Tonight I was supposed to meet this friend at the train station, and so took the bus from my campus, off onto the flyover and smack on the slippery roads freshly sprayed with light rain. It was a cooling day, and I felt less tired than I should have.
On the bus my friend messaged me, telling me that he would be fifteen minutes late, and so I decided to take a rest stop halfway. After all, I didn’t like waiting around at stations. So I stepped off the bus, into the sort of weather that invites you with open arms to linger in its presence, the fleeting moment after rain and before sun. Perfect weather, really, where mist and cool air meld into each others presence.
I looked at my watch, and it read 19:33. I walked a bit down the hill and towards the stands of the NUS track, where a low hanging mist sat over the entire area, footballers and touch rugby players kicking and tossing about under this light blanket. I sat still and took out my book, reading the words of Milan Kundera. That was when I saw them, a bunch of runners, jogging slowly around the track, a spring in their step, invigorated by the inviting weather, a few of them turning around regularly talking to each other and caught up in each others presence.
I felt a stab of sadness all of a sudden, one that was bitter and resentful all the same. The runners kept on running, freshmen, sophomores, juniors and what not. So engrossed in their jog, nobody would have noticed if a green alien shot out from my chest. The coach looked on and talked to a few of the runners at a time, giving them advice on a higher kick, a more upright running form. The kind of thing a good coach would do.
If I had to narrow down this sadness to a specific source, I would blame it on memory. I think what running gave me wasn’t just an escape, but random memories of pain and triumph. Take my 1500 meter finals where my dad came down to support me in the rain, my quarter marathon in Thailand where I made friends with a Thai runner. Those failed runs where I would walk back, disgruntled but hopeful for the next run, heart beating in my chest, convinced that despite all these setbacks that I’d never give up . Where have those days gone?
Since my injury I had been asking myself if there was ever a substitute for running. I tried to swim, cycle, do some tabata workout. It all didn’t make me feel better, and even if it did it just never felt the same. I’ve lazed around a lot and although my environment has changed I still feel a gap inside. Without running, it just wasn’t the same. People always think that such gaps need to be filled by wholly significant things like lovers or religion but to me it had always just been two things; to write and run. We don’t need validation from another, but sometimes find answers within ourselves, to search deeper for something elusive. Even if you never find it, the journey itself should have been sufficiently rewarding and nostalgic. Again, I hope I’m making sense. I just want to be a better person and sometimes I try too hard and make no sense in the process.
The mist hangs over as I nurse this indescribable sadness. I could have been in there, running with these people, making new friends, and having people around me that shared the same passion. But I was denied, and cruelly so. What I had wanted so badly had finally materialised before my eyes, this elusive track and field team; one that physically exists and trains on Monday nights under brilliant floodlights.
The only difference was that I wasn’t part of it.