill yourself.”
It’s funny how after the pain and disappointment of something as intense as a screwed-up training, the anticlimax is always about contrast. Push for 50mins, and then someone talks to you about birthdays. It’s strange how after completely blacking out, the lights at the track are heavenly. And after stretching on the verge of tears, “don’t kill yourself” is enough to tell you to last another day.
And even with failure or pain still smarting under the surface, we live to fight another day. This is probably the sick, twisted cycle of pain that keeps runners going. It’s not about being tough (although I put on a brave front 90% of the time). It’s about being sensitive/ mad enough to return, knowing you’ll somehow be disappointed again.
And somehow life goes on.