If 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, what can be said about 42.2? That is the number of kilometres I will be running on the 2nd of October for the Virtual London Marathon (same day, same distance, same pain, except I choose my route) in aid of Refuge.
It has been a long travelled road to reach this particular point. It all started when I got my first pair of trainers. They were for everyday use, but I immediately went for a run around the block in our neighbourhood in South Africa. For such a young soul, I desperately wanted to be like Zola Budd, the runner at the time that captured headlines for her speed and unusual running style. I ran fast and soon my heart was pumping hard. I gasped for air and I enjoyed moving my small frame along the concentre slabs. That rush. Feeling taller and feeling my heart opening up to anything and everything. It was the most alive moment I’d ever experienced. Everything was bigger and grander. Welcome to runner’s high – you would soon be a great company to many morning runs to come.
Until now, most of my writing has been about dancing tango and well-being. For a little while – just for a bit – I put away my tango shoes and got into running shoes instead. My feet, resembling my dad’s in shape and in temperament, are ready to lace up and run my first ever marathon. This will be the biggest physical challenge I have ever endured. Sometimes I wake up and wonder if I will be able to do it. But then I realise I haven’t given up on tango after a decade so I might be able to run 42.2 km after all. And by doing so, by completing the full length of the race, I will be part of 0.01% of the world population who have achieved such a milestone. That is a club I want to belong to, a club that brings a particular type of individual onto streets, parks and tracks from sunrise to sunset: anywhere from Antarctica to the Sahara, from rainforests to grey urban jungles in cities around the world. Running is a story of endurance and survival. I have been training to endure and I will survive the race.
Why do I run? What am I running from? What am I running to? I have given much thought and I believe I run out of anger. Not out of fear or hope, nor worries or stress. Anger. That is all. I try to exhaust my body so I can stop being so angry. I am angry for all I see in the world. I am angry for me and I am angry for others. Running calms me and puts me back in the world, sane for dancing and the rest. Sometimes I wonder if I should run more because there is still so much anger left. Like Prometheus, whose liver is partly eaten by an eagle by day to have it regrow overnight, every night, and having to endure this punishment for eternity, maybe running momentarily sponges off the anger to only grow back in time for the next run. Maybe, just maybe, this marathon will make a great dent and release the source of all this wrath. Who is to know? I will know by Sunday. In the meantime, all the training I have done after sixteen long weeks has mentally prepared me for this moment.
On the day, my limbs will temporarily bare the names of those who have supported and/or sponsored me so far. While body and mind will be dealing with the adrenaline rush that comes with the excitement of the event, my skin will remind me I am not alone. The names might wash away with the tears, sweat or rain yet those names will run alongside me this Sunday, they will power me through and form a chain of prayers.
May my feet cope with the constant pounding. My hips and knees would be grateful for that prayer, too.
My heart will adjust to a different beat and not echo the habanera rhythm.
No D’Arienzo, Pugliese or Troilo to bewitch my toes, especially my right big toe
(if I look closely, it moves like a conductor of an orchestra).
It taps, never missing a beat.
It taps, never wanting to stop.
(I do have very happy feet and very happy toes)
May they keep being happy as soon as I finish the race.
Whatever next? If I cross that finish line, held up by friends – most likely in the pouring rain – I can do anything, even write a book. Can’t be a procrastinator when you are a runner, right?
“To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running