All about the spirit


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Category: Reflections Date: 02 Feb 04


How did this happen? Oh, I know. It began on a hot Sunday in October when I ran six miles by the sea in Carenage with my husband's running club, feeling more like a virtuous supportive wife than a runner, plotting to get him to reciprocate with more chick flicks.


It crept up on me because the following Sunday we were running along a breezy, leafy path dappled in moving shapes of sunshine and shade in Tucker Valley. And before I knew it I was plodding in the dusty heat at the back of the pack in Cunupia and then one Sunday I found myself trying to run 13 miles with the group, and in the 11th bursting into tears like a frustrated teenager on the road to the airport. Admittedly the Wednesday night sessions of speed work around various parks in Port of Spain were a lot of fun. But I never intended to do the marathon.


I never intended to run the 18 miles but kept going because it was pouring with rain and the blisters weren't bad and the company great. And the 20 was just bad mind. Then before I knew it I decided that I was not going to be left out of no marathon and I watched myself in horror childishly boasting to everyone, even my friends abroad, that I was doing the CLICO Marathon. The mature me looked on in horror as the death wish rollercoaster child in me hurtled ahead into an iron-bound spider's web. Is there such a thing?


Monday January 19

I am obsessed with my feet. After each run they bleed and I develop painful blisters. I think about them all the time and as soon as I discreetly can, look at them, willing them to get better. As soon as they start to heal I have to put pressure on them with speed work or a run. We have begun tapering until the marathon and only had to run 8 miles yesterday. Still I did a horrible run yesterday. After about mile two my feet started killing me even though they were bandaged like a mummy and I had on two pairs of socks. I seriously doubt if I can make even half a marathon... I never thought I would complete that 20-mile run last weekend which bloodied my feet and made me want to weep like a baby on the pavement on the stop line. I know I am not prepared for this marathon. I'm depressed. This generalised anxiety has been going on all day. Why does it mean so much to finish?


Tuesday January 20

I am obsessed with my diet as well as my feet, absurdly wondering with every mouthful whether this or that will make me run better. Apparently the lighter you are the better you run. But all this has done is made me weak and I can't afford to be weak in addition to having deformed feet!

Pam, one of the regular runners in the group, just called me and said she would rather run with me than run faster alone. I was touched and then wondered neurotically if I could run at all.


Wednesday January 21

Got up 3.00 am to check up on carb loading on the Internet. Apparently this is something you need to do all week. This health thing is very confusing-on the one hand they tell you the lighter you are the better you run-and to do that you need to go on a low carb, high protein, low fat diet on the other, they tell you to stuff yourself with potatoes, pasta, rice and warn that low fat diets could damage runners. I do realise I am getting a bit obsessive but every time I feel a twinge in my toe I am terrified that I will fail. The books also say that you must visualise your victory so I practiced putting my hands up in the air and swaying in that slo-mo way you see in the movies but my practical side tells me I'll probably limp in when everything is done.


Thursday January 22

I'm puzzled. I've never been a pack person-always a bit of a loner, guarding my quiet exercise time jealously, since I use it to work out problems, work off fat and anger, and work up happy feelings. Now I'm worried about other people. The fastest girl in the group is having knee problems. I saw her gingerly walking around with running shoes and cycling while we did our last run. My heart went out to her. I wanted her to heal. The other girl says one knee is swollen but the other hurts.


Friday January 22

Decided not to do the race. My knee hurts. I'm not ready. I feel weepy.


Saturday January 23

Okay, I was just scared. I'll run. Ate cheesecake and pasta. Feel apprehensive but excited.


Sunday January 25

2.30 am wake-up time: Showered, spent half an hour bandaging up toes, drank a gallon of water. The group meets at King George V Park. 3.30 am: We hold hands in a wide circle under the night sky and pray.


5.30am-Chaguanas: The place is buzzing. Starting shot and everybody passes me. The army and Coast Guard boys, the regulars, the pros, the ones who caught a vaps, the Rastas, and Granny. The sun comes up pale gold over the cane fields, and all I hear is the beat of my heart, and feel the thud of my shoes on pavement, feel the sweat run into my eyes.


Last three miles. Sun is beating down on my face, my MP3 player has come off, my number is unpinned, and someone has dumped a bucket of water over me which makes my shoes soggy. By now I know it's not about the body. It's about the mind. An amazing and unusual feeling of being unable to stop flying, of disregarding bleeding feet, heat, pain-all that helplessness of real life vanishing into grit.


One mile. Almost there. My father runs with me. The final 100 yards. I've made it. It takes a punishing run to recognise the body is immaterial. I weep with gratitude for the five hours and thirty minutes that taught me it's not about the feet, and all about the spirit.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur