In life, most times what we are looking for is out of reach. It could be that it takes time to develop but we do not have the patience to see it through. Sometimes, we may have the patience but we do not have the skills to accomplish it. But usually, we may just not have the stomach to see it through. This is mostly true when we want to change something about ourselves. After a while, with a taste of defeat in our mouths, we go back to our old ways, defeated, dejected, run-down. But it should not be like that. We were made to conquer. We were made to overcome.
Such was the case yesterday, when my running partner, Andrew Khoko entered my office to say hello. I told him I had my Monday evening run without him, and that it was tough. He immediately demanded that we run the evening of yesterday (Tuesday). My ankles felt a bit shaky so I declined. He insisted. I then proposed a 7 km walk instead. He did not want a walk. He wanted to run. So then, I suggested we go for a sprinting session. It would take less time but it would also give a chance to relax the body by working on a different set of muscles. He accepted. So come evening, we headed for Civo Stadium, built in the heart of Lilongwe, the Capital City of Malawi. I believe the full name is Civil Service Club, and it was built for civil servants back in the days of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the first state president of the Republic of Malawi.
On the way, I decided to contact my good friend and one of the best athletes in town, Pachisi Nyasulu. He is a seasoned banker and doubles as a sports management expert. He was the fastest man in Malawi between 2001 and 2004. Last year he was the third fastest man, being comfortable in the categories, 100 m and 400 m. Moreover, I think he is also okay with the 800 m category. I wanted him to give us some pointers and demonstrate a few tricks. Being that he was very busy, he briefly waited for us at the stadium, but by the time we go there, he had excused himself to attend to other matters. However, he suggested a routine that we could follow. He suggested Straights and Bends. “What is that?” I asked him on the phone. “Simple.” he said. “Just warm up first. Then jog around the track for 10 minutes. Then jog on the straights and sprint on the bends for the next 10 minutes. Lastly, sprint on the straights and jog on the bends for another 10 minutes.” he advised.
It sounded simple. I did my best to hide my disappointment. I had really wanted him to be present at the stadium when we got there. Anyway, I passed on the message to my friend and we walked to the start line. We warmed up and then started the jog. The sunlight was fading, and the stadium did not switch on the track lights. The temperature was alright. Not cool, but not hot either. We settled down for a jog around 7′ 41”. That was okay for a first day on a new track. The first 10 minutes elapsed rather quickly, and now came the time to start doing the bends. We were going to keep on jogging on the straights that are 100 m long, and then sprint on the bends. When we reached the first bend, we took off. The heartbeat shot through the roof, and it took forever to reach the other side of the bend. Whoa! This was a very new experience. When we reached the other side, instinctively, my body wanted to stop and rest. But that was not the instructions we had been given by Pachisi. We had to drop down to a jog, but not a stop.
It dawned on me this second stage was not going to be an easy one. We dutifully went around the track, sprinting on bends and jogging on straights. When 10 minutes elapsed, we completed the last bend, groaned like old men, and with joint consensus stopped. We had another 10 minutes to go of sprinting the straights and jogging the bends. We were sweating, and at the end of our wits. We resumed going round the track. But we were not sprinting this time. We were walking. We cooled down with two laps of walking. Once we cooled down my groans were replaced by glee. This was a routine worth our challenge. This was something that would have made me throw up my hands in the air and give up a few years ago. Not this time around. I sensed that this was a door to a new level of physical fitness. This was it. And I wanted to know more about such routines. So after dropping Andrew home I drove to Pachisi’s house and had an animated discussion on athletes, hiking and physical fitness.
I don’t know about you but yesterday’s straights and bends was not a defeat to Andrew and I. It was an opportunity to face a new challenge that will open up new avenues. It was a peek into the world of athletes, and we found something that will help with our routine jogging sessions. This new routine might very well be the one that allows us to drop down the number of minutes per kilometre. By the way, the stats for yesterday say we covered 2.8 km in 19:50 minutes at the average pace of 7′ 04”. Although this is far from what elite athletes clock, we were very pleased with our results. I went home walking on Cloud Nine, took a very hot bath and slept like a baby. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I laughed in my sleep.
I am no longer afraid of daunting challenges. That is a gift from God. I will go back for more, God willing. I want more! I want more challenges. Big, daunting, hairy challenges.
See you on the track.