Running anyway

My last long(ish) run on 2 December, the 18 km with Embark, didn’t suddenly fill my out-of-condition legs with power and see me steaming ahead on longer and longer distances.

It was followed by a 5 km run the day after and then a runless stretch of days. Dealing with my parents is so stressful and I have to focus so hard on keeping a lid on it, on filtering their sludge, that I can barely recall the events of the last few days. At least I have Strava to remind me about whether or not I had run.

I remember lying on my bed on Sunday afternoon, thinking that a nap would be a good idea – a nap followed by a run. I was out of sorts. Restless and buzzing with stress. I had spent days clearing the back courtyard, lining terracotta pots along the wall and filling them with soil before planting clusters of herbs in each one. Everything feels out of control and restoring order to this tiny corner of the house took my focus elsewhere and made me feel as if I was in charge of at least one small area of my life. Sweeping, shoveling, digging, lifting, carrying, tossing out, planting and watering kept my mind off stressing about my parents. It was physical and meditative at the same time. Much like running would have been but without the benefit of a cleared courtyard and aromatic green things growing in pots.

The front garden, once well-established with large rose bushes, rosemary and lavender, had been destroyed by builders, a puppy, rain, wind and hail and, as a physical representation of my inner life, it had been left to turn into chaos. Tall grasses and rampant nasturtium vines became entangled with toppled over lavender and the woody, malicious stems of the rose bushes. Jasmine vines snaked through the almond tree. Peaches, full of summer promise, were stung by insects and dropped to the ground where the fruit flies feasted on their juicy, rotting corpses. The granadilla vine toppled over onto three rose bushes and stayed there. It’s still there, resting on the horizontal rose bushes still gamely trying to flower.

The garden looked awful and added a fragment of stress to my already strung-out psyche each time I walked out the front door and back in again. Each time it rained the front garden turned into a quagmire. The dogs would run through it and traipse muddy prints through the house and onto the furniture. I was too tired, too busy, too preoccupied, too broke to do anything about it. And doing nothing about it made nothing better.

But by last weekend I had brought that (mostly) under control as well. It’s now looking a bit like a starter garden, rather than the garden I had nurtured for years. But it looks more like a garden and less like an accident, so things are looking up.

And I had managed to finish some work and send off some invoices – so, more opportunity for happy dance.

So the runless week was filled with other things, important things, things that made the home better and that made me feel better. But by Sunday I had to stop, and that’s when the anxiety, ever-present these days, came to sit on my chest. ‘Run,’ the devil on the one shoulder said. ‘Rest,’ said the devil on the other shoulder. ‘Do some work,’ said another devil climbing up my spine.

I tried to read. I tried to sleep. I sat up. Lay down again. I was heavy. Leaden. But eventually, after lying in a ball for half an hour after I had decided to run, I headed out there for a 5 km run.

On Rather be Runnin’ the blogger says:

Some days I wake up and I do not want to run (today being one of them)…


Some days my 33 year old body revolts against me and tries to prevent me from running…


Some days my brain, which is normally pretty positive, turns into a negative Nancy…


This is the point people- we can all make excuses and find reasons not to run when we are supposed to…


Those runs, the ones that you really don’t want to do, suck… big time. Trust me, I know.

But winners aren’t made when things are easy, winners are made when it is tough and things are hard.

You have to push yourself to be better, every single day, regardless of what your mind is telling you.

You can do it.

Even if you think you can’t…


Okay, her mention of her 33-year-old body doesn’t get much sympathy from me. Thirty three is just barely out of your twenties. You can move the earth with your little finger at thirty three. But her post did nag me into running. And she was right, the run sucked, big time. It was awful. I was heavy and slow. But I did it anyway and it was worth it. I now had a clean courtyard, a tidier garden and I had had a run. Sunday night’s pasta and wine went down extremely well.

And on Monday I went out again. Twelve kays this time. Up Kloof, a 100m, 1 km climb, over the top, down the other side and back up again, which is a 2 km undulating climb. And again I was heavy. And slow. It was so hot – so hot! But I went out and … yep, it was worth it. Afterwards. It was worth it afterwards. Not at the time of running.


Late afternoon light filtering through the leaves on the Fan Walk


Standing tall while waiting for Garmin to find me

It had been another long day of dealing with my parents. Trying to convince my mad father that he needs help in taking care of my mother. That he can’t change a catheter, that he can’t lift her, that he can’t wash her. Trying to make him understand that she needs proper food, not coffee and rusks. Trying to make him understand … oh, good grief! And then he gets angry, saying that I am telling him he’s stupid and useless and that he may as well be dead. What? When? I appeal to my mom, trying to get her to tell him what she needs. But she’s so deeply mired into being the victim that all she can do is say ‘I don’t know what to do. What do you suggest?’

Is everyone deaf around here?!

So, as much as I needed that run, and I really did, I was weighed down by anger and frustration caused by stepping, yet again, into their toxic sludge. It stuck to the rubber soles of my running shoes and glued me to the pavement.

On Tuesday all I could think about was getting the driving and the hospital visit done and getting out on the road for a short run. I didn’t make it. Other things that had to be done got in the way.

Yesterday was more of the same: sitting in gridlocked traffic with the sun beating down on me, roasting my one arm to darker shade of nutmeg, listening to my father’s running commentary on the colour of the traffic lights (‘There, it’s green! Now it’s red again! It’s green …!’) and the stupidity of the other drivers (‘Drive, you bloody idiot!’), followed by yet another frustrating, futile attempt at trying to convince him to get a carer, followed by more gridlocked traffic and running commentary.

Yet, despite it all, a milestone had been reached: Wednesday afternoon was the last time that I would have to take him to the hospital to visit my mom. She is being discharged today. Her discharge will unleash a fresh hell for me to deal with but in that moment I chose to celebrate. So, after I dropped him off at home I stopped at the shop and bought myself a celebratory bottle of water. I made it sparkling, not still, because the bottle was a pretty colour and because I could pretend it was champagne.

And then I got home, had some tea and ran the same route as Monday: up Kloof, over the top, down the other side and back over again. And this time I did 15 km. The first five were rotten. Rotten! How can a 5 km run be so tough?! Unless it’s a time trial, of course, which it most definitely was not.

It’s amazing how a run can give you an almost delirious high on one day and make you feel so utterly, dreadfully horrendous the next.

But 15 km got done and I felt miles better than I did on both Sunday and Monday. And this week’s Strava training log is looking promising.


The bench at the top of Kloof … no walking, weeping or stopping before the bench.


View of the Twelve Apostles from the bench at the top of Kloof.

And then, when I got home, the dogs had to be walked, so I could tack 2 km of walking onto my 15 km of running.

Supper, macaroni and cheese cooked by The Kid, was eaten at ten o’clock last night. The garden didn’t get watered. The granadilla vine still rests on the horizontal rose bushes. My favourite cattie needs to go to the vet and he looks as if he won’t be coming back. And my mother still won’t have a carer.

But fukkitall. I ran last night.


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