As a teenager I loved sport, I ran a lot, sprinted, cross country, played rugby,basketball, track & field, I was decent at all of them, not in an outstanding kind of way, but better than most. I felt strong in my body and I liked the feeling, a lot. But then as the years rolled by I took my health and my body for granted, as I began to pass 40 the way I was living began to take it’s toll. I figured that it would, but I thought I could fix it at some point in the future, before it was too late. I decided back then that for the time being it was ok to be that way, there was always time, later, I was wrong.
Five years ago, maybe a little more it finally dawned on me that I couldn’t run any more, my weight, my lack of fitness and my overall health all combined and my legs gave up on me. Getting to this point had taken time, alcohol, lots of cigarettes, too much unhealthy food and a suspension of any self awareness that I might have possessed. It was a low point, the realisation that I couldn’t run for a bus, or dash across the road, I felt I had lost something of myself, that I was less. I had to buy my trousers in the supermarket, the usual high street shops stopped at a 40 inch waist. From there things went down hill further, arthritis kicked in with a vengeance, my worst moment was on a weekend away at the seaside, with family and friends, as they walked along the beach I remember staying behind sparked out on the sofa, the inflammation in my joints was such that I found it impossible to walk without enormous pain. I didn’t want to carry on & I felt that there was nothing I could do about it.
That was five years ago, in the meantime much has changed, so much. For better and at times for the worse, there’s a whole story in those years, but what I wanted to explain was what happened to me this Tuesday, on Turtle Hill, a little back road in the South of Goa. I walked back to my beach shack to shower after spending a few hours at the beach, it’s bloody hot and its good to get some cool shade. I am sitting on my bed, wondering what to do next. I look down at my shoes stacked in a corner of my room. In amongst the birkenstocks & sandals & flip flops is a pair of trainers. I pick them up, find a pair of shorts, and a T shirt. I want to try to run, I think I can run. I walk along the road towards Turtle Hill, just a small hill in the great scheme of things, the sun is beating down, I pick up my pace, I try to run, just slowly, my legs feel unfamiliar, like they don’t belong to me, like I have forgotten how to run but I manage it, faltering little strides, I feel like a baby that’s learning to walk all over again. I manage maybe fifty metres and go back to a walk. I take a few breaths then try again, this time my legs work a little better, I manage a couple of hundred metres, then slow back down to a walk again. I continue a circuit up and down Turtle hill, past the little houses, along the main village road, back toward the sea, a few hundred metres walking, the same running all be it slowly. As I continue on my Turtle hill circuit I look down at my T shirt as it begins to get wetter and wetter with perspiration and the wetter it becomes the happier I feel. Each time I pass the locals sitting at their roadside stalls I can see that they think I am a mad tourist, out running in a baking afternoon sun. I must look like a nut case & I am really happy to do so. I look at my watch and see that half an hour has gone by. Half an hour, maybe only half of that running and even then only at a jogging pace. But it means more to me than I can put into words. I head back towards the sea, peel off my drenched T shirt and wade into the sea. As I do so a wave of emotion rise within me, I feel salty tears on my cheeks joining the sea. After five years, after all that has happened, after giving up on ever being able to run, after giving up on much more besides, on a non descript little Indian asphalt road full of potholes I run. Perhaps it is never to late, that what was broken can be repaired, that you just need to find your feet to move them.