I’ve taken back to running after close to a year of sluggish living. I had become lousy. I had lost my sharpness of mind. {hehe everyone likes to believe they’re smart, no?} A whole year of lethargy and sedentariness had taken a toll on my physical fitness and mental agility and stamina. I think it had even knocked my confidence, somewhat – since I had lost the feel-good factor. I knew I was in horrendous shape. Atrocious even. The spring in my step was gone. When people start saying you look and sound like Kilunda, him of the now achromatic Tahidi High, then you know that the situation is quickly spiralling out of control. Your whole existence is in dire straits. The universe is laughing – not smiling – at you.

I was introduced to running about two years ago by this guy called Isaac. A health nut who takes life a tad too seriously. He’s obsessed by his Nilotic origin and strongly believes he’s of a royal lineage of the Nubians and Pharos. Something I usually chuckle at in pity, amused at how we all seek relevance in this life. If you meet him, you can almost smell the royalty. He walks and talks like royalty. He’s the most apt definition of class. Loves the fine things in life. Never shouts – just sulks when he catches feelings {hehe}. His laughter is mild. He’s a fantastic cook, Isaac. His English is crisp – with a distant British twang. He wouldn’t touch anything alcoholic with a ten meter pole. He’s polished like that.

Anyway, so Isaac introduced me to jogging and I got hooked. I was sold. I carried on diligently until it got to my head that I was in great shape and then backslid. I think it’s because some gorgeous chic with dimples told me that I have a graduated figure. I turned that magical phrase over in my head, slowly. ‘Graduated figure’… I googled it, zilch. But I smiled at myself and told me, “Luvi, you have a graduated figure. It doesn’t matter what else you fail at in life. It came from a cute girl with brittle fingers and fine ass. Even if you flop as a writer, you have a graduated figure.”

Anyway I backslid and floated all manner of excuses; oh I lost my running apparel, oh the terrain isn’t conducive, oh I have no moral support, yadi yadi yada. Just crap, you know.

But I’m now back at it with a steely determination. A renewed sense of resolution. This is the second week in.

We run in the evening – every day, come rain or high waters. My muscles are still in mild pain. But that’s not putting a damper on my mojo. My groove is still on, like a rhino on steroids.

I love jogging when it’s just drizzled – because then the tarmac is cool and the air fresh. There’s a certain peace it brings about. A perfect opportunity to connect with the soul of the universe. Some people run with headphones on, listening to music. I don’t. I like it quiet. I do self-introspection as my feet shift rhythmically on the tarmac. Some key decisions have been borne during these moments.

I run in the evenings. Mornings are tricky because I’m just not a morning person. I’m pretty nocturnal. My sole mission in the morning is to beat traffic; that means hitting the road at 5.30am, get to the office kedo 6.10 am and do some reading. Or reply to mails. Or just watch how far the Uhuru Joho bromance has gone.

We run on the sidewalk of a fairly busy road. And it’s not Jogoo road. Jogoo road is shit. This road, our road, has wide enough sidewalks – paved. There isn’t much human traffic, which makes it even more ideal. It undulates, plunging into this quiet river that just gurgles. Carrying with it secrets we’ll never get to know. There’s beautiful vegetation all long, almost picturesque.  There’s this huge mall beautifully manicured flower lawns. Quiet. Late in the evening, when on my return lap, the streets lights are usually on. The golden rays reflecting on the now gleaming tarmac. You meet guys strolling, usually young lovers holding hands, giggling…

A run a long this road is simply therapeutic, if not pure bliss.

We are usually three guys. Actually two. The other guy, an Algerian- which means he speaks Arabic and French and hence his English is some sort of a comic relief- is always atop a mountain bike. Girls think he’s cute. Because, I think, he has this hair-cut that reminds you of Cristiano Ronaldo. And also because he strikes them as a mzungu, and you just know our girls with anything foreign. So girls will always wave at him, and shout – in that pretentious Nairobi lingo – “heeeello”.

So he’ll be cycling as we run. He’s always talking…laughing… cracking jokes that I think only those chics who drool over him would find funny (but I usually laugh nonetheless. Who wants a foreigner – a man no less – sulking and calling home to say how cold and humourless Kenyans are?).

Running has not only revamped my fitness and feel-good factor and confidence, but also thrown me invaluable gems of wisdom. There’re a few lessons I’ve drawn from the running track. Lessons on life. Lessons borne out of observation and contemplation and introspection as I push my weight through nippy evening air;

Running teaches you resilience and will power. You realise that’s all in the mind. That it’s amazing how much a human body can take. How far the human body can stretch and push itself. That you can still push yourself even when you feel like you’re hit your limit.

Side note; Ever heard of the 40% rule? Well, it’s the psychological training the U.S Navy SELS are subjected to. They’re taught that when you feel like your body has had enough. That you can’t take it anymore – mentally or physically – usually, you’ve only reached the 40% endurance point. That you can still withstand another 60%, and you won’t die. (Though you might cry or call your mum).

So sometimes I run and I feel like I’ve given it my all. Like it can’t get more intense. But I realise I have, say, one more kilometre to go. And I push myself. Setting shorter targets. Telling myself that I need to only reach that tree that looks like Akothee. Then that electricity post, then that bridge… And wonder of wonders, I not only cover the 1 km, I even surpass it. I’ve never died.

It teaches you focus. To train your eyes on the price and the price alone. Not to get distracted my spectators. As we jog on the side walk of the high way, there are people who stare, others turn. But you never mind them. You don’t stare back. You don’t turn, thinking whatever they’re thinking. And such is life. There are spectators, never mind them. Never be bothered by what they think about you.

Running teaches you to run your race. There’re usually other joggers on the side walk. No one talks to the other. Maybe just an occasional smile here, an occasional nod there – for those who’ve grown familiar to each other. Some run with a bottle of water. Some not. Some have really fancy running gear, like these genial elderly couple who are always smiling. Sometimes they’ll walk when the gradient raises a little. They run their race. You can’t also decide to walk because they are walking. Or shelf your plans to start running until you get fancy running apparel like them. You mind your own shit.

Discipline. You do it even when you don’t feel like. You do it consistently. You don’t create an excuse, because once you find one, you’ll always find another. It takes discipline to be consistent. Which sometimes means saying no. Saying no to an invitation to a tipple, or even an evening house party… heck, even a date. It doesn’t matter if she has this killer ass. She has to understand that it’s a ritual. And when rituals are done, everything else waits.

Self-discovery. You run at your own pace. Much as you warm up together and set off together, others get ahead, others lag behind. Trying to put up with the ones ahead would strain you, because you never know their level of fitness. You realise how imperative it is to understand how your body works. How you pick rhythm after setting off. That’s how personal this thing is. That’s how personal life is. Trying to keep up with the Joneses is a sure recipe for failure. Failure and disappointments.

To enjoy the journey while at it. That success is not an event. It’s a process. Success is informed by what you do on a daily basis. Your habits. A well-toned body won’t happen one day. It’s a process. But you can’t withhold your happiness until the magic happens. You should enjoy the process. The journey usually is just as sweet as the destination. Sometimes even sweeter.

Never believe the hype. Don’t allow complements and praises of how great you look get to your head. It’s often times the genesis of a rapid downfall. Even if you’re told by a cute girl with dimples and fragile fingers and fine ass.

 

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