The last twelve months have been a big mix of surprises and personal milestones. I have managed to live a year with reduced working hours, limiting office to just the first half of the day. I lost a great deal of weight but this time managed to put only half of it back again. I started running and dreaming of bigger things again. Kicked the writer’s block out of my head; enough to get one more book and two dozen blog posts out of the system. Got back into academic teaching and signed up to teach not just one but two semester long full length courses. Finally lost my gold card status on Emirates as I cut down on travel and decided to just stay home for a change.
But the biggest milestone of all occurred this weekend.
On Sunday morning at about 9:45 am at the Karachi Cross Country Championship I ran my first competitive race in 27 years. The last time this happened was December 1989. Before we get all excited and start hyper ventilating let me explain.
I almost didn’t make it. It was a short 2 kilometer race. I ran in the under 50 category. There were just a handful of us oldies running side by side with the contestants for the girls under 14 category. I ran because I wanted to help pace my younger daughter who was also running. In my mind when I ran, I ran just like the flash, maybe slightly faster.
Reality is unfortunately a different dimension.To say that I ran is an over simplification. I waddle. You know like a duck, but slightly bigger than the largest duck you can imagine. More like a trial balloon or zeppelin. You could be generous and say that I didn’t waddle, I shuffled, but the image would still be just as grotesque. Thankfully nobody took any pictures of me in action. The ones that were taken were from really cheap cell phones camera and not worthy of being posted on a classy site like this. The only movies and frames shot of me running were from my own camera and I can assure that they were all deleted last night. I also formatted the SD card for good measure so these movies will never ever see the light of the day.
But I digress. I ran in a race. A real one with a starting line and a finish line and officials and all sorts of colored flags. Stop watches and cash prizes too.
Yes, yes I know, it triggered an earthquake in Fiji, a landslide in Kashmore and forced the mighty river Indus to change its course again but that is beside the point. I ran in a race and despite thinking multiple times that I was too old to do this and I should stop this nonsense right now, I didn’t. I finished it. A little slower than the flash but certainly faster than the “me” I knew a year ago. The “me” I knew a year ago was only good for shooting stuff from the stands. And waddling. The new “slightly slower than the flash and a little bigger than a duck me” was actually captured on film. Sadly though I was too large to fit properly in any single frame.
A year ago at this time if you had said to me that I would run in a race in any age category and finish it, I would have laughed. “Ha, ha, very funny”. It was such an alien idea. It still is. But here is the takeaway. The comical sight of a zeppelin dressed in black doing the shuffle, waddle, and earth quake triggering run was good enough to inspire at least two forty year old friends to give up their sedentary ways and join me on the track. We are going to form a team. While the world and our competition continue to laugh at us we would quietly cross the finishing line. We will keep on getting faster and faster till we leave the flash behind.
It would be nice to be proclaimed the fastest 50 year old in Karachi but that isn’t the point. (Fat chance of that happening though since I was beaten on all ends of the age spectrum; by two blazing fast 54 year old and a pair of equally fast 10 years old.)
I didn’t run to win the competition.
I ran for my kids. For my daughter and my two sons. I ran as a father. The big news and milestone on Sunday wasn’t that I ran and finished. The news on Sunday was Taha running his first cross country event. He ran with the boys, he ran with his father, he ran with the girls, he ran with all his friends, he ran every race he could. He didn’t finish any of them but he starred in all of them. And unlike me he fit in all the frames. That is bigger than any milestone I could ever achieve. With a stopwatch, with or without shoes.
As long as I can inspire my kids to continue running, I am happy to play the old fat fool. Or zeppelin. Or duck.
You should too.
Slightly slower than the flash. Bigger than a duck