My first memory of competing in Sports is the 100 meters race in my first grade. I was in the lead until one of my classmates pushed me back, leading me to drop to the third position. Honestly, I don’t know if this is a false memory. I did run a race and I was pushed. But, I don’t know if I had any chance of winning it!
That was the only time I ever competed in a sports competition. Whether it was a lack of interest or encouragement, I never went back that way again. I suspect it was because of my problem of “taking myself a little too seriously”. I was always too concerned about what people were thinking of me and falling off the pedestal they had put me on. This invariably stopped me from experimenting anything new. Never try anything where you had a chance of failing. Not even failing, stay away from anything where I was not guaranteed to excel. A really bad attitude for a child to grow up with.
I was the good kid, academically (almost) always on the top of my class. A trained dancer, who was the favorite pick for every event and competition. My family and teachers loved this and encouraged me when it came to such activities.
Also, a big factor was being my father’s daughter. Being the elder daughter of a well-known sportsperson and mentor of a small town, where everyone knew everyone (literally), I was under too much pressure to perform if I ever stepped in. My sports teacher at school deriding me for being uninterested in sports, disappointed in me. Telling me I was a disgrace to my dad’s name. Not realizing all these jibes were pushing me further away from the exact same thing he wanted me to be a part of.
My mother would constantly nag my dad and ask him to involve his daughters. Asking him to send us to the academies and clubs he was the President/Director and what not. I felt he was too involved and busy in trying to coach his next bright player to enter the Ranji trophy. It would have been a big inconvenience to drive around two girls to and fro from their coaching classes.
I asked them the same last evening. And I was right. But, it’s not like they are partial towards boys. As my dad said, there were barely any facilities available for girls (sad state of most of our country) and the thought didn’t come naturally to them. I can understand that. It’s just what most people of their generations think. That’s how they are conditioned by their families and society. But, it’s hard to see that same thing happening now. When I tried to encourage some of my son’s classmates (girls) to join his football class, (some of them were actually very good. Natural at it) I heard reasons like “She is a girl, why all this? Anyway, she goes for drawing classes” “She plays enough at home” Just so sad.
But, this isn’t the topic I want to rant on today. Actually, no ranting because this is a happy post.
So, where were we? Yes, about my distance from anything sporty. Except for some irregular games of badminton with my friends, my school life was all about studies, dance and of course friends. This continued through my college days (but addition of work outs: gym or at home. Fitness was and is a big part of my life) only changing when I was well into my 30s.
Needing a break from being a full-time mom, I decided to do something for myself. So, myself and a friend who similarly was ready to rip her hair out with the stress of her job and a young child, cut the cord and went on a Himalayan trek.
I intensified my work out schedule couple of months before it but, I realized my capabilities, when I could trek for hours at high altitude without losing my breath and being fairly fast. Not like I climbed the Everest, but it was a big deal for me. It also showed me how much I enjoyed such activities. The rush of doing something I had never done before, something I thought I would be bad at.
Once back home a friend suggested we go running together. Massive fail. I couldn’t keep up with him and huffing and puffing and being watched by everyone in the park killed all the interest for me. I would try to hide from him and escape it. Luckily it didn’t last too long.
Last year, I saw the pictures posted by one of my batchmates from college. Vikas was running all kinds of marathons. He suggested I join the Hyderabad runners group and train for the next run. I went for one session. It was far, the timings didn’t work for me. But, in that session I realized how easily I could do all that was asked to. I dare say much more easily than the others there. It nudged me towards the decision of running the next 5k.
So, download C25K and train every morning. Running every morning, I realized I gave zero f**** about what people thought of me. Was I running in my usual duck walk style? Were my shoulders looking funny? Was my nonexistent butt out? I didn’t care. I loved the feeling despite scandalizing the morning walkers in the park with my shorts. (OMG!! You are a woman!! Your legs must be covered! After all, they aren’t made for walking like it is for us men!! You know what kind of thoughts it starts in our head. Oh yes, I am not talking about the head on top of my shoulders, because that is nonfunctional you see?)
Apart from beating up a homeless man who flashed at me and having heated arguments with old uncles about “how women should dress”, and almost giving a f*** when couple of my friends commented on how the breeze would carry me the first few kilometers (A jab at my weight. Funnily, both said the exact same thing.) I had come close to finishing 5K in 45 minutes. I was happy but I really wanted to come in the neighborhood of 30 mins. 10 days to go for the Airtel Hyderabad marathon 5K run, and my knees start hurting. Excruciating pain. I couldn’t even stand or walk. Most friends advised against continuing to run. But this was me. I never back down (Really shitty and dangerous attitude most times) After two days of break I was back at it. But now, I took 50 minutes to do it apart from going through a lot of pain the rest of the day. I was disheartened. But, I reminded myself that I was competing with myself and any timing would be great timing for a novice like me.
On the D day, I reach the venue completely pumped up, only to be pissed off by the “security” there staring at my legs and passing comments. I confronted them and was ready to pick a fight, but lucky for them they were born without any real balls.
Luckily, the super fun pre-run warm up session brought me back to my happy state and we were ready for the flag off. For a few minutes there, I wished I had some company and wasn’t standing alone like I usually found myself nowadays. Just then I heard Riri singing “rude boy”. Only person being rude there was the woman playing it on her phone and trying to dance. I am like wtf?!! Put some earphones on woman!! But I decided to keep the aggression for the track and politely asked her to shut it.
Flag off and we began. Most people were slowly jogging, busy taking selfies. Some of us who were there to actually run, overtook them all and were focusing on our rhythm. The multiple photographers lined up to take pictures of the runners were a big motivation. I wanted to look good while praying I don’t get clicked in an awkward pose. There was a 10-12-year-old girl ahead of me and I tried hard to overtake her, but I never could through the run.
I had Runtastic on and the end of 2 kms I was at 12 minutes. This was better than my practice runs!! Last one km to go and, there it was!! The mother of all stitches. I’ll be damned if I slowed down. I managed my breathing and pressed my fingers into my side, giving me some relief and motored on. Aaaaanddddd…….I hit the finish line at 35 minutes. I was ecstatic!!
The girl who couldn’t run for 30 seconds without coming close to a cardiac attack had finished 5K in 35 minutes. I know it’s child’s play for most people. But, coming from where I was, this was almost a milestone. More than me, my sports teacher would be surprised and maybe finally not wonder how could someone like me, be a daughter of someone like my dad’s.
I believe everyone is capable of doing everything. Yes, everything. You might not be the best at it(and you don’t have to be), but you can do it. I am not going to turn into Usain Bolt, but one day, I am going to run a full marathon. Most things are meant to be experienced and relished. Events which shape us into the people we would like to become. Stronger, more confident and even a better person. We spend most of our time stressing, competing and struggling through our lives. If this enlightenment (rolls her eyes at self) had come to me earlier, I would have probably enjoyed my run at the park with my friend, instead of stressing out and telling myself that I wasn’t as good as him. I still might not be (I am sure I am not) but who cares really?
So, go ahead and do what you have always wanted to, but were discouraged by the fear of ridicule or criticism. Go on and take that photography course, learn to pole dance or even try your hand at stand up. Because it’s never too late.