Sun sea sand

Sun sea sand

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Little Devil wants to run a marathon

The Little Devil is really little, if you don't know by now. I'm "five feet in heels", something I say when people ask my height, and petite. In that sense (I'm making the excuse beforehand), I've always thought I wasn't built for long-distance running. Just look at marathon runners, and triathlon athletes - they're tall, big and bulky, with huge reserves of fat to draw from when they're "running on empty", plus huge lung capacities (my lungs are small, thus I always have extra air when scuba diving).

In school, I've only competed in sprints - the 100m dash, 200m at the most. Get me to run 400m and I'm dead halfway round the track. Running 5km would take me more than an hour.

But as old age creeps, or rather, gallops up on me, and I can't sprint in record-breaking times anymore, I thought I'd try to develop some long-distance stamina to get fit and toned. Thus the (day)dream of completing a marathon, and even a triathlon.

Tell you the truth, the dream has been ongoing for years now. And nothing much has happened towards its fulfilment. In early 2000s I ran (or walked) the charity Terry Fox Run, still taking about an hour to complete 4.5km (those hills around Lake Garden are murder!) and last week I took about 45 minutes to saunter the streets of KL for the charity Rat Race organised by my company (it felt a little less than 4km). Oh, now that I think of it, I actually registered for the Penang Bridge marathon in 1999 but didn't go (sheepish grin).

And those charity runs were only 4km. A marathon is 10 times the distance. Seems like an undoable task. The Greek soldier Pheidippides, who had been credited (in some accounts) with running from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon, managed to run into the assembly, announced "we have won" and promptly keeled over and died. Not very inspiring, huh?

Inspiring, though, are people who have succeeded, if not in elite 2-hour and a bit times, within the set time limit for certain marathons to get a medal (pictured), or if there are no limits, before they open the streets back to traffic, at a pace of 13 minutes (or 14) per mile (1.6km).

If you don't reach a certain cut-off point, runners have to take to the sidewalks, or in cases like the Marine Corp Marathon, hop aboard the strugglers' bus. (That would definitely be me. In high school in Kuantan, when we were doing the 11km Teluk Chempedak to Balok run, my roommate and I took the strugglers' boat!).

And that's the marathon. What more the triathlon, with 3.8km of swimming, 180km cycling and a full marathon to boot in the long-distance or Ironman event. Gal-pal Debby (she of the Miz Cool moniker) says she wants to do this, too, but needs a serious kick up the nether regions to even start training.

Well, I'm afraid I've got sad news... or let's call it another excuse. I've got a bum knee. A bum knee is something which can be used in any or all instances as a reason for not doing something. Just ask some men.

This bum knee developed in 1996 when I was on holiday from uni (let's call it skipping a week before Winter holidays) and touring London with cousin Rozi, her future hubby Meri, Meri's sis Leen, cousin Ziad and Meri's friend Azreezal. I didn't know how it developed, but maybe the cold didn't help. Walking down a flight of steps, there was a sudden ache in my left knee which meant I could not bend it without grimacing.

It has come and gone since then, usually when I've exerted myself. Coming down Mount Kinabalu in 1999 was complete agony, even when favouring the knee meant crab-walking (going sideways) all the way down. In the AXN Challenge in 2005, it started hurting about an hour into the race, thus I was walking/limping/hopping for the next seven hours.

Colleague Pat (whose own knee was ruined by squash) suspects I've got cartillage damage. Thinking about it, I thought it could be from years of school sports and doing the dash, especially without stretching. Or maybe, he says, some people are more susceptible to osteo-arthritis than others.

Anyhoo, seeing as Malaysians do not have easy, or cheap, access to physiotherapists, I doubt the problem will go away, and pushing through the pain might make the problem worse. Sigh. So in the end, will the dream remain a day dream? For the time being I can only sit here, with my knee elevated to relieve the ache, and wonder.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I Turned Around and You Weren't There

I just learnt that I can't work alone. Unsupervised, yes, but not alone, especially when the work regards writing. An essay, article or headline, I work better if there are other people around.
When I was a reporter at The Sun, there was always a hubbub of people talking, asking for advice, in some cases yelling, that this was never a problem. Not so much that I noticed, as I seldom did my writing at home. Then it was on to subbing, still with many people around me.

Most recently at the Brunei Times, when I got back into writing feature stories, there was colleague Arfa, and then Juli, off of whom I bounced ideas. Sometimes they didn't even need to say anything - all that was necessary was a pretence of being heard and the answer was there, whether it was the most perfect word for a headline or a sentence structure which would not make me sound like a moron.

It's like those proverbial "at the tip of my tongue" things - what you're looking for is there, you just need an impetus to bring it to the fore, and usually this involves sounding out a query. But maybe I just like the sound of my own voice... hmmm...

Well, anyway, I'm on my own now. And I'm struggling. I've been trying for weeks to work on the article for my high school reunion this weekend, and I have come up with nothing. Nada. Zilch. Satu kejadah pun takde apa-apa. And I despair at the idea of freelance writing, thoughts of which I'm entertaining for some extra dosh.

But I can't write by myself. I sit at the desk I've put up by the window in my room (pictured) and stare at the blinking cursor on a blank page, then stare out at the bit of swimming pool and garden down below. In front of me are my clothes on the rod hanger, and they're not really into having conversations. To my left is my bed, with not even a teddy bear to feign concern. And when I turn around, there's nothing but an empty wall. And no one behind me.

I guess I'll just have to heed my own words, usually said in a hoarse whisper to Juli when she goes home late a night: "Jangan Pandang Belakang."