As 2021 dawned, I set out jogging with only one goal in mind; to exceed 987 miles, the total distance amassed in 2020. One footstep turned into two and as I continued, the miles started piling up.
Eight months in, I started my 211th workout on a wet Saturday morning knowing that by the end, I would have exceeded 1000 miles. A major milestone.
The Chinese proverb "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," sometimes ascribed to Confucius, teaches that even the longest and most arduous ventures have a starting point; one small step.
With all the uncertainty that life throws as us, especially in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no way to know if I was going to achieve what I set out to do.
On the way to this milestone, I endured both the sun and rain in Guyana, and even the bitter cold for a few days while on vacation in the "Big Apple." Not even a vacation escapes the running regime. The appeal of Manhattan's Central Park in spring was irresistible.
Most of the miles accumulated were done so at the crack of dawn when the temperature is relatively low, the air is fresh, and my physical performance is optimal.
Although I have managed to hit this target on the 238th day of the year, it was not without challenges.
I had to overcome the desire to stay in my warm bed when the sun was still below the horizon. The fear of being pounced upon by men with nefarious intentions was always lurking at the back of my mind.
The mentally unstable members of the society always seem to be fighting off unseen monsters on the street at the very moment you are about to pass them by. The possibility of being whacked or have an object thrown at you is very real. They are always armed with sticks, stones, knives, or some other rudimentary weapon that can cause harm. These people genuinely need professional help. I think that the State have to play a role in caring for those who are vulnerable in the society.
Then there are the aches and pain that creep in and threaten to sabotage the workout. Warm-ups, warm-downs, and proper athletic gear can reduce injury and speed up recovery after the workout. While I am not a professional athlete, I have invested in compression pants and tops which I have found to be of great help.
Ten minutes into my run, torrents of salt water begin to pour down my face and creep into my eyes. During the final four miles, it is a battle to keep it out. The struggle never ends.
Essential to my workouts are audiobooks which I listen to as I pound the pavement around the city. I am very mindful about what I let into my ears, so this is prime time for me. With each new week, I listen to a new book which expands my mind in ways that require numerous blog posts to explain. One of my favourite books that I listened to this year is "Travels," a non-fiction piece written by Micheal Crichton.
Every workout has a story. I see things that amuse, startle, inspire, and irritate me. I also had the experience of being thrown to the ground on one occasion when a playful dog ran between my legs as I jogged along the beach.
I had no ill feeling about the incident, besides there was nothing to be gained by being upset. Both the dog and I were uninjured and while I was on all four of my limbs, I managed to squeeze in a few push-ups. A totally unplanned bonus. My 5-mile run came in a few seconds off my mark, but I lived to jog another day.
Just as it is a scorpion's dharma is to sting, I totally understood that it is the young dog's dharma to be playful. The dog's owner was so apologetic, all that was left for him to do was to prostrate to me.
The irritation is often triggered by the sight of garbage that is strewn everywhere around the city. Where is the common decency that people used to have to take their trash with them from whence they came?
I have been amused at times like when I saw a middle-aged couple bathing naked in the ocean. The most important thing is that they were both comfortable in their skins. I jogged past them like it was nobody's business. We were all unbothered.
Another noteworthy moment of amusement came when I saw steel grilled boxes hanging around the rear-view mirrors of a truck. The lengths that people must go to protect their property is no laughing matter.
A lot of amusement and inspiration come from the messages that I see written on the garments that people wear. "In my defence, I was unsupervised," and "OK, Ferst of all. I am Persian," are two of my favourites.
When I pass by groups of people, I hear all kinds of foreign languages being spoken. Guyana have truly become a multicultural society.
Kevin, a vendor who drives a minivan selling fruit juices in the afternoons along the seawall, is a man of my heart. He sometimes impeed the traffic, but he has won my admiration because of his daily relentless hustle. I believe that we were both endowed with similar genes.
The one occasion on which I was most startled is when I was approached by a man on a bicycle at the crack of dawn. He was carrying a machete tucked into his shorts, and there was no one else in sight on the street.
I was first asked for money. Who goes jogging at 5:30 am with a pocket full of cash? Of course, I did not have money so I replied accordingly. He next asked for my earbuds which I was beginning to remove from my ears so that I could hear him properly. I politely said that they would be of no use to him (that was the truth). He countered by asking for my cellphone. Soberly I asked him, why would I hand over my phone to you.
The manner in which I spoke was neither fearful or aggressive. My matter-of-fact response in the saga must have disarmed him and he eventually retreated muttering "I will spare you today." Maybe I am the one who spared him; not blows, but a long unsolicited counselling session.
The rest of that workout was preoccupied with the though process of such persons when they awake in the mornings. Do they really get out of bed with a plan to go out and terrorize innocent people?
Along the journey I have had moments of personal gratification like when I broke my own performance records. Fastest mile, fastest five miles, fastest 10 K, longest distance, etc. I am in disbelief that I managed to do all of this in 2021, especially since I never set out to accomplish any of these smaller goals. You will never know what you are capable of until you take that first step. My journey continues.
Having lived overseas for almost 17 years, I sometimes run (no pun intended) into old friends and aquaintances during my workouts. Either I was very famous or infamous, but I am easily recognizable by these people who I often struggle to remember their names or where I knew them from. I am gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
The foregoing rambling was not meant to impress anyone. It was to impress upon you the need to just get started with your endeavors. It's not a smooth road, you will learn along the way and modify your behavior and actions. Don't wait for the perfect time or equipment or gear or whatever you think you need to get started. Just take the first step in faith and all the others will follow.
Even if you fail, you have not really failed because you learn valuable lessons. On his way to creating the light bulb, Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times. Put another way, Thomas Edison learned that 10,000 different materials could not produce light.
Now that we are no longer living in darkness, what first step will you take today?