I don’t run or walk for exercise, where I’m from running is for one of two things: running late and running away from the scene of a crime. I cannot be spotted taking to my heels lest I’m confused for some hoodlum that just made away with a phone. I can’t have an angry mob – as opposed to the nicer more polite ones – chase me down the pothole ridden roads dodging murky water more than flying bullets as I try to explain I am only exercising. Have you ever tried explaining yourself when you’re out of breath? You don’t look believable. Then there’s always that one smart ass that will ask “Na mbona ulikuwa unakimbia?”
The crowd will agree with his logic and they’ll pull out a tire and petrol can out of nowhere and you wonder why they don’t use the same enterprising spirit when it comes to more useful stuff like finding a job. Your saving grace will come if your name starts with a kip they’ll brush it off as practice and urge you to win more medals but caution you against running outside the stadium. “Na ubakishe mursik!” One will shout, referring to the gourd they see athletes often handed at airports. You will then walk back home and brave the stares as people wonder why a person dressed in a tracksuit wielding a water bottle and spotting ports shoes is walking.
So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up one morning with an urge to run. Not the running I usually do like running errands I actually wanted to put on my shoes walk out in the cold morning air and work up a sweat. This was a foreign idea, at least to me, what would happen out there? Would I meet like-minded people in a close knit group trotting around engrossed in mindless chitter-chatter? Would they be discussing the latest politics or that morning’s cartoon sketch in the dailies in awe at how one artist can capture a country’s whole political atmosphere in comic satire? Would they embrace me as one of their own or would they subject me to a strenuous almost cult like initiation rituals? Would I have to state my reason for running? Like running isn’t just something you do you have to have a reason.
“Why are you out here running?” one would ask
“I’m making use of my legs. You know these two things that help me stand and walk? They apparently go faster – I didn’t know.” I’d retort
They might hate my dry sarcastic humor and run faster leaving me behind. But they might also like it and pat me on the back and urge me to keep up with them. They might crack a few jokes of their own and ask for my name. I’m assuming they’d have a leader and she’d (yes she) would introduce me to the rest of the team.
“Hi I’m Pam welcome to the team.” She’d say to me. For some reason I think if I’d meet runners one would be called pam. She would be the one with pink Yoga pants and puma sneakers with white ankle socks and a Nike training bra and an Adidas head band. Then she would turn to the team and say “Hey gang…” Because even though they are just a group of young adults and middle aged women they like to refer to themselves as a gang, they’re trying to make running bad ass as if the thieves already haven’t done that. “… meet… Excuse me what was your name again?” Then the whole gang would welcome you into their little secret society. Weirdly enough you’ll enjoy the run but promise to never do it again because the rest of the day you spend dozing off at work and rubbing your hamstrings.
That night I’d set in for some much needed sleep and doze off in a few minutes. After what would seem like ages I’d wake up only to realize its 5 AM to a ringing phone. The name flashing across the screen would read ‘Yoga pant Pam’. Why the hell would she be calling me at 5 AM? I’d answer the phone in a groggy voice feigning disinterest and she would in a cherry disposition gleefully announce that they are waiting for me at the spot. The spot is where they do their stretches and for those unlucky enough not to be behind Pam have to stare at the butt crack of a fifty five year old man trying to rid himself of a potbelly that took years of beer and nyama choma to hone.
“Not today Pam, I can’t make it I’m too tired.” You’d try and sound convincing even breaking out in a yawn mid-sentence.
You’ll hear the phone go dead and imagine you managed to convince her and just as you’re settling in for some shut eye you hear the door bell ringing ferociously coupled with bangs on the gate. You hear her shrill voice call out your name.
“You can’t sleep. What do you think this is?”
She sounds like a dejected woman and you don’t want your neighbors to start talking so you walk out in your run attire. She gives you a cheeky smile and holds your hand leading you to the spot. You realize there’s no quitting the group. You wish you had ignored your instinct to run. Now you’re one of them, you realize people stare at them through the window with their steaming coffee mugs and smirk. They see you and nod their heads in disbelief. You were the last they expected to see there – with all your late night arrivals drunk as a skunk the most they’d figure you could do was stagger.
So about that feeling? No I did not run. I do not want to join a runner’s cult led by a lady named Pam that will come and wake me up in the wee hours of the morning to have my face stung by the cold air brushing against me. Whose life revolves around fitness and the inability to keep her personal life in check making me her own personal project where in her fantasy somehow end up in love with the perfect life. Except it’s not perfect because we’re always running, I can’t sleep in and I’d probably have bran for breakfast. I don’t know what bran is but it sounds disgusting – I don’t want bran for breakfast. I’ll sleep and let my fingers do the running. How about that?