And so after the hiatus that lasted two months, I went for a run. I had been awake for over an hour so I didn’t need extra motivation to drag myself out of bed. At exactly 6:26AM, I stepped out of my house. Usually, I would go knock on Fola’s door to wake him, and we’d go together. But he had traveled, and I wasn’t going to let that stop me. So, off I went.
After about five minutes, I started breathing so hard and all my body wanted to do was stop. Usually, Fola jogged behind me, so no matter how tired I was in the beginning, hearing his foot falls gave me some encouragement, so I wouldn’t, couldn’t stop.
It was hard for me keeping up the first few days we started running, and though he was stronger and faster, he would remain behind me just so I would keep moving. There was a time we were returning, and I was so tired he had to piggyback me on the road and passersby couldn’t help but stare.
He would keep saying “move it, move it.” And I moved my ass. After a while, I began to improve and then he would say, “Ha, Kemi, you’re the strong one now. See the distance us.” Even though I knew he was kidding, that it was his way of telling me I was getting better, I would smile and savour the moment. I no longer tired easily. There were times he’d point to an electric pole in the near distant and ask us to stop there. And I’d say, “No, let’s not stop there, let’s keep jogging,” and I could almost feel him rolling his eyes and smiling behind me.
But this morning, alone, I started breathing hard after about three minutes. If there’s one thing I have learnt from past experiences is that you cannot afford to stop to catch your breath. If only you can just endure that moment that insists you stop and breathe, if only you can continue, then you’d be fine. After that phase, it would almost feel like being on autopilot, at least that is how it is for me. For a while, I would barely be able to feel my legs. My mind would be everywhere thinking and imagining; my eyes busy looking at trees, rocks, people and everything around; while my legs would just keep carrying me.
But after some time, I would start feeling so tired again I had to will my body to continue. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when you’re done. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when you’re done. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when you’re done. I’d repeat to myself. And so the cycle continued. It was easier for me going on all those times because Fola was behind me, he wouldn’t let me stop. But this morning, with no one telling me to move it, all I wanted to do at that point was stop. But I didn’t. Even when my heart was threatening to come out through my mouth, I didn’t stop. And to my surprise, I ran the distance we normally did, and I wasn’t as tired as I used to feel in the past.
I have been genuinely tired at some points in my life. Although life has been fairly good to me. I find myself fortunate not to have experienced/encountered some tragedies that alter people’s outlook on life. But this world sometimes insist we bear more and more pain even after we can no longer bear it. Life gives you your share of troubles at some point. No one is completely free.
There are days I wake up feeling unprepared for life, like I am not well equipped. I mean, I have been around for over two decades and I still feel I’m not used to living. Some days I’m so worried I’m not making as much progress, that my potentials are just there for nothing, and my life is just wasting away. Sometimes it feels like I’m not even present in my life, like someone else is living it and I’m just there to observe. I think about the things I haven’t got right, the stuff I told myself I was going to do but haven’t got around to starting. And even though I know I’m not exactly folding my arms and watching my life go by, on those days, in that mental zone, nothing really feels enough.
There are times I get so tired and it almost seems like I’m jogging on the same spot. But I don’t stop because I know if I do that, starting over will be more difficult. So even if I have to wait for a car to drive past, I keep jogging in that position. You don’t stop when you’re tired, you stop when you’re done.
I know if I were to jog alongside someone else, the distance that usually takes me about an hour to cover might take them forty-five minutes or less. But it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that I recognize my lane, stop looking at other runners and just focus on my own race. In the past few months, my mantra has been your race, your pace. It’s my race, and I can only run it at my pace. Running fast and finishing early is good, but that isn’t the goal.
The goal is to finish.
I recently happened on this quote and it’s fast becoming one of my favourites:
Those who are blessed with the soaring swiftness
of an eagle and have flown before, let them go.
I’ll travel slowly and I too will arrive – Ayi Kwi Armah
Of course we need people, no one makes it out here alone but no one will run your race for you. Your friends have theirs too. And as much as you need people to cheer you on, it’s still your race. Your loved ones can only be on the sidelines, prodding you on.