Running is the only sport I do well. Which is rather ironic, as back in school, I would come up with so many lame excuses to avoid PE classes.

I hated running so much that I once even faked a leg injury, telling the PE teacher that a car ran over my foot. After a while, he couldn’t be bothered with me anymore.

Then adult life hit me hard, and one day, I took up running. It was the only way I could run away (pun intended) from everything – from life, from people, from world troubles. Running turned out to be a great sport for loners like me, all I needed was a pair of good running shoes and off I went.

But when I started running some years back, I neglected a few things. And then I got hit by those injuries that I had often read about, the ones I thought would never happen to me because:

1. I don’t run that fast any way

2. I don’t do sprints

3. I don’t run long distance all the time

4. I take some supplements

5. I alternate running with other cardio and weights

Because of all these “reasons”, I assumed there was no harm in running every single day. Right?

But things happen when you don’t take proper care of yourself. I was in much denial and was determined to “prove” that the darn pain on my knees was just “temporary”, that it would go away.

But eventually, I realised that denial was dangerous – so I slowed down (a bit), sought some professional opinions, took extra protein and the right supplements, and viola (!), I was back to running again!

Recently, seeing how stressed out and tensed I was, a friend from work suddenly got all philosophical and told me this: “The human spirit has more capacity than anyone can imagine. Go forth and test it.”

And then, all around me, everybody kept saying that I looked “tired”, which actually meant that I looked “awful”. Geez, thanks a lot, you guys are very “polite”.

Putting up her running shoes along a picturesque canal in England.

Putting up her running shoes along a picturesque canal in England.

Losing the plot

Thus when I said that I was going to bring my running shoes for my two-week-return-to-Britain holiday, they thought I had lost the plot.

“JUST DON’T COME BACK TO KL WITH ONLY SKIN AND BONES FROM ALL YOUR RUNNING!” wrote my friend Kaypee. In all caps. I knew that meant business.

“You gila (crazy). Isn’t a holiday meant to be relaxing?” asked Elycia, another friend.

Losing the plot was actually part of the plan, besides not worrying about things that mess with my brain, while “I solemnly swear that I’m up to no good”, as Harry Potter vowed.

“Nothing you can’t see that isn’t shown/ No where you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be/ Nothing you can do but you learn how to be you. In time,” so sang The Beatles.

“Run like hell and get the agony over with,” said Olympic athlete Clarence DeMar.

And so I ran everywhere I went in Britain during the holiday: Penicuik (Midlothian), Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Park and The Meadow’s (Edinburgh), Mossley (Greater Manchester) as well as Riverside Walk and Albert Dock (Liverpool).

Mind over matter

At the risk of sounding darn cheesy, running gives one control and power over things, while teaching us all to live in the moment – being conscious of our surroundings, breathing as we take those strides. Getting lost in our own train of thoughts.

I’ve been told that the “real” run only starts when you forget that you are running – which then means that it’s mind over matter, leading on to heart over mind. “When your feet are tired, run with your heart,” so they say.

I lived in Edinburgh for six years, but I wasn’t a runner. I was more of a “walker”. But now I find running is much better “therapy” than walking. Way better.

It helps me make the hardest decisions. It helps me count my blessings, the little things that are often taken for granted – like how my legs are strong enough to carry me throughout the run, and how equally powerful my heart and lungs are to see me to the finish line.

The writer after a run along the docks of Liverpool.

The writer after a run along the docks of Liverpool.

Chasing happiness

“I came, I ran, I selfied” – H. Hasmi

That’s how a friend said I should change Caesar’s quote seeing that I was on a solo holiday.

Those Edinburgh-Manchester-Liverpool “running missions” had left me with a huge grin plastered across my face. There were several reasons:

It could have been that the chilly weather made it less of a sweaty affair. Or perhaps I was away from all the worries of the world.

Or maybe it was because all dogs were on leashes – so I didn’t have to worry about them chasing me like what usually happens back home in Malaysia. In fact, I was chased once, dropped my car key, and I swore the dog ate it. It sounded so absurd, and yet my Boss believed me when I texted – “Sorry Boss, can’t come to work today. A dog ate my car keys.”

Everybody – the dog walkers, joggers, runners, cyclists, strollers – were so friendly and kept stopping to say hi and indulge in my never-ending photo-taking requests.

As clichéd as it may sound, I am always more determined to be a “different”, much better person after my running sessions.

Sometimes it seemed that I could run away from everything, but I also knew running wouldn’t solve anything – it just made things a bit better and clearer.

An anonymous person once said, “Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow, may looking back in memory help comfort you tomorrow”

And I’ve gained a lot of running memories to soothe and console me in times of need.


Share your stories of the great outdoors

To usher in National Sports Day on Oct 10, we have published two stories on why people have taken up running (above) and hiking.

How have YOU been enjoying getting active in Malaysia’s great outdoors? Star2 is inviting readers to share your stories and photos of your pursuits – you will be paid for your contributions.

We are interested in land, water or even aerial activities. This includes: trekking, scuba diving, paragliding, running, sailing, windsurfing, white water rafting, rock climbing, kayakking…well basically anything that involves a great workout.

If you want to join in the fun, write in to our coordinator, Andrew Sia, at star2@thestar.com.my.