Thought I shared this personal account and self discovery of a runner, a late starter on the journey of running. I took up a bit more ‘serious’ running in 2015 and also became a blogger with JustRunLah! about then. By serious, I meant I ran about 3 times a week and I signed up for races regularly. I was never an athlete. So I was a below average type of runner. PB for 5 km, 10 km, half marathon, marathon and 50 km were 28:35 min, 1:01 hr, 2:27 hr and 6:07 hr and 7:54 hr respectively. And the first 3 PBs were achieved before I fractured my spine in late 2016 due to a cycling incident. These days I’m slower for the shorter distances.
Somewhere in early October, I received an invitation to be a SCS athlete. This was probably due to my very early attempts to do some voluntary work through running. I accepted the challenge and promptly (perhaps foolishly too) set up my own campaign to cover 500 km from Oct 7th to the end of the year. Foolish because I had been reducing my mileage per week in terms of my own DIY training before this. I was still feeling the pain from the impingement of the nerves at the tailbone plus the on-and-off pain from the spine injury. And what I am attempting would not be in keeping with ‘safe’ recovery guidelines to some extent.
I thought 86 days to finish 500 km was going to be a stretch but still possible. On average it would mean close to 6 km a day every day. However I had already signed up for some races and I would need to configure recovery from the races into the equation as well, though the races would contribute to the total distance covered through running. So I will cover varying distances and hopefully the occasional breaks in between for recovery.
I went through the 86 days though I already hit the target of 500 km on day 80th, Christmas Day. This is a summary of what I felt were the lessons learnt from running for a cause over a period of time.
Lesson 1 : A purpose drives a mission. I started Day 1 (Oct 7th) with an ultra 50 km followed closely by a 10 km race with SIA Charity Run on Day 2. Though I’ve signed for the races up front, I haven’t realized that the two dates were just one after another. And the ultra was done on a rainy day which resulted in me having blisters on my feet. Still, I carried on because I knew that this was my first day of the challenge and I had to complete it no matter what happened.
So I completed my first ultra distance of 50 km without much fanfare and got to ‘meet’ a couple of new running friends through it.
50.71 km in 7:54 hours – a record which is painfully slow as perceived by most good runners but it was ‘consistent’ with my usual 6.5 hour local marathon completion time. I was at peace when I completed it.
I remembered after resting for a few minutes after 1 am, I proceeded to walk another 1.5 km to the carpark, limping a bit as the blisters protested their presence with each step I took and reached home about 3 am. I woke up past 5 am to prepare for the SIA Charity 10 km run. I finished that too though I took longer than usual to complete a 10 km distance. The next race was a week later at HomeNS-Real Run 10 km and I finished at 1:11 hr, a bit more like my usual race completion time. Surprisingly I recovered fairly well from the ultra distance.
The resolve to start off the mission was what drove me to complete and ignore the lack of sleep and pain. Anyway, when I think of the cancer patients and the families for which I’m running the cause for, I put aside my own negative moments. At the ultra, I did bump into TyreLady and I believe that she must have her purpose strong in her mind too as she pulled the tyre in the rain, though I didn’t really know her then.
One ‘strange’ side effect of the ultra journey was that I grew to dislike the taste of energy gel and so I stopped taking them for 10 km races and reduced intake as I probably had too much of the gel in the ultra somehow.
Lesson 2 : Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. After the first two weeks, I managed 100.36 km. But another two weeks went by and my mileage dropped to only 74.03 km. I knew my ultra had helped in first two weeks. And there were days when I felt I was not as fit, like when I was doing the Newton Race – 32.195 km. I felt more tired than ever somehow in that race. But I kept on at it. I knew that I had to put in whatever little I could and it was temporary ‘suffering’ only.
Though in theory, 6 km a day is not tough, to continue to do it for 86 days would mean some level of discipline. And I wasn’t exactly just running everyday or that was the only thing I had to do in my life. So sometimes I had energy only for a 1 km or 2 km. Sometimes perhaps heaven took pity and decided to rain at the time when I was supposed to run. There was once I just ran in the carpark because of the heavy downpour during one of my assignments. And I wasn’t exactly in the mode to run every day or every other day due to my condition. Still, I guessed persevering helps to build up the mental and physical aspects too. And every little bit contributes to the mileage.
Lesson 3: Keep it Interesting and Up the stakes at the right time. Sometimes you just cruised through life perhaps. If this was a journey where I just covered same distance every day, maybe it would be easier. Perhaps not. But the races I had signed up for, meant I would have to operate at a different mental and physical level too. So it kept the journey challenging. 80 or 86 days is a long time, almost a quarter of the year. If one doesn’t have passion for something as mundane as running, then perhaps one wouldn’t last too. The 9 races I participated in kept me hungry and lean too.
One of them was a vertical marathon – Swissotel Vertical Marathon. That day when we started, the authorities feared the risk of lightning and stopped us at the 69 storeys instead of 73. I covered it in 16.5 min. This vertical mileage didn’t go into the calculation of the mileage towards 500 km. However the challenge of doing this had kept me going.
The Standard Chartered Marathon Race came on 3rd Dec. I went for it with high expectation even though I knew that somehow my preparation was not ideal.
There was some delays in the starting. The weather was unrelenting with the hot sun for those who took anything more than 5 hours and I took an hour and half more. The Garmin wasn’t working as it should upsetting the tracking of the pace that day. I wasn’t affected by the baggage delays because I already expected some delays there. Still, as I learnt too, if my eyes were on the long queues, the inconveniences then perhaps I might have felt even more frustrated. My eyes were on the “bagels”: the completion of my 7th marathon in 3 years and the contribution towards the 500 km goal. My feet had been suffering the brunt of the almost daily toll. So all but two toenails were already ‘dead’. Those again were little compared to the real sufferings cancer patients and families are going through.
For Standard Chartered Marathon, I also took a light Green Ambassador role, carrying a small message to runners to trash it properly as well as setting that example during the race. I learnt a few new stuff and got to know a few fantastic folks and one of them also contributed very generously to the cause I was running for.
I upped the stakes too at the 71st day when I decided to run 10 km per day and hit the target by 80th day instead of 86 days. I thought by then I had built up the endurance and ability to do so.
Lesson 4 : Everything is Relative – Just be Grateful. Almost two years ago, a friend had told me that his running friend actually ran a 10 km every week. That spurred me on to try and do a 10 km race more regularly though I hadn’t done a 10 km training run every week. My ‘training’ distances were usually 3-7 km. Fast forward, and I have tried Spartan Races – Sprint and Super, half marathons a week apart, a marathon and a half marathon a week apart and the ultra this year. I also completed the 10 km a day for 10 days through Christmas this round. But so what ? It has no meaning to the non-involved folks. You are running too much was one of those good ‘advice’ given to me in the past. My paces were slower. There were people who could run 100 km or 200 miles in one race. (Of course, there are people who find it an effort too to walk 10 km.)
Running to complete 500 km in the 80-86 days was my way to raise funds. Some will be able to do more or raise more. Some can do less and raise much more eg VIPs like stars and ministers. On looking back though I had tried to raise the funds through online I wasn’t able to get a single stranger to contribute. There was however a few folks whom I had lost touch who were moved to contribute generously. And a very new FB friend also donated generously.
But, I felt I had failed towards the 3 quarters of the journey. Have I done enough to get my old friends to help or make them understand ? Was I doing ‘hard’ enough to raise the funds ? Or perhaps they were waiting for the goal to be met. Christmas Day, it dawned on me. I didn’t need to know the answers.
There is no need for a reason to give to help another. Blessed are the kind hearts who know that to give is noble. One just have to do what best one can and give what one can in life.
Lesson 5 : Goethe: “Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it”
If I were to keep thinking of whether I could complete a marathon or whether people would think it was silly of me to try and run 6 km a day to raise funds because it was ‘too simple’, or difficult because I was still suffering from a yet to recover back injury then I would never have gotten started. So just do it. In that sense, I perhaps identify quite intuitively then with JustRunLah! 3 years ago when I started blogging with their platform. Action does force some momentum to certain stuff.
It has been nice to complete the 500 km earlier back on Christmas Day – to me it was a Christmas Gift. I also managed to raise the minimal target I set though the virtual line is still open as I’ve also continued on my longest running streak to the end of the year 2017. Whatever little I can contribute, I will continue through running. I have worn out 4 pairs of running shoes this year. But I will go on. I think I have found a purpose with running and in turn life on a different plane. Perhaps you will find yours too when you look hard enough and persist in whatever you are doing.
By the time this is published it will be a new year 2018. I wish every reader a great and successful year ahead with new challenges too. Run well with your life too.