The special illustrated edition!
If Yoda is right and “There is no ‘try’, only ‘do’”, then I did not run the 10km Spar Women’s Race this weekend. However, if running a race is placed on a continuum instead on a ‘did’ or ‘didn’t’ scale, then I pretty much ran a race this weekend, I basically ran a race this weekend, I essentially ran a race this weekend. The only thing lacking from my race running experience was actually running the freaking race.
Motivation, check. Payment of race fee, check. Getting horrendously lost in Belleville while collecting race number, check. Waking up at an unholy hour on a Sunday, check. Fine-tuning running playlist on iPod, check. Nonchalantly boasting/ bringing up the race in casual conversation, check. Mentally rewording Monday’s Facebook status so that it also carelessly brings up the race, check. The only thing between me and the Start line? Like a gazillion cars. Literally.
For some unfathomable reason that I am sure has something to do with how much the Universe hates me and wants to see me suffer, I got stuck in 90 minutes of traffic that came from nowhere and ended just after my off-ramp. Meaning that instead of arriving at 7.15am and having a motivational chat with my running buddy Anita while we excitedly walked to the start line, I was making increasingly anxious calls to her as the cars dragged on and on.
She (and thousands of other people) started without me.
Eventually at 8.30am (half an hour after the damn thing started) I breached the front lines and made it into the General Race Area. Because this is the kind of race where “the first 18 000 contestants get a medal”, every single flat area with space for a car had something parked on it, all the way from the N1 to the starting line.
Vexed, I ended up going home. It felt like I’d driven all that way just to be stuck in traffic, and once my mission was accomplished I had nothing to do but go back from whence I came.
It was one of my more frustrating and fruitless life experiences, and got me thinking about previous sport fails – and believe you me, there’ve been many. I’m the black sheep in my family; with two extremely athletic brothers, a dad with an intense history in rugby and a mom with a similarly intense history of dance and gymnastics. In contrast, I have as much hand-eye co-ordination as a horse put in a harness made to stand upright.
My poor parents and especially my long-suffering mother tried to get me interested in:
> Netball (apparently I would stand faaaaar away at the edge of the team, arms up, bouncing a little to look like the other girls, while avoiding at all costs being anywhere near the ball.)
> Gymnastics (I spent more time hiding in the bathroom avoiding doing gymnastics than actually doing gymnastics.)
> Ice-skating (tried this when I was about 4, for the brief period we lived in the USA. Blocked this from my memory but my mom assures me it happened.)
> Soccer (briefly, in highschool with the cool girls. They soon realised I couldn’t kick the ball).
> Yoga (80-year-old instructor used to chastise me for being unflexible.)
> Swimming (heard I had a nice stroke, but no ambition.)
> Ballet (prancing around the floor and getting my mom to do my make-up was LOADS of fun. Sadly I was lacking skill in anything requiring elegance and poise.)
> Modern dance (teacher gracefully ignored me.)
> Horse-riding (horse gracefully ignored me.)
> Softball (me and best friend Portia joined optimistically in Grade 9. Before the practises started, the school stupidly took the picture for the year book. Because the team hadn’t met yet, we had no captain. So they randomly chose a girl to hold the ball, stand in the centre of the group and be the leader. I was the Chosen One. This was my only flirtation with leading a sports team and ended as soon as the flash went off. Portia and I ended up not going to a single practise, but are immortalised in that photograph).
> Tennis (mom said she came early to fetch me one day and spent an hour watching me miss the ball every time the teacher threw it my way. Asked me afterwards how it went and I enthusiastically chirped, “Great!” Don’t think she ever fully recovered from this huge cognitive dissonance.)
> Athletics (think school sports day – the horror, the horror!)
> Snowboarding (this happens when we visit my dad overseas; always ends up with me spending loads of time sitting with a cold bum on the snow pondering hiding from the instructor while my dad says Very Encouraging Things about how brave I am.)
In fact, the only exercises I do like are exercises in futility, clearly.
Considering all of these sports fails, it’s a miracle that I was – somehow – the fastest sperm of the lot. I mean, the rest must have been really shoddy quality to let me beat them athletically!
Through all of this, the only thing I’ve ever really enjoyed, and started and continued on my own initiative was running. While I found the pressure from sports teams distasteful and the co-ordination required from the other stuff impossible, I could manage and (eventually) enjoy running.
There’s something calming about the pace, the alone time, the ability to let your mind tick tick tick over the issues of the day while you push your body further and further. In Cape Town there’s the added advantage of the incredible scenery – the sea, ships and sparkling houses on one side, and the crisp mountains on the other. Running also lets me listen to the music I normally deem ‘embarrassing’ or ‘terrible’.
And let’s not forget the main reason we do ANYTHING athletic: the endorphins!