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No fear of the finish when running

Updated: 2013-11-16 07:35
By Huang Xiangyang ( China Daily)

No fear of the finish when runningAs the year-end draws near, I tend to look back at what I have done in the past months. Yet more often than not, I have found it difficult to put the little pieces of each day of mundane life into a complete picture of any meaning. Worn out by the daily routines, my memories never last long, and I have self-deceivingly taken it as a sign of spiritual mellowness worthy of extolment in Chinese philosophy.

But no longer do I feel like that thanks to the many "firsts" I have experienced since the start of 2013, all related to running.

I won my first medal for my first full marathon in Zhengzhou, Henan province, in March.

I ran my first vertical race up the 2,041 stairs of the landmark 82-floor China World Trade Center Tower in Beijing's central business district in August, in an event held for the first time on the mainland.

I achieved my personal best 4:28:43 in the recently concluded Beijing marathon. Here, I have to make clear, because I have been asked too many times by acquaintances, I did not urinate against the red-colored Forbidden City walls along Chang'an Avenue as some other runners did, stirring a big media hoo-ha.

To be frank, there is nothing noteworthy in the above list for any serious runner, who may regard it as an act of narcissism. Thousands upon thousands of people have run marathons at much faster speeds, dozens or even hundreds of times. But for an ordinary Joe who has had hardly any flashy moments in life, a little sense of complacency should be forgivable.

I have got some thumb-ups from my friends for what they call my perseverance. They are wrong. It was out of fear that I started to run, and have kept doing so till this day. The many "firsts" for me stemmed from as many "highs" high blood pressure, high levels of fat and sugar in my blood, to name just a few. In medical terms, they are called hypertension, hyperlipemia and hyperglycemia.

I found myself in this perilous situation 18 months ago, seemingly all of a sudden. My memory is vague about how I went through a series of medical tests. All I could remember was that when I left the hospital with a physical checkup report showing all the bad results, on a clear and sunny day in May 2012, the sun in my world lost its luster.

With hindsight I could blame a modern life style characterized by long years of lack of exercise, late sleep schedules and unhealthy diets. But I did not want to cry over spilled milk. It was not so long before I embarked on a long journey of physical recovery, with the first step on a treadmill.

I chose running as my remedy because it is simple. Anyone who is able to put his right foot before his left, or vice versa, can become a runner. And I find it the most effective way for me to lose weight overweight is considered the source of all modern day diseases.

Some told me running can permanently hurt the knees. But those who said this don't run themselves. Others say running is too dull, but you can always make it interesting by listening to music or letting your imagination go wild. For me, it is the sound of music to hear my feet thud against the sliding plate of the treadmill, and the drops of perspiration shed are tears of fat crying for its debacle.

Of course it was not easy at the very beginning. But I was happy my body was quick to find a new equilibrium.

Half a year after I started running, a colleague of mine said I was "emaciated". And months later I was stopped by an officer at the border checkpoint in the Beijing Capital International Airport after a trip overseas, who flipped through my passport unsure the picture on it was mine. I had to tell him I starved for the past two weeks because I don't like Western food. And he let me go. I had lost some 10 kilograms then.

To visualize the achievement of my slim endeavor, I visited a pork stand and weighed a chunk of the same weight. I had to admit it was big.

Now running has become part of my life. I am still suffering from the "highs" I know it will be a lifelong battle against them but I am more energetic and self-confident. US runner Joy Johnson once said: "I want to keep running as long as I can and drop in my running shoes when the time comes." That's exactly what she did she died at the age of 86, one day after this year's New York marathon on Nov 3.

I hope I can do the same.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

(China Daily 11/16/2013 page5)