(12th February) The pounding noise of my sport shoes resonated off the concrete ground of the highway with a clanging echo that matched my throbbing heart inside my chest as I ran. Without figuring out an hour has elapsed, I joyfully lost in this half marathon run, by just a leap of faith that I could conquer this physical breakthrough, a seemingly impossible breakthrough that goes beyond my physical limits.
When the clock stroke to half past eight, within a second the crowds’ cheers erupted like an auditory volcano for this annual sport event along Nathan Road, the main thoroughfare in Kowloon. Just savour this instant moment when my adrenaline starts pumping, the moment that I have been anticipating for months. Just feel the warm sunshine and bathing over our face, the quickening beats of my heart and soaring wings of our frantic excitement, altogether forming an unforgettable mosaic of scenery that stamped into my heightening soul. It was indeed an enticement when I was being a part of the colourful sea of calibrated runners from different walks of life, feasting on the gorgeous view of commercial buildings or smiling to the kids who perhaps also dreamt of completing half marathon, like us, one day.
After a few minutes into the race, for the sake of saving energy to the later miles, running at full speed in my mind start to slide slowly to the back of my brain. I felt my body gradually slipped into that familiar running rhythm like an automatic engine, passing through a maze of intersections, passing crowds of cheering teams with encouraging banners, all the way upward to the highway. Seconds, and then minutes leaped like a flash, due to my attentive focus on my pounding breaths and regular pace. Time sped up, miles slipped away in an almost dreamlike state of mind, when I feel like myself as free as flying in the gentle breeze.
The awe of this psychological “flow” state, though it becomes popularized by a more common name of being “in the zone”, was essentially locking oneself in the steady, repetitive movement. It is a thoroughly-focused experience of the heightened “feel”, and also relatively effortless exertion in the engaging activities. You will steadily become egoless as your awareness and movements bind together, energy effortlessly expands with a light feeling of timelessness where attention drifts. You feel so invincible, ever so satisfied to be fully immersed in a feeling of energized concentration, and intense enjoyment within the process.
“Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.”
― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Happiness
I didn’t realise how fast an hour elapsed until running near to the water station, glancing at the road sign that marked 10km. Granted, there is no magical formula to stay confident in long-distance races other than years of focused, sustaining training. It just triggered a flashback when I first took the plunge in this lively sport step-by-step, from taking part in 800m and 1500m track events to 4-5km Cross-Country competitions during my entire secondary school life. Those were the bittersweet years of persevering training in the school team, and also self-practice of 10km when I burst into tears to surmount physical torments till dusk, and promised myself to strive for the personal best against all odds each time, just like today.
Even up to now, not only do I rejoice at polishing already well-honed skills, but also find outdoor running invigorating as I step on the emerald turf or sport ground under the azure sky, feeling my regular pulse and the refreshing evening air, enjoying this mental freedom and solitude. Running has been my panacea during some confusing times, when there lies crossroads on my future directions, when I am enmeshing in study pressure and figuring out my self-hood and identity. It is indeed a relief to acknowledge that, no matter what would be going on, everything will appear brighter as I lace up my sport shoes into a mileage run, when that hour enables my mind to wander without inhibition, to be floating somewhere in somewhat half-realized transcendence.
“All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”
― Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Rolling sweat clung to my skin and slicked to my T-shirt and ponytail as my body stretched to the limit in the side of Hong Kong Island. However exhausting when coming across the upward slope of the Cross Harbour Tunnel, however painful the blisters under my feet in the last 5km, nothing could dampen my enthusiasm in engaging this lively sport, as usual. My running steps steadily transformed into miles and passed in an exhilarating blur – lines of delightful faces, stunning views of modern skyscrapers in Central District, a kaleidoscope of shopping centres in the two sides of Hennessy Road, clapping hands by swarms of pedestrians, and flashing camera lights by the journalists. Crossing the last bridge that eventually leads to the Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, I felt like I was flying – a feeling of complete freedom and ability which I haven’t felt so much in other social activities.
It was high time to kick in the final push with confident strides. I took a deep breath, and started leaping towards the finishing line without any hesitation or quest for stopping. There is nothing marvellous than appreciating the blessings to be able to run further, to delve into those transcendental moments, and make running this pastime to be truly enjoyable and intrinsically rewarding. ♦