Fast forwarding to 2016, it’s February and I’ve gone on a seven week trip through Australia, Cambodia and Thailand where the story continues…
Running On Alexander Bay, Noosa, Australia.
So I ran, I couldn’t help myself. The beach was stretched out in front of me and screamed at me to run. I don’t know where the inspiration came from, I just had to run. It was as if the beach had asked me to, I felt rude not to take up this fine offer and so happily obliged with a sense of enthusiasm and wonder mixed with anticipation and excited nerves.
I approached the beach down a series of steps from a short coastal path that curved along the cliffs through Noosa National Park, which is mainly sparse woodland with the odd dirt track or path marked out, leading to many small and beautiful bays, nearly all filled with surfers.
The beach opens up in front of you as you walk down the steps and stretches out to the right in a long curved bay. The raging Pacific was hitting the shoreline, wave after wave smacked the beach with a resounding roar akin to the noise of an angry mob in the distance, but its power and force was soothing. The wind was blowing and the sky felt like a storm was about to hit and yet could easily clear at any moment. It was both idyllic and threatening at the same time.
I was with a friend and turned to her saying: “I want to run the length of the beach; do you mind?”
She gave me a slightly puzzled look as if to say “crazy Englishman,” but agreed to hold the bags while I set off. I paused, and taking my trainers off I felt the soft, kind sand beneath my feet, then stretched my leg muscles, noticing the nerves and excitement building inside me; I was about to run – something I hadn’t done since my surgery.
Walking towards the shoreline where the sand was firm and beautifully smooth from the water, and any recent footprints had been washed away by the lapping sea, I looked at and saw, laid out before me, the perfect running track; a sweeping bay with the sea on my left and woodland to my right. “I’ll run to the end and back, if I’m not too tired,” I thought.
I set off and focused on my feet bouncing along the sand, which was still somewhat waterlogged, leaving a small impression as I went, reminding me of a water boatman insect’s imprint on the surface of water. I turned around and noticed the sand quickly springing back to its former self, almost pushing back against the indent of my feet, before the sea then washed any remaining trace away.
The wind was blowing at me head-on, adding a sense of determination to my run; “I will do this,” I thought, and carried on, noticing how much harder the wind was making it. I started to talk to myself: “It’ll be easier when I reach the end and turn around; I’ll have a helpful push back from the wind then.”
As nerves and anxiety started to creep into my thoughts about what I was doing, I realised I was breathing heavily. I focused and took control back, inhaling and holding a deep breath then releasing slowly to enjoy the feeling, and I noticed the nerves dissipate. I kept focus on maintaining control and regulating my breathing as I ran.
Bounce, bounce I went along the shoreline where nobody could be seen. I had the beach to myself, my own running track and it was begging me to carry on, saying: “you can do this, run me, you’re alive, FEEL IT!” while simultaneously blowing wind in my face to add an extra sense of stimulation.
I could feel nature and loved the overload my senses were experiencing. The moist, firm sand in between my toes, the wind brushing across my skin and softly howling down my ear canal with my hair moving uncontrollably in the gusts. The refreshing light salty sea spray in the air and a smell of warm damp wood all came to me and I soaked it up.
I looked out to sea at the raging waves and momentum of the water, then turned my head right, taking in a full panorama of the moment, looking inland across the pale yellow sand on the beach, red brown earth of the bank and crumbling tree bark with the luscious green of the woodland, grinning with awe at the moment.
I reached the end of the bay and walked a few paces with hands on my head opening up my chest and breathing deeply, feeling my lungs expand and contract. My heart was pumping with vigour, the blood was flowing around my body and it tingled all over, enhancing the sensation of being truly alive, I was on hyper alert and charged with the energy of life.
I felt good, really good!
There was a peace and stillness that came over me as the impact of those feelings sank in and I realised what I had just achieved. I turned around and looked back down the length of the beach. Still breathing deeply and ensuring that I kept control, I set off and ran back.
I bounced along the sand like a rabbit hopping from one foot to the next. I sprang along and enjoyed that feeling of momentum. “I AM RUNNING!” I thought.
It was much easier this time, the wind was on my back which acted like a sail and almost carried me along with it. I didn’t want to stop and had my own Forrest Gump moment.
I reached the end of the beach beaming with joy, enthusiasm, and wonder. I walked over to my friend and said: “THAT WAS AMAZING! I’M RUNNING!” The elation was evident and I absorbed the moment to its fullest.
I was told once that I would never be able to run again, yet here I was. At one time I had told myself that I wouldn’t be interested in any cardio exercise after the operation and felt a large amount of pressure not to do any.
But at that moment I couldn’t help myself and so I ran. I embraced the excitement I felt and that I had lived out a choice; I was free to do what I wanted, I could and can continue to choose!
The sense of freedom this simple run brought and the shear impact of what it meant on a larger perspective transformed and reassured me of everything I had been through and the decisions I had made.
No doubts, no backward glances, no control from others and no pondering. I had done it and I could carry on if I wished, I was able to choose.
Most importantly, I was alive and embraced it.