The North­ern Run­ner


Runner's World South Africa - - CONTENTS - BY LISA AB­DEL­LAH


“HAVE AN­OTHER TE­QUILA,” en­cour­aged my mate Zade, send­ing two shots of guar­an­teed mem­o­ry­loss in our di­rec­tion.

My hus­band Alex re­fused, po­litely. And looked at me dis­ap­prov­ingly.

The bar had hazy pur­ple light­ing, our shoes were stick­ing to the car­pet, and we were danc­ing with fool­ish grins on our faces. At that mo­ment, I felt my sole pur­pose in life was to down that shot.

Be­sides, Alex had de­clared he wasn’t hav­ing one; which, in my merry state, I as­sumed was a gal­lant of­fer to be the des­ig­nated sen­si­ble (i.e. bor­ing) one for the evening. (Pos­si­bly in­volv­ing giv­ing me a pig­gy­back home, should I not be able to get there of my own ac­cord later in the evening-slash-early-hours-ofthe-morn­ing.)

Burn­ing the can­dle at both ends is usu­ally a no-no for run­ners. For­tu­nately for me, our run to­gether the fol­low­ing morn­ing failed to give Alex any op­por­tu­nity to gloat. I felt sur­pris­ingly light on my feet, my mus­cles fired as they should, and the colours all around us were bril­liant.

Alex, on the other hand, con­fessed he felt like a lead bal­loon.

It was around the time he was harp­ing on about the in­jus­tice of his hang­over that I spot­ted it: a uni­corn, stand­ing proudly at the side of the road. It had a ma­jes­tic golden horn, and a mane that was all the colours of the rain­bow. And it looked at me with un­blink­ing eyes.

Then the uni­corn sneezed, and pink glit­ter shot out of its nose.

“Wow!” I gasped in dis­be­lief. And I had to ask Alex: “Did you see that?!” “The hill?” he said glumly. Per­haps I didn’t de­serve it, but that feel­ing of ela­tion I’d felt dur­ing our run left me itch­ing for more.


So the fol­low­ing morn­ing, I went in search of the uni­corn. Only this time, I’d gone to bed at eight o’clock the night be­fore, eaten sen­si­bly, and avoided al­co­hol. By do­ing all that, I fig­ured, I would in­crease my chances of en­coun­ter­ing the ef­fer­ves­cent equine.

But not ev­ery train­ing ses­sion pans out the way you want it to. My legs felt sur­pris­ingly heavy, and gun­metal-grey clouds blot­ted out the sky. I was run­ning at a pace I’d found easy in the past, but now it felt im­pos­si­ble!

As any sports psy­chol­o­gist worth their salt will tell you, when we per­ceive a threat, we’re de­signed to take ac­tion against it. My body went into fight-or-flight mode.

And so I stopped dead. Right in the mid­dle of a 400-me­tre re­peat. And ag­o­nised over the things I could have done to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing. (Such as ac­cept­ing that it was sup­posed to feel chal­leng­ing. And think­ing happy thoughts.)

De­spite my ever-dwin­dling pace, some­thing made me sol­dier on through the re­main­ing re­peats.

Still no uni­corn.


Feel­ing de­feated, I fin­ished my run and trudged to­ward a nearby café. But once in­side, the strangest thing hap­pened. I took a sip from my cup – and be­gan to choke.

At first I put it down to bad­ly­fil­tered cof­fee; but on closer in­spec­tion, I saw pink glit­ter, sprin­kled on top of the foam! Then it dawned on me... Per­haps I had be­come so dis­tracted by the idea of see­ing that uni­corn in the fu­ture that I’d for­got­ten to fo­cus my at­ten­tion on what I was ac­tu­ally do­ing in the mo­ment.

Some­times runs are great – short or long, sun­rise or sun­set. Then there are times when for no ap­par­ent rea­son, a run goes badly. It’s de­press­ing, but you dust your­self off and keep on run­ning.

On a bad run, the uni­corn only ap­pears af­ter­wards – when you re­alise you were strong enough to stick it out, de­spite the chal­lenges you faced.


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