Real Progress Unfolds in a Zigzag Line

Real Progress Unfolds in a Zigzag Line

I hope that today's run will be a good one. This thought flashed through my mind the moment my eyes flicked open. I lumbered like a rhino to my home office, winked at my laptop as I switched it on, shuffled to the washroom (why do most of us do this first thing when we wake up?), shuffled back to my desk and furiously punched my laptops keyboard as I began the writing marathon of 1st August 2020. I intent to write 90,000 words this month. So help me God.

‘The full moon has a complicated relationship with the forest…’ I wrote, ‘on one hand, it casts a soft light on millions of leaves dangling from thousands of trees...’

For one hour, I had to literally drag words from my mind. It's as if they were not eager to descend into my laptop's blank page. After one hour, I shifted from writing to researching. I delved into an intense research on Kereita Forest. But just like the words that refused to depart from the warm recess of my mind, cogent facts on Kereita Forest declined to depart from the warm labyrinth of google.

I couldn’t even find the name of a single tree in Kereita forest. Man! I leapt from my tattered maroon chair (I have been sitting on it for seven years now) and sank into the welcoming arms of my bed. Thirty minutes later, I emerged from that bed into my purple, long-sleeved Umbro sports jacket. Within two minutes, I stepped out of my door into the sweet embrace of the 5AM breeze.

I hope that today's run will be a good one. I thought again as I said a cheerful good morning to Kemboi. His usually jolly face was downcast. It must be because of money. Corona virus and money are not friends at all. They are like oil and water.

My Nile Tulips Nike running shoes were not smashing into the potholed tarmac since I was running slowly. Although I wanted to take it easy for the first kilometer, my pace was slower than it should have been. I was running like a weary rhino, not a lithe leopard.

There was no one ahead of me and no one behind me. Just me, DJ Bwakali and the long stretch of a road that I refer to as Rhino Road. What if I actually meet a rhino on this road on one of my morning runs? I thought and smiled in the darkness. By the way, white rhinos are the second largest land mammal in the world. Only elephants are bigger than them. They are referred to as white not in reference to their color but after ‘wyd’ an Afrikaans word that means wide. They have wide mouths. Early English settlers in South Africa simply misinterpreted wyd for white, and voila! They became white rhinos.

I made a conscious decision to slow down the overall pace of my run and gauge the state of my right hip, which had been misbehaving lately. As a result of this decision, I completed the first kilometer in 6:19 minutes, a whole minute slower than my Saturday 25th run. On that run, I raced through this first kilometer in less than 5:20 minutes.

No worries, its an easy run today. The second kilometer was nine seconds faster at 6:10 min/km while the third kilometer was even faster at 5.55 min/km. I had lots of fun in the final fifty meters of this third kilometer when I allowed a runner behind me to keep pace. Just when he was about to overtake me, I sped ahead and left him panting miserably. It felt good. Is that how Eliud Kipchoge, Mo Farah and Kenenisa Bekele feel when they switch on the speed and simply sprint like cheetahs in the final hundred meters of close races?

Again, rhino vibes caught up with me on Kangundo road. I was ambling along the road’s sidewalk. You would think that I was carrying an invisible sack of potatoes on my famously big head (I take after my papa’s big head).

I miss my fast runs on this road, I thought as I frowned at the darkness as if it was responsible for my slow run. The author Craig D. Lounsbrough once wrote that, ‘The darkness makes everything disappear but it makes nothing go away.’ Not even the darkness could spur my weary body into a faster run.

Despite my slow pace, I did manage to complete the fourth kilometer in six minutes flat. But things started going haywire after that. At the fifth kilometer mark, I realized that my GPS had stopped working so the distance was stuck at 4.09 kilometers. My running app had malfunctioned because it can only work when the GPS is working. To make matters worse, my recently troublesome right hip also decided to malfunction. I began feeling some numbing discomfort in that right hip and immediately slowed down my pace.

For the rest of the run, I slowed down even further but kept going. I didn’t want to overwork my hip but I also didn’t want to give up on the run altogether. It’s only at the ten kilometer mark that I realized that sometimes, you have to give up the fight so that you can live to fight another day sooner rather than later. Tactical retreat is better than forging on, only to collapse in utter defeat.

In the words of Bwak the Bantu Poet, ‘real progress unfolds in a zigzag line, not a straight line. In the long arc of progress, the bad days are even more important than the good days because they toughen your resilience and position you for eventual triumph.’  

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