Once A Runner

“From the crucible of such inner turmoil come the various metals, soft or brittle, flawed or pure, precious or common, that determine the good runners, the great runners, and perhaps the former runners; for those who can not deal with successfully (or evade successfully). The consequences of their singular objective will simply fade away from it all and go on to less arduous pursuits. There has probably never been one yet who has done so, however, without leaving a part of himself there in the quiet, tiled solace of the early afternoon locker room, knotting his loathsome smelling laces for yet another, jesus god, ten miler with the boys. Once a runner…”

It was a usual December evening. The darkness fell early and a light crisp breeze sent shudders down the spines. I remember following the ritual, the same old ritual i’d been following for the last eight years; warming up, stretching, doing a couple of strides, looking down on my stop-watch marveling the vastness of one, tiny second and the eternities it seems to hold, inhaling a lungful of pollen-rich winter air of Islamabad and bursting out. It was a great run. I remember feeling the high. Everything felt wonderful except my shin – i had returned with a stress fracture!

It took four months to heal. And as much as it seems, four months is a real long time especially when you can’t stop yourself from staring morosely at your neatly hung track suit and nike shoes in a dusty corner each day, convinced running is no more your thing. And when i was finally back on the track, though I could still plod miles after miles, the furnace was ice-cold, i knew, maybe the runner’s spirit was lost somewhere along the way. I’d look at my room’s walls and the training routines glued to them and wonder if that really were the same flesh and bones who could undertake such animalism once.

But in the near-past, things have worked out one after the other in quite an unusual manner, making me think if some miracle is underway.

Firstly, I found my long-lost registration form for membership of Islamabad Sports Complex. Training on the international track has been kind-of an old dream. Never knew it would realize all of a sudden some day!

Plus, i learnt mid-foot running which obviously made me faster, taking lesser toll on my body which implies lesser injuries as well. Before that i thought only a duck could run like that. Now it feels natural.

Thirdly, I came across former Pakistani Beijing Olympics Athletics Team Coach who happened to do his evening-walks on the same loop i chose for my daily runs and told me he saw in me what it took to be a pro. He even offered me his coaching services!

Maybe Paulo Coelho was right about when-you-want-something-from-all-your-heart-the-whole-world-conspires-to-help-you-achieve-it thing. In the past few months, I too have been feeling like giving it a final shot, just needed a single little push and the fate gave me three massive ones. Looking forward to a new beginning as i leave for my home tomorrow. That marks a perfect start. Doesn’t it?

It’s only when you’ve stopped doing something that you realize how hard it is to start again, so you force yourself into not wanting it. But it’s always there and until you finish it, it will always be!”

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