There are things we do which we never thought we could. A personal challenge, I guess you’d call it. Mine? Exercise. In any shape or form. Just getting my car to drive to the gym is a challenge. Somehow, it never wants to go there. It probably likes being in the warm garage. Especially in winter. You see, after I’ve taken Stretch and Mouse to school, I turn my car in the direction of the gym. Somewhere in that 2km drive, the steering wheel turns and soon I find myself back at home with a cup of coffee, sitting in front of the computer. Also my car knows that the gym is not my favourite place: all those sweaty bodies; grunting gym bunnies and naked women in the bathroom- rubbing in body lotion as if they’re all porn stars.
Last year I made the decision to start running. This is a big deal for me as I can’t walk two steps without tripping over my own feet. The way some people have two left feet when they dance; I have about ten extra just getting out of bed in the morning. Also, I’ve had this crazy urge to run for about four years. There’s probably some very good psychological reasoning behind that. A metaphor for wanting to run away from my life or my problems. Probably away from my own brain and its constant crazy random thoughts, is my guess.
Anyway, as November rolled into my life, I started running. Well, walking first, then running. One of those very clever things where you walk for five minutes, run for one, walk for five and slowly build up to more running and less walking. I was doing really well. Really. I reached the stage, in February of this year, where I could pretty much run 3km’s. I was so proud of myself. It almost called for a party to celebrate this minor achievement of mine. The Caveman cycles and can “easily” do 200km’s on the road. He asked me to get into this cycling thing with him, but I felt that I needed to do something for me. Something he wouldn’t keenly get involved in. Something that would be mine. (Another psycho-analytical moment there). So that’s how I worked up to doing a 3k run.
Then along came March with family staying with us indefinitely. Me with the anxiety of having people in my house and not knowing what they’re doing while I’m not there. The gym and the running took a sabbatical while I cooked for nine and chewed my nails.
Eventually all stressful things must come to an end (and boarders have to move on). Life must continue normally again and I had to get back into running. That saying that people throw about: “Just take the first step”, is true. This first step was so much more difficult than the first first step. The Caveman wanted to try out a new MTB trail and asked if I wanted to go with because this place has trail running courses as well. I gave hive a half committed harrumph and hoped that he’d forget the offer. Of course he remembered. He might be The Caveman, but his memory is still that of a mammoth. So early the next morning I stood smiling nervously at The Caveman and giving him the assurance that I was indeed ok and excited. Truth is I was terribly nervous and scared. As I said, I can hardly walk five steps without tripping over my own feet, so my biggest fear was that I’d be tripping over random roots, falling into some muddy hole or go sliding downhill into an icy river. Because that’s the kind of thing I’d do.
Looking for the 5k green trail, I began by walking. After a steady uphill the ground levelled out and I could run. Until I realised I was going downhill on lose gavel. Back to walking and realising that I was in fact not following the correct trail. I had to go back to the start and walk around to find the green arrow. It would be fantastic if these places could put up much bigger starting signs for those of us who are newbies are a bit directionless. My vote is for huge flashing neon signs. The green trail was found and on I went. What a beautiful setting. Heia Safari is a game lodge/ conference centre with hectares of hills, dams and animals. What an amazing feeling to be walking between various antelope, zebras and giraffes. I did my alternate walking- running thing and managed to really speed up every time I saw a shed snake skin. There’s a way to get me to run faster- put a snake or hairy spider in front of me. I could probably manage a 50k on that scare! The surprise is that at the end I checked my iPod and discovered that I had done 5.65km’s. Another celebration was in order. Outside I was sipping water, on the inside I was doing a victory dance accepting my gold medal.
The next morning I woke up with stiff leg and butt muscles, a sore and tired upper body; but there was another feeling or two crouching in the corners of my soul. Hey? What? Pride and a sense of accomplishment. The Caveman said the pain is good because you know that you’re getting stronger. Um, no. Pain is pain and I dislike any kind.
Over a much deserved lunch, The Caveman was telling me the difference between road biking and mountain biking. It’s the same with running. On the road, you start to develop a rhythm and focus on breathing and going those extra few metres; on a trail run, you need to focus more on the technical aspects of the trail. Oh, and the beauty of your surroundings. I can’t tell you which I enjoy more, only that they are different and each has its own challenges. I’ll continue to do both and maybe one day I’ll love one more than the other. I’m also not going to tell you that I’m aiming for a marathon or a half. Right now, I’m happy doing what I’m doing. Learning to put one foot in front of the other. Get out of bed and take the first step, even if I’m going to take that first step over and over and over. If I fall off the bus, or get on the wrong one, I’ll take another first step. Every time I have aching muscles, I’ll make myself do it again because maybe I’m teaching myself something. Not quite sure what it is yet, but when I find out, you’ll be the first to know.
Wish me many happy running hours.