It was a rainy day, March, 2014. The alarm went off at 3am and I slowly peeled myself out of bed. Was it excitement I felt in the pit of my stomach or, more likely, terror? My partner and I had no idea what to expect as we drowsily prepared ourselves for the morning ahead.
After training intermittently, the day we would participate in our first competitive run had arrived. Dragging ourselves out of bed, we hurriedly got dressed, had a quick snack and headed out. Reaching Chiang Kai Chek Memorial, we quickly stripped off our winter jackets, stuffed them into our scooter and hustled to the back of a long line up. We had everything we needed for the run ahead, running belts, breezy running jackets, a cell phone and a couple spare hundred dollar notes, just in case. Being naïve, and with no one to show us the ropes of running competitively, we wrongly assumed there would be nowhere to store anything extra while we ran. We danced around in the wintery drizzle, trying to keep warm, waiting to board the bus for our first Wanjinshi half marathon.
Arriving near the starting gate just before dawn, we hurried about looking for the race pack pick up, a free shirt, shoe chip, number and… sunscreen? What were we going to do with all this? We arranged our numbers, our chips, put on the extra shirt, because we couldn’t fathom where else it might go, and threw out the sunscreen. It was not a day for sunscreen.
At last, it was time. Thousands of us crowded together bunching towards the gate, and we were through, “Run!” I said as we took off! There wasn’t much room to propel ourselves, we had runners on all sides, but eventually we wound through the crowds and found our pace. I felt strong, energetic, elated! Everything was an incredibly happy blur, hills, ocean, cheering crowds, small villages and then, through a sea of people, the turn-around. Back we went through the villages, past the cheering crowds, ocean, hills, those final few difficult kilometers and… finished!
Beaming, we made our way through the crowds, and I had an inexplicable high. What was it? The experience of getting up and running through the pouring rain with thousands of other runners? Perhaps it was the crowds who came out and cheered tirelessly as we passed? Or maybe it was the volunteers getting up early on a weekend morning to help a group of strangers realize their own personal goals? It could’ve been just my own sense of accomplishment combined with adrenaline, the “runners high”, or a sense of extending myself physically, past any point I had been before. But the more I race, the more I realize it’s all of those things, together with the unique taste of each encounter I have with finish line.
And here I’ve been ever since… hopelessly addicted to running.