Running and Falling

Yesterday, on the last night of being 30, I decided to go for a run around Belgrade to clear my head a little (as I’m one of those people who have an ambivalent relationship to no longer being kids), and also lose a few calories ahead of birthday celebrations.

Although I’ve been running since 2011, I really got into it regularly last year after losing a bit of weight, and now it is one of my passions, and the best way to avoid having a beer or a burger when I feel I need to improve my mood.

I was relatively shit at running for most of my life. Indeed, one of the first things that comes to mind when I think about running is a particularly embarrassing episode when my whole primary school class watched a very chubby teenage me trying to complete a mandatory 800m run, long after everyone already finished. At first they cheered, then they jeered, and then, after a few long minutes of watching me pant and stumble in our school yard, they were just silent and seemed like they were pitying me a little.

As I have no ambitions (or any real chance) to run more seriously, running has taken a strange place in my life and mind, as a hard thing which I enjoy doing purely for its own sake.

Of course, there is a bit of over-compensation, and a some remains of the hope that it will help me shed a few extra pounds (although I can easily out-eat my running). Still, having trained for and completed a few half marathons, I am aware that running is not the most efficient for either self-confidence or weight-loss.

As a rare activity I enjoy purely for its own sake, a concept which up to until a few years prior was a bit foreign to me, running is now for me just a source of immense joy.

Anyhow, part tired, and part bloated from ‘ćevapi’ and beer I had for lunch, yesterday I decided to do about 5k to St Sava Church and back. In the beginning it was hell, especially as I injured my left knee and palm a few days ago, after I fell from my bike. Yet I pushed on, slowly, uphill, and gradually I started feeling better and found my flow. After about 4k, when I finally got to St Sava Church, I decided to do a little „victory lap“ before heading back.

And then, all of a sudden, I was flat on my chest.

I was winded. My previously injured left leg was hurting like hell, again. My left palm was bloody, and, maybe wort of all — my phone screen, for which I paid dearly to be replaced only a few months ago, was cracked.

I tripped on one of the cables around the church, and that was it for my last pre-31 run. After getting up, my left thigh hurt so much that even walking the remaining 1k was a struggle. I knew that it will only get worse tomorrow.

On the way back, I despaired how even while running — i.e. doing something that was always a rare unquestionably “good thing” for me — I managed to fuck myself up. In the past few years, I thought I got used to being floored by other things in my life — work, bad relationships, life-changing decisions, eating, drinking — yet at that moment I felt… betrayed by running.

My self-pity, exhaustion and pain all agreed that it is evidently unfair that even when I am doing “everything right” (ok, except for watching my step), I am falling flat on my face.

I continued wallowing in feeling betrayed by life (yes, I’m melodramatic) , up until this morning, when I had to go to my pre-arranged birthday gym session, which I considered skipping. My leg was feeling even worse than the day before, and my arm was still a mess — yet despite feeling shit I decided to still do my typical Wednesday routine after rubbing some ointment into my sore leg, and wrapping my hand with bandage and scotch tape.

As I was limping towards the gym, feeling every painful step, I realised that I my mood was slowly lifting. The act of persisting, despite the pain, in doing what I wanted to do, even made the memory of prior night better.

Rather than regretting what happened and feeling disappointed that I fell, I even started feeling a bit proud that I went for that run, as bad as it was.

Occasional falling, of course, is part of running, as much as learning how to breathe or step properly, or the dopamine rush, and the rush during races.

Falling is unavoidable, yet running and persisting, they are a matter of choice. As much as it hurts, it is better to fall on your terms, running and persisting, than to fall by running away from falling.

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