I was drenched in sweat. The fit tee I’m wearing turned a shade darker now it’s wet. My shoes and socks are both soaked as well. No. Not because of the sweating. That’d be too exaggerating. It was from the rain. I guess the heavy downpour the day before is not enough, it had to continue that morning as well. While I was warming up some more. Maybe that’s why so many people injured after the run though, we were warming up under a raining sky.
I continued running up the hill. Oh boy, you don’t run up a hill unless you’re in a marathon or any other running competition. But still, first corner after the starting line and then this hellish hill? What a demotivation. How could this be worse? Glad I rushed to the front of the crowd at the starting line. I’ve at least avoided the horror of being stomped by hundreds other who look like they may cause human stampede once the starting horn was honked.
I now found myself running behind a group of five who’ve lead the run ever since it started. That means I’m at sixth. This is not a surprise though. I had always been in the top ten at the beginning of a run. Only to find myself panting and suffocating minutes later. However, I wouldn’t let my months of training betray me and left me with only a finisher medal. It wasn’t long until the hill found its peak and we went downhill. If I could run uphill why shouldn’t I downhill huh?
Dang. I said that too soon. Another hill came up. Glad it wasn’t as steep. I eventually caught up with the runners from the 10km run who were sent off five minutes earlier. That is itself a motivation. Not that I’m great enough to run as far as they do – twice my current run? No way. Soon, but surely not today – yet the monumental excitement from overtaking these people boosted both my morale and speed as I continue the uphill battle. Running down the hill this time, I heard herds of footsteps approaching from behind. Either I was slowing down or they’re taking advantage of the gravity. Clearly ignoring the fact that the shock will somehow affect their knees. I ran at the same pace. It was only the first kilometer, I couldn’t afford walking the rest of the way if I run a faster pace right now. And my breathing rhythm would surely be disturbed if I do so. I’m not repeating the same mistake I did before now that I’d learned running isn’t only about your stamina and muscular strength, I have to keep my breathing right.
Breathe. In. Breathe. Out. Breathe. In. Breathe. Out.
As we came across another hill, the group of five broke. Seems like two of them surrendered to the gravitational force once the path gets steeper upwards. It wasn’t intentional but the side of my mouth curved upwards and lifted both of my cheeks. Breathe. Out. Breathe. In. In. Breathe. Out. Oh! I’d lost my tempo. Few runners passed by me. I stopped smiling instantaneously, getting back my rhythm. Note to self: no sinning while running.
The hilly part of the whole running route seemed to be over. I haven’t stopped running yet. I was amazed myself. What a record! My pace might had slowed down a little but I’m totally refraining myself from walking. One of the lessons I learnt from my previous runs: once I started walking, it’s hard to start running again and I’ll stop even more frequent. So, no! At the 2.5th kilometer, as per mentioned during the briefing, there’s a water station at the roadside. Keeping oneself hydrated is important! Especially for full marathon that I’ve aimed to participate in before 30. But for a 5K, it’s almost a trap that I surely not wanting to fall into anymore. I put a hand up once offered by the ushers and continued my run.
Suddenly my world went dark. I am suffocating, gasping for air. What could’ve went wrong though? My rhythm was right, so does my breathing. Does my training finally decided to betray me? Was it not enough that I ran three rounds of uphill-plateau-downhill-plateau every morning? Or was the five non-stop laps around the football field later every evening were too little? What’s this rumbling sound now leaving together with the sudden blackout?
The sun’s back in my vision. And it should’ve been clearly seen by now how I was being hyperbolic. It wasn’t me. I wasn’t fainting nor blacking out. A bus passed by and its smoke filled the air. I unfortunately breathed in its smoke. The last corner I took brought me into this main road. More and more vehicles passed by. I held my breath, increased my pace, seeking for less poluted area. I couldn’t help it. The smoke managed to find its way into my lungs. I coughed. Pretty badly at that. Glad I’d then passed the deathly road and found myself at a more isolated road.
However it was too late. One thing I tried my best not to do inevitably happened. I stopped running. I know I shouldn’t, if possible I wouldn’t, but I just couldn’t. I was still coughing. A little part of me regretted not taking the water before. I spat a mouthful and rather thick saliva. My throat became very dry, it’s even harder to cough that I teared. I’m still walking but in a very sickly manner. I breathed in the fresh air. Gulping my saliva repeatedly attempting to lubricate my throat. Once stable, I continued my run. The whole process took less than a minute, I was glad no one managed to pass me by.
Now that I was in a better state, I realized that I was in the last kilometer of the run. This straight-level road would take me straight to the stadium where the finishing line was. It’s an easy one. I was quite familiar with this road as well, only that when I took this road this morning it was still dark. I could felt my adrenaline rush as the stadium fell into my sight. I ran faster! I sprinted my way up the last hill into the stadium, towards the finishing line. I closed my eyes and sinked in the cold morning wind gushing onto my drenched, exhausted body.
And like a dream come true, I was announced 5th place. Receiving a winning medal instead of just the finisher medal like I always did. My mouth curved up, forming a perfect smile, surely intentional.