The reason I run
In 2012, during a period when I was working temporarily in the Beijing headquarters, I learned that my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
This started a series of visits to hospitals and frequent trips between my hometown and Beijing. I would show my father’s medical files to various physicians and surgeons, all of whom gave me the same answer — that it was impossible to surgically remove the malignant tumor from my father’s stomach.
These unanimous verdicts had left me frustrated and helpless. I often felt like an animal trapped in its cage and I would pace around the confines of my small dormitory room in Beijing after work every day to deal with the anxiety.
One day, I decided that I would go out and run instead, seeing how there was a sports ground in the University of International Business and Economics, which was situated beside my dormitory. It was a rather bold move, considering that I was hardly ever good at any sport. When I was in school, I nearly passed out after completing a running test.
This time around, however, running served as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions. It cleared my head and filled it with nothing more than an awareness of each step and breath that I took. Running was also a form of reassurance that I had a control over my body.
I visited my father countless times in the hospital. When he fell asleep, exhausted from the chemotherapy treatments, I would take long walks with my mother and talk about the future. I often felt I was more like my mother. Though we may often portray ourselves to be rather clueless and powerless individuals, we are in fact very resilient. I wanted my mother to believe that as much as I do.
And she did. After all, my father was the one who was used to being bossed around in the household. With her in the driving seat following the onset of my father’s condition, she saw that her husband received all the care he needed. When his ailing body could no longer handle the effects of the chemotherapy treatments, my mother wasted no time in turning to traditional Chinese medicine.
As for me, I simply kept running. Soon, I had conquered the 5-kilometer mark. Then it was 10km. But all these milestones had unfortunately no bearing on my father’s recovery. He died two years later, surrounded by loved ones. Mother and I were relieved because we knew he no longer had to suffer.
Even after his death, the running didn’t stop, because every step I took on the roads felt like a step away from the despair that once engulfed me. Running taught me that even the worst of things in life will eventually come to pass, just like how every race will have a finish line.
I ran my first marathon in 2015. At 4 hours and 29 minutes, the timing can be considered pretty good for a first-timer. My mother was so happy and proud about this achievement and she promptly told all her friends about it.
My father, had he been around, would never have figured out how I managed to run that far. I can imagine him being as astonished as those times when he would look around the house in vain for the buzzing alarm clock that I would playfully hide in the laundry machine or the microwave oven.
I completed my second full marathon this year in Shanghai. Maybe one day I would do the marathon in Athens, Greece, which is widely believed to be where the first marathon in the history of mankind was held.
The writer during the Shanghai Marathon this year.