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.

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