I was never a morning person. I especially abhor morning runs. The unpredictability of the evening weather in Penang late last year, however, forced me to shift all my long-ish runs to morning when I trained for the Penang Bridge International Marathon. I did not enjoy the prospect of waking up early and sweating it out, but it had to be done.
One morning, just before I began my run, I left my hydration pack, filled with my favourite juices, at a secret spot by the Butterworth Outer Ring Road (BORR). This hideout is the usual station for my evening runs. I went by rote; my hand dropped the bag there, and I was ready to go.
The morning rush traffic began to build up as I made loops after loops of the BORR. I quickly lost myself in my pace and breathing, as always. I made a brief stop every 15 to 20 minutes to hydrate.
As with all long runs, things began spicing up after the two-hour mark. A slow but sure feeling of lethargy began creeping in my veins and muscles. Tired and thirsty, I mentally thanked all gods imaginable as I reached my station again.
But lo and behold, my hydration pack was nowhere to be seen.
I did a double take, thinking that my tired eyes may have fooled me, but the entire pack was indeed missing. To my utter dismay, I found two of the bottles by the beach, the caps missing and the contents half-gone. The other bottles simply vanished into thin air.
Naturally, I was upset. I had a niggling suspicion that a fellow runner, a middle-aged man sitting by the beach and near to my pack, may have been the culprit. He stole glances in my direction and slowly crept away as I huffed and puffed about the crime scene. But what about the cleaners who swept the roads earlier? It could have been anyone!
Overwhelmed by the need for urgent hydration, I made my way to the nearest vending machine and bought a bottle of water at a cut-throat price using my emergency stash of cash buried deep in the pockets of my running shorts. I managed to finish my run with that bottle of water, albeit angrily.
I decided to not make the same mistake twice. The second time around, I was determined to let everyone know what they were in for should thoughts of pilfering my water bottles even cross their mind. I left the pack near a secluded spot of the trail, and scribbled the following words with the reddest marker pen I could find, on a piece of A4 paper:
TOLONG JANGAN AMBIL/CURI. TQ. 10/11/2017.
(Please do not remove/steal. Thank you)
I placed the note within the pack. And so I began my long and slow lumber upon the BORR, with a group performing Hindu funeral rites and some juveniles crossing my path each time I made a loop. The youths, perhaps in their late teens or early 20s, found it hilarious that I was exercising so early in the morning. Raucous laughter and some form of greeting were flung in my direction throughout the first half of my run. Their guitarist even shuffled behind me at one point, strumming a few lines while singing something I was not familiar with.
I seethed as I ran. It was uninvited attention, something that I did not need during my run. Males who ran the same path as I completely escaped their attention. I was singled out, just because I am a female. Thankfully they left halfway through my run, and I was able to focus on my thoughts again.
As I completed the run, I returned to my hydration pack. My bottles were left alone, but the note went missing this time.
Of all the things to cross my tired mind at this point, I suddenly remembered my brother once mentioning to me that the early morning crowds are not of this world and are definitely not to be trifled with.
As his words rang again and again in my head, I subconsciously made the decision to revert to my evening runs, come rain or shine.