Self-discovery and self-acceptance are turns you must take on a journey to peace.
Kenyans can run. That’s the general stereotype held by people who obviously haven’t met the vast majority of the Kenyan population. I am part of that vast majority.I can’t run,or rather I just don’t run the right way. This assertion came from someone who seems to have been born running,so I have it on relatively good authority that I shouldn’t quit my day job and take up running as a career.
Truth be told though,I had no idea my running technique was so cringe-worthy,mostly because I go running on my own. However, last December at a church camp in Malindi, I was unfortunate enough to go running with a bunch of people who you will probably find pictured in the dictionary under the word “running” and if I were to aptly describe the whole scenario; it was like an elephant trying to fly with a bunch of hawks and eagles.In one word: laughable. In my defense though, I am not really built in a way that allows me to continuously lift my legs off the ground and run forward,backward,sideways or on the spot in a manner that isn’t unbelievably hilarious. (Sadly, I did not know this before that day.) In fact, just the other day, I was running and I made the mistake of looking down at my shadow and was taken aback by how much I looked like a baby elephant on two legs.
But,I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start this story from where it began.
We had been in Malindi for a week and this was to be my second time going for a run in the hot and humid climate. I was feeling confident; sure that my body would have an easier time the second time around. I mean,the first time I had gone for a run,I had run 4 kilometers non-stop before I got tired and the route that day was only 1.5 kilometers.That would be a piece of cake. On top of that, the people I had run with the first time were mostly non-experienced runners who I could have taught a thing or two… well,if I had a thing or two to teach…which I didn’t and I still don’t. I was strongly convinced that this would be my day to shine.
I walked up to join the others at the starting point of our run feeling charged and excited. Sure that nothing could go wrong. As I looked around,I realized that our little running band had grown.We had new faces.People who looked like they could run and run and run for days in the sun and not even ask for water. That was when I felt it. That feeling in the bottom of my gut that let me know that NOTHING was going to happen the way I thought it would. The playing field had changed and I was totally unprepared,but still,I was determined to see this through.
The run began. Wisely,I stayed at the back of the pack and let the Cartel of Super-Runners monopolize the pace of the run some meters ahead of me and I say wisely,because by staying behind them I was able to conceal how hard of a time me and my poor little heart were having keeping up with them.Also, by staying behind them,I had my own little band of “runners” (and I use that word loosely) who I could keep up with. The only problem with staying behind them was that it was a member of the Cartel who knew where we were going,so even if I could stay behind them,I still had to keep up. Which sucked.
As we kept running, I realized that we had run 1.5 kilometers a long time ago and we were not getting back to camp. The feeling in my gut got worse…and this time I had the feeling that we were lost.We would realize later that the man who had appointed himself the map and compass in reality, had no idea where he was going and chose that day to take a group of people,relying on him for directions along on his exploration of an unknown land. When I realized that we would be running a lot longer than we had originally planned,I decided to walk.In addition to that, the terrain was not favorable for lifting my heavy legs as it was sandy with random hills.
Obviously,as we walked,the Cartel got further and further away and we resorted to following the footprints we suspected were theirs. At some point though,I think someone in the Cartel looked behind and realized that the slow people were nowhere to be seen and two of them came back for us. When they did, we were obliged to start running again to keep up with them and get to where the rest of the star athletes had stopped to wait for us slow pokes. By the time we got there, I was beat. My body obviously thought I was trying to commit suicide by running myself to death and fought to get air into my struggling lungs.
When we stopped, I was grateful and I took the time to calm myself down. As I looked around at everyone else,I noticed that I seemed to be one of the few people who were tired. The star athletes had hardly broken a sweat.They were even making jokes and laughing. Then it came,from nowhere… “Have you guys seen how Ebby runs?” Oh no,I was about to be a joke. The person then proceeded to imitate my peculiar running and breathing. I looked on and wondered: “Do I really look and sound like an out-of-the-water,dying whale when I run??” Most people laughed,including me. I think I even made fun of myself. However, in my mind,I had decided that I wouldn’t be doing any more running where people could see me. For the rest of the run, I walked.In fact,we all walked. Even the super athletes,although they only did this for all of two minutes.
It felt like we had walked for years when we finally got directions (because men will wait until they are lost in a forest so that they can ask for directions) and made our way back to camp after travelling,yes, travelling 15.6 kilometers.I walked the whole way back,at the fastest pace my aching,chubby legs would allow and was the last to set foot into camp.
And that,people, is how I learned that I am a human baby elephant.At least when I run,I am.
I will admit now, that that 15.6 km disaster traumatized me. In fact,the first time I attempted running after Malindi,my body went into a panic.She was probably worried that I was going to try and kill her again and it took me awhile to be calm about anything faster than running.
I still go running. However,I only run alone and in the dark,between 5:30am and 6:00am when no one can see me and just in case I can be seen, I wear a hoodie over my head. Please do not think I do this because I am scared or embarrassed.I do this because I really don’t want to bother people and I don’t want people to bother me. Am I better at it? I have no idea and I highly doubt that I will ever give anyone a chance to assess my improvement or lack thereof.Will I stop running and go do chubby-people things(whatever chubby-people things are)?No. I genuinely like running. I feel like I’m flying when I run. (Though, this is probably because I walk so slow to begin with…but…whatever.) So,yeah.
This is the point: I no longer walk around in denial,thinking that Usain Bolt and I are from the same gene pool. I have learnt that I am not a good runner and even though I improve, I probably won’t be the best runner and I accept that and I am at peace. You see,that’s the thing: Self-discovery and self-acceptance are turns you must take on a journey to peace. Remember that as you go through the rest of this year. Take time to discover who you are and as you do,be wise enough to accept what you discover.
As we officially begin the year on MSICHANAWANAIROBI, a month or two late,I want to welcome back all my committed readers and introduce myself to my new ones: I’m Ebby, a lot of people this days call me msichanawanairobi.I have chubby legs and run like a baby elephant and that is totally okay.Happy New Year and Welcome! We are going to have so much fun.