When we think of October, we think of Halloween costumes, pumpkin pies, trick or treats, and spooky decorations. But before all that, we rest in one colour and think pink.
Breast cancer awareness also takes place in this month, and many were talking about the pink run that was happening in 2019. At least everyone around me at the gym were. With the spirit of spreading awareness, doing it for a good cause, and my sister-in-law being the runner that she is, I signed up for it. I didn’t know what to expect, but I decided to run with the flow with the pink shirt I have received after signing up, and the tutu that I wasn’t very sure I was going to wear.
After all, too much neon pink can be blinding, and it still wasn’t Halloween for that kind of visual discomfort.
I know I mentioned that I was at the gym when I heard about the run. You might think highly of my physical abilities — God knows I think highly of my physical abilities — that’s why I signed up for the 10km run instead of the 5km without preparing for it by joining my sister-in-law on her weekly runs, or at least stepping up my cardio game at the gym. But after speaking to her about it, we both thought it would be best to change my run from 10km to 5km.
I mean, it’s good to be confident and think that I could turn from a zero to a marathon hero in a day, but also, a reality check was needed.
My confidence level didn’t stay high though. Not only about the 10-km run that I switched to 5-km, but to run in a marathon in general. Watching my sister-in-law run regularly made me feel like I was very behind. Working out at the gym with the guidance of a personal trainer, and having the stamina to run a marathon are two different things. I didn’t want to miss the point though. My aim was to do it for the cause. But you know, I didn’t want to embarrass myself either. What if I was irregularly late to make it to the finish line? I mean — what if everyone finished the race, the sun starts to set, and I was STILL running? Or, or or! What IF I ran out of breath and needed an ambulance?
My fear gave birth to other fears. They all stemmed from the fact that I was a marathon virgin.
The day arrived, and I didn’t have a choice to back down. Especially with the texts I received earlier that morning. “Enjoy the run!” “I’m so proud of you girls!” “You can do this!” I couldn’t do anything except stick with my first plan: Run with the flow.
I got out of my room pink ready, holding my bib. I looked at my sister-in-law and started laughing from how extremely ready she looked, and from how extremely unready I felt. She prepared a high protein snack and held two bananas for each of us to have before the run. I didn’t have a choice except to grab that banana, pin the bib on me, and follow Nike’s three wisest words.
Minutes before the race, she introduced me to her colleagues from work who were also going to run with us. They started stretching, while I just stood there looking at everyone thinking “what did I get myself into?”, and the race began.
I began running for a few minutes, and in these few minutes, my sister-in-law and her colleagues were out of my sight. Was I surprised? Not even one bit. Did I need company? Surprisingly, I didn’t. I slowed down and looked around me. Everyone was around me. The athlete who ran like a cheetah was around me. A couple who looked like they came to get to know each other in the run and blushed pink were around me. The runners who dressed extra neon and provided me with what I called “visual discomfort” earlier, were around me. The man who wore a pink tutu was around me. The other man next to him who wore the same kind of pink tutu, but instead, placed it on his head making it look like a mohawk, was around me.
They were all around me. Some took their time, and some ran fast. It all depended on their physical abilities and the fitness stage they were in at that time of their life. I realised a stage 1 couldn’t compare to a stage 4 runner. I took my time and started jogging. Trusting the process that "I will make it… only if I kept going".
Then I spotted a teenage girl who was sitting on the road because she was exhausted and needed a break. She looked all alone so I went and sat next to her.
And I needed was a reason to sit because I was exhausted as well.
I asked her if she was okay and she told me she was, but it was her first such run. I told her it’s my first time too — and that she wasn’t alone in this. We stood up and agreed to support each other to make it to the finish line. There were volunteers who helped organise the run who stood on the side of the road. They were offering water and cheering the runners along the way.
While I continued jogging, the teenage girl was out of my sight. I thought of her and hoped she made it to the finish line and celebrated alongside my sister-in-law and her colleagues. But I knew that even if she didn’t, she would get all the support she needed until she did. And for now she might feel like she’s sick to her stomach, but this race, the one God chose her to run in, to be in, and to go through, would only make her stronger.
I continued jogging and noticed a father and his little girl walking together. Everyone who I saw looked full of colour, excluding them.
They walked quietly and held on to each other. They soulfully did it together. They didn’t listen to music. They seemed like they were reflecting on what happened in their life and visualising how it would be onward. What would they do with the extra clothes? Would the father move to a smaller room? Was it a good time to visit Disney land for some father-daughter bonding time?
But nothing really mattered except that they would always have one another. They looked zoned out like they were out of place. Yet still, in the very right place. As I decided to walk beside them, I finally realised: Some may be mourning. I’m here to support a cause.
Join ADCB Zayed Sports City Pink run on the 22 October 2021 to show support and raise awareness.
Noor Al Sayegh is an Emirati author of the children’s book, The day I met Salem. Noor, who works at Ewaa, Abu Dhabi Shelter and Humanitarian Care in a counselling and empowerment role, also has her own project called Letters from Noor.
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