The hippo and the cheetah

In 17 days’ time, I run 10k. If you want to know why, look here. 

Last night, already aching from heavy lifting at the gym the previous day, I took to the seafront to practice.

I was slow. Lumbering. My body felt heavy. Layered up against the cold, I overheated quickly. Not wanting my woolly hat, and with nowhere to stick it, I threw it into a bin as I passed.  At about the two mile point, a lithe young runner sailed past. Heels kicking, body upright, fast fast fast. So graceful. His running so effortless. I watched him recede into the distance. By now, my legs felt like lumps of iron and each laboured breath hurt. Watching that runner, so fleet and light with his easy strides, I wanted to stop right there. I’m a hippo, thought I, a hippo wishing it were a cheetah. Give it up. Find some mud to wallow in. Eat some doughnuts. Stop pretending to be something you’re not. 

But I kept going. Plod plod plod. One iron-shod hoof clattering to the pavement after the other. Plod plod plod. Even my usually inspirational trance-dance music was irritating. Just a little further, just a little further. 

In the end, I managed 2.32 miles (about 3.7k) before throwing up. Now feeling very sorry for myself, I walked. I went about 50 metres before berating myself as a failure and jogging the rest of the way back to the car – where my stomach duly emptied what little was left therein. I stretched half-heartedly. Steam rose from my limbs. I felt awful. My heart about to explode from my chest. I donned my winter coat and sat in the car with the heater on full. That was worse. I remembered a gym teacher – from oh so many years ago – saying (after I sat down following a 1500) ‘don’t let your heart slow down that quickly! Get up!’  I don’t know if there’s anything to that, but I followed her advice. I stepped back out into the cold (but not raining – there was that) night and walked around until I was fairly convinced I wasn’t about to expire. I sat in the car again, all wrapped up, heater blasting and began to shiver.

How ridiculous. How pathetic a figure. Can’t even run a few miles, and run those like an overweight ungulate, with blisters, carrying a baby elephant. A wave of emotion spilled over me and I cried. Big proper sobbing crying. Hot tears ran down my face and dripped from my nose. Loser loser, always such a loser. You’re not one of the cheetahs, not any more. Not now you’re 40 and fat. At this, as with everything in your life, you’ve failed. Hah!

For 20 minutes I sat, shivering uncontrollably, chest tight, arms tingling, waiting to feel that I could manage to drive home for hot sweet tea, and to tell my dog all about it.

I came home. Felt dreadful. Looked worse. Facebook friends did their best to placate me. It helped, but, still I felt annoyed and pathetic.

Went to bed. Didn’t die. So, according to Nietzsche, that must mean I’ve arisen today stronger. Although I can’t say I feel stronger. Everything hurts. I’m coughing like I’m on 40 a day (I don’t smoke, never have – my lungs appear not to know this).

But I’ll be back at the gym at lunchtime.

Never again will I be the elegant cheetah of my youth, the young whippet that everyone raced and few managed to best, but I can be a fitter hippo.

I’ll lumber the 10k – in my own time. And then enjoy a glorious mud bath. It’s good for the blood, don’t you know.

Never give up…



6 comments on “The hippo and the cheetah

  1. Well, you may not think you can run little hippo, but you can certainly write, and you certainly tired however defeated you felt in mind, and because of that you won! Also great that you can put in that effort to help other people. Huzzah!

  2. “Never give up. Never surrender. ” (Not quite Churchill but Galaxy Quest was a great film.)

  3. If you can put one foot in front of the other, my sweet, you can get across that finishing line, by hook or by crook. Your sheer inability to give up is inspiring; very, very proud of you xx

    • Thank you poppet. And also 1) I don’t need to keep up with the Flash, I have many other powers and 2) according to Jamillah (and google) hippos can travel at 48km/h. Although, that might be when they’re driving land rovers…

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