It was pre-dawn. I fought the urge to crawl back under the duvet. I dragged on my running gear and only noticed that I had my running top inside out when I had left my flat; but Hong Kong was fast asleep save for the few staggering home after a late night so I didn’t bother changing.
The first 20 minutes of a run are always painful. It’s like the mewling drafts of a new post. There’s stiffness, the grappling for words, the hint of an idea that remains elusive or drowned out under the barrage of sentences you throw at it. In the first twenty minutes of running, you have to take it easy. You need to remember to breathe and pay attention to your posture: back straight, tummy tucked in, arms loose, land on your forefoot.
When you’ve been pounding the laptop for a while, the story inevitably surfaces. It was always there, all you had to do was wait, like a nature photographer, for the elusive creature to relax in your presence. This is my favorite part of writing when the idea crystalises. Same with running– once you get past mile 2, you are landing easy on your feet, breathing is relaxed, and you trust your body to carry you. You start thinking you could run a marathon.
Up until this Saturday morning, I had been running five or six miles five times a week. I decided to push mile 7 and my legs indulged me. By mile 8, my joints seized up but loosened after a 30-second downward facing dog. The writing gets cantankerous towards the end as well. Because you’re not just jabbering on anymore; you’re reading it line by line, cleaning up sentences, and pulling it together in coherent form. Dull dull work. But you need to finish.
By mile 9 I knew I had enough left in me to reach mile 10. I just had to hang on. What was I thinking then? I was recalling what this odd Japanese writer wrote in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. If I can’t finish this bloody run, how the fuck am I ever going to write that novel.