This is going to be an easy Sunday run on a not-so-easy 20-kilometer running route. Two ascents in the first four kilometers are followed by five straight kilometers of climbing with only one serious dip which is actually no more than a short prelude to the final climb to my set turnaround point.
Why am I doing this on an early Sunday morning when I can be in bed sleeping until God knows when? More than that, why do I run every single day of my 6-and-1 weekly routine like my whole life depended on it? And those races, why do I join them when a podium finish is always a far possibility for a runner of my age and ability? It is not often that those races have age group competitions, and it is a fact that others in my group are faster than me being seasoned runners in their younger years.
I was never athletic in high school. I was too small to play basketball with the bigger guys, and neither was I strong enough to hit or throw a baseball far. It was a replay of sorts in college, except for a short foray I had into archery to represent my school at a local meet because no one else was interested to. I had a two-week crash course on the sport before the week-long games. As expected, we were demolished by the competition and I finished a mediocre 5th among seven participants. In that short-lived romance with the bow and arrow, I've learned to love archery. And I think I now know why. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.
Running this seemingly endless chain of ascents gives me that same feeling. Here, pushing myself to keep a steady pace climb after higher climb, the cold wind chilling me to my inner muscles, I conquer. I conquer the road, I conquer the hills, I conquer my weakness, my old un-athletic self, and emerge a renewed person capable of achieving that which to others may seem unachievable.
Over the past four years since I got my second wind in running following a brief hiatus spent riding bikes, I have felt myself grow stronger. I feel I have transcended my previous limits both physically and mentally. My training runs have taken a bit more variety and structure. I can keep pace better with some age-group runners who used to outrun me by minutes four years ago. I have grown less fearful of pushing myself and running faster. I have learned to be more confident in myself and my abilities while remaining mindful of the limitations set by my ageing body.
Four years ago, I had a silent loathing for running these hills. I always faced them with a fear of the suffering they would cause my legs and lungs. There were times I wished I didn't do them. And the truth is I didn't have to, much the same way I didn't have to do it today. But I chose to then as I choose to now because I know I can transcend the suffering and emerge a better man.