When I arrived in Canberra about ten months ago, I was stumped at how much physical activity people did daily. I stood baffled at people huffing and puffing, running regardless of the weather changes—the chilling breeze, the falling leaves, the sweltering heat. Along with them were bikers, dog walkers, pram pushers, and general walkers. Not to mention the pre-teens skateboarding, rollerblading, and scooting away, laughing at their jubilation, sneering at friends falling behind, and a few stopping midway, waiting for their mate to join them.
As someone who does yoga and exercises within the closed comfort of my room, it was new to see everyone else getting out and about, showcasing their muscled arms, toned calves, and rock hard abs. Reservedness is non-existent. With AirPods nestled comfortably in their ears, people seemed to know where they were going and what they wanted to achieve in their workouts. As if they had a goal and an immense motivation to keep at it.
I was motivated, too, of course. I’ve been following my routine for over three years and was quite pleased with myself. Except, watching others made me feel quite small.
As I went about my life, I came upon conversations about the difficulties of running and the incredible power of those who run 10 km every so often. Celebrations and congratulations rained when someone hit a milestone.
I felt intimidated. As if everyone did something noteworthy, and all I ever did was stretch for a while every morning. It soon became unnerving and annoying to be the only one in a discussion whose proudest achievement was often walking 12 km a day.
I’d had enough. So I started running. Without any experience or an official trainer, I took to the street, stamping my way down the footpath. For the first few weeks, I ran three short sprints, of about 200 metres each, on a 4 km route.
Most runners I’d spoken to didn’t enjoy the process. They ran, nevertheless, because they liked the rush afterwards. That was weird to me. When I ran, I enjoyed it—I loved looking around, observing the trees swaying, sidestepping the lines of ants carrying meals on their heads, and smiling at the brave birds flying across my path, so low that they’re on my eye level.
Then I told myself: I’d never stop running because I had to. If I stop running on a particular course, it’d be because I wanted to. That’s how I’d avoid it becoming a chore. For as long as I had fun, I’d wake up wanting to run that day.
It’s been just over two months. And now, I can run longer distances, and even after crossing the 10 km milestone, I keep running. Because I want to.