Four to five times a week, I get up just as the sun is peaking its rays over the mountains and I set out on run. Running is a way for me to feel normal, to feel like Heather.
However, winter is coming and the days are getting shorter. I don’t like to run while it is dark because of dogs, so my morning runs are getting shorter. If I want to go longer, I have to wait till the weekend or go in the afternoon.
One day I slept in so that I could go for a long run afterschool. As the hour hand drew closer to 4 p.m., I could feel my muscles aching to be set loose and I left as soon as I could. Yet, I couldn’t set on the road right away because something else needed my attention. In fact, all that day I wondered if I could even get in that run because someone or something needed me and there were so many hours between the let out of school and dark. Eventually, there was a free space and I went.
It had been a few days since I last ran, although I try to stick to schedule, so I craved a long and hard run. As soon as I turned on to the dusty road leading me out of my village, someone saw me and decided to join. This usually happens when I run in the afternoon, but it’s usually kids who drop off after awhile. This time it was a ntate and it was a bit creepy that he kept following me and I tried to hint that I wanted him to go. He turned off on a side trail and it was just me, the bumpy road and the pumping music from my iPod.
I felt strong and was running at a great pace when I turned on the main road to go up a hill, but this is where my runs get stressful. At that time of the day, children are walking home from school and people home from work. Everyone gawks. They stop and watch each step until their head can no longer crane that way. When I run, I want to be alone and I don’t feel alone with eyes glued to me, not even letting out a blink. I tried to ignore them, but I couldn’t. I started to yell at people and told one man to “take a picture,” however that phrase may have included an explicative. Then, after the snapping, remorse sets in and I feel worse.
While trying to dodge stares, one car came close behind me going too fast, despite that I was running in the direction to face oncoming traffic. Sometimes, these jerk drivers do that to get a better look or because it is funny to them. I screamed another explicative and, while I was imaging how that guy could of killed me, a guy on a horse came up behind me, again too close and again an explicative. This time I jumped and slightly rolled my ankle.
Finally, I turned back on to the dirt road and knew that I was safe from stares and could finish my run. During the entire run, insecurities and that fat feeling plagued me. I ran harder to shake it off but it kept with me.
Just beyond the turnoff I saw someone waiting for me. I hate when they wait for me because then I know I am obligated to talk and socialize, yet, at moments like this, I just wanted to be alone. I recognized her and greeted her. Instead of just watching she decided to run along. I really don’t like to run with anyone but I tried to ignored her and pushed harder as I felt my belly flop up and down. I was angry at this girl, angry at the stares and angry at my blubber. I kicked up with the beat and ran hard.
Then, my foot hit a rock and I hit the ground. We both said explicatives. There was no blood, but I was covered in dirt. My other ankle rolled and my leg was bruised from the knee to shin.
Everything hurt and I wanted to quit, but my companion offered sympathy and we walked in quiet for awhile. But I wasn’t ready to quit so we kept going.
After about 10 minutes, she had to stop because she was tired. I was tempted to carry on but she was sweet to me so I needed to return the favor. We walked the rest of the way, talking in Sesotho.
Running is like this experience. Sometimes, you need to just throw in the towel. As I told a friend earlier in the day, it’s OK to quit the day when you need to. And I needed to quit this run. Sometimes, you don’t need to fight so damn hard.
We had a really nice chat and I made it home with two stingy ankles. Yet, one fall doesn’t determine or sever an experience. I will run again. There is always another chance.