I ran this morning but I didn’t hit a personal best. I don’t really know what that means for a form of exercise I rarely do.
The bay I tend to run at is minutes from home. Minutes from the city. The juxtaposition of a roaring high rise metropolitan to an abundance of natural water lapping against sand, against brick, against rubble, is one I thought I had only seen in Barcelona. It took flying 17,169 kilometres there and all over Europe to come home and see this is the life I had already been given. A reintroduction to this place I have lived for the last 9 years.
Swimming is like being cosy in a rocket. You’re enveloped by something, even if that something is very, very cold or pushing back against you. Running is the opposite. When you run, there’s nowhere in the world that you can hide. I feel naked when I run. As a child, that bareness took the form of cutting teeth and losing skin. I was a clumsy kid that saw my bruises arranging get-togethers and fresh wounds splicing open new bandages in areas that have not had time to heal. The nurses’ office knew me well because I would pick myself up and go again. Growing older, I discovered shame.
Place one foot in front of the other. Now do it again. And again, but quicker. Each time quicker than the last. It’s almost funny how something so simple, challenges every muscle I own.
I fell into my shoes around 6 am. Like a barn-laid egg cracked over a hot frying pan, the world had only just released a brand new day. You can smell the newness in the air just before you strap on a red and black Jabra Sport Pace. It’s the kind of music you play to drown out all your senses, the kind of playlist that your very original self named ‘Higher’.
The hardest part of running is getting started, the hardest part of swimming is realising when to stop. For both, it’s a battle that’s won in the mind but in different ways. Instead of hyper-concentration, I lull myself into a hazy stupor. I force my eyes to relax, to lower my gaze and disengage. This technique works well for multiple reasons. One of them being that the salute of a morning person is to make eye contact for a nanosecond before becoming really interested in your left shoelace. Which isn’t to say there is no camaraderie, it’s the opposite. A morning person is a morning person because it’s important for them to spend time alone while every other human being is asleep. The second reason is it allows you to stop fighting. And if you’re someone, like me, who has spent your entire life doing just that, it will be the most foreign sensation you can possibly imagine. Nature blends into concrete. Water and footpath are one. I am both looking at the Anzac Bridge as I am part of the material that it was constructed with. I am the couple that finds the will to keep pace through love and mutual respect. I am the old lady stretching and the cyclist pedalling. And I am the dog taking a piss next to a tree.
In the past, I’ve written about Sydney being my carrot. The dream I lusted for and chased on my Malaysian hamster wheel. Being here makes me feel like I’ve peaked too early, but my days are not always without frustration. Days when I call a parent and every second scream of mine is heard between WhatsApp call drop outs and the staccato of my own thoughts, about how constrained I am, in that moment, to not already be the most perfect version of myself. Sometimes it takes an early morning rise and an indulgence in my least favourite activity to realise how lucky I am. How running, a slow and painful exercise, is the purest metaphor for the way I have chosen to live my life. The distance that lies ahead, the distance that I will eventually reach with more training, representing the road that I will leave my mark on.
I ran this morning and I saw rowers in the water. The truth is that I really hate running, but life has conditioned me to be very good at tricking myself into believing otherwise. I am the master of self-illusions. I hated it a little less today. And I will love it tomorrow.
- The Adventure – Angels and Airwaves
- Beautiful Day – U2
- Pompeii – Bastille
- Charlie Brown – Coldplay
- A Sky Full of Stars – Coldplay
- Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes (thanks, Jae)
- ‘Till I Collapse – Eminem
- Lose My Breath – Destiny’s Child
- Hello – Martin Solveig