In high school I think I ran of my own volition one time. In college it might have been twice. During my last few years in Germany, I would go for sporadic runs, and I started to find some enjoyment in jogging, but it never became a regular thing. I still didn’t really understand why people would run together in groups or why they would ever, ever run a marathon.
Nevertheless, I brought running shoes with me to Indonesia with the intention of nurturing the enjoyment that I had started to feel in Germany. Originally, I thought I would start running when I moved to my permanent site, but the other volunteers in my training village started running together, and after some friendly peer pressure, I joined them. We would get up early and start running at hours that you can count on one hand. I felt good on those runs, and I had fun. It finally made sense to me that people would run together in groups. After a while, I even started warming to the idea of running a marathon.
Last weekend, I participated in my first race since elementary school field day: a helluva half marathon: 21 km (13 mi) through beautiful mountains and past the volcanically active Mt. Bromo. Most runners were from Indonesia, but people came from all over, near and far, to participate. I ran for most of the race, but I definitely walked a bit as well. I can’t imagine that anyone but the top runners ran the whole way. I’d like to know what the villagers thought when they saw people running up and down their mountains with a banana in one hand and a bottle of water in the other, plus the odd selfie stick tucked in somewhere…
After I finally crossed the finish line, I felt relieved. Then hungry. Then physically drained. I forgot to look for my time, but I didn’t care. I thought to myself, I never need to do that again. The following day, however, after looking up my time online (2:47:56), a different notion crossed my mind. I reckoned I could probably shave off a minute or two next year. Considering my less than rigorous training, I think I did pretty well, plus no injuries to speak of. Maybe, just maybe, that wasn’t my last race.