The rea­son I run

China Daily (USA) - - THE BUND SHANGHAI - ByZHANGKUN zhangkun@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Guides run­ning along­side a blind run­ner dur­ing a road race.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The writer dur­ing the Shang­hai Marathon this year.

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