After my years of slothdom in my early twenties, I've been enjoying my morning exercise regime to the point where I've become a gym junky. I won't deny that I haven't enjoyed the obvious aesthetic benefits of regular exercise but exercise has also enabled me to do some pretty cool stuff, I've climbed the less-touristy sections of the Great Wall, mountain biked through some rugged terrain in Laos and kayaked through some stunning parts Halong Bay in Vietnam. But in doing this sort of cool stuff or just about anything that involves any kind of cardio endurance, like for instance training for the half marathon, I continually find myself in the same situation, bringing up the rear.
For someone who is quite competitive, nothing feels more humiliating than coming last. But along with running, coming last is something that I've had plenty of practice at over the last few months as I trained in preparation for the Auckland half marathon. In my jogging group, I was and still am the slowest member of the team. I'm the person that everyone else has to wait for when completing a team task, I'm the one who has to be sent out early in order to finish the assigned run in a reasonable time. But no matter how many times it happens, I still hate that feeling of coming last and wearing an imaginary big red L on forehead for loser.
It wasn't always been this way. When I was younger I loved sports and wasn't too bad at the ones I tried out: swimming, cricket, fencing (yeah spot the Star Wars freak), cross country running, I was a total sports junky. So much so I remember having a stand up fight with my mother at the age of 9 because I wanted to compete in a gymnastics competition and there was no way a flu was going to keep me at home in bed. She won much to my disgust, but that didn't stop me getting kitted out in my uniform and standing by the door waiting for her take me to the competition while coughing and spluttering. But slowly but surely my body conspired against me and I found myself struggling to keep up with the other kids my age in team sports and by the time I hit my mid teens, a deformity on my chest wall meant that I couldn't keep up with my peers at all at which point my descent into my period of slothdom began.
So you maybe wondering why would someone who has problems with cardio endurance would decide to run a half-marathon? I've asked myself that same question many times during my training runs when I hit the point where it feels like I am slamming into a wall. Over and over again. I suppose the answer is because everyone has something bothering them — an injury or whatever that they have to overcome. And I don’t want my problem to be a crutch or reason why I didn’t get out an enjoy life. I want to be better than that. So I've learned to run using faster smaller breaths to get me where I need to go.
Despite the blisters, a bad bout of runner's knee and every practice session being a slog, every so often a small achievement came along that made the pain worth it. An improved time one week, an increase in distance another and all the well wishes of support from my family and friends through the last few months. Despite many defeats, I still managed a small victory, one of the most improved runners in the team.
I know my time tomorrow won't be any sort of record, I just hope that I can finish. Even if I don't, you can bet I'll be back next year slogging it out for the title of Auckland's biggest loser.