Running-pathway to reclaiming my life

I have wished all my life if I could undo some of the experiences I have had so I can lead a normal life and feel how a normal life feels. This has been my wish for time immemorial but again experience has shown me that this is a fallacy. I hit lows and highs. The lows can be so unbearable that death seems to be the only scapegoat. The lows sink me in a dark hole where all hope slips under my feet. Running has attempted to change this. When I started running all I wanted was to be fit and healthy but it has been an amazing, fulfilling, life-birthing running journey.
Of late I have really been stressing as I prepare for the International Capetown Two Oceans Marathon. Am I going to finish my race in under 2hours 30minutes and get that bronze medal. I don’t want an ordinary medal for completion, I want a bronze, I keep telling myself. One of my running mates upon sharing my fears said to me, ‘Tary, the mere fact of being at that starting line you are already a winner. Even if you don’t get the bronze medal you are gunning for, you are a winner’. This is very true and sensible but the competitor in me keeps reminding myself how much of a failure I would be if I cannot get a bronze medal. The insurmountable pressure this has been putting on me has made me look deep within myself and search why I am running and what benefits I have been deriving from running without destructively focusing on that bronze medal.
Let me confess I am no elite runner; in fact I just put one leg in front of the other. When we started the year I dedicated all my runs to rape and sexual violence survivors using hush tags #run for hope, #hope for rape and sexual violence survivors. I guess many wonder when they see these hush tags every time I post my runs. I did this so I could never give up as giving up meant I was failing all the survivors who are silenced by both society and their assailants and suffer in solitude. I have survived rape, molestation, sexual harassment a couple of times in my life. I have cursed myself, blamed myself for all of these encounters. I have had so much shame all my life. I have hated myself all my life. I have wished I was born male. I have lived a life of pretence that all is ok and yet deep down under that smile and laugh is so much pain and hurting. I have looked at my life and told myself, there is no way that can be my life, it is not believable I have told myself. I have lived in denial, running away from myself. How can all those experiences happen to one person? I have convinced myself that I am cursed, what other explanation could befit such experiences by one person. I have told myself that it was a mistake that I was born because it seems from birth God had already turned his back on me. At times I sleep hoping to wake up dead or atleast with a different identity, one that I can celebrate.
Running is that one magical thing that has been helping me unlock much of my life that has been trapped for a long time. I hope this helps someone out there and PLEASE I DO NOT WANT TO BE PITIED. I have pitied myself all my life and now even though I am still work in progress I am a survivor and I view myself as a warrior back from war with scars that are a revelation of the feisty and strong person I am. I have chosen to remind myself that I do not necessarily need a medal, if I get it , it will be a bonus. I have never been a runner and from being overweight and not being able to run 400m to running 21km even at a snail’s pace, that in and of itself deserves to be celebrated. I have decided to focus on why I have vowed never to stop running even though it is so hard. I always laugh with some coallegues that when I run it is just a circus starring 1 actress-yours truly, I cry(real tears), I curse, I talk to myself, I ask myself why I am torturing myself, I even promise myself never to do it again. Funny thing after the run I feel so satisfied, I feel I am in control of my life, I feel like I have found diamond mines and I own them. It will be an over the top moment where I feel like a conqueror. Running has given much meaning to my life. I always say 9 out of 10 times running is the only thing that makes sense in my life.
Running has helped me confront all my baggage, deal with it especially during long runs, come to a resolve in some instances, find answers to some of the issues, get closure at times. Running has unravelled and opened that hidden Pandora box. I vividly remember this other 21km race organised by Harare Athletics Club. I cried half the distance. For the record, crying is almost like a ritual for most of my runs as it is an emotional process for me. I say if it gets tough and feel I cannot run it any more I will cry the race through. On this particular run my coach was pacing me, I burst into tears, not that silent streaming of tears, NO , that loud cry. I could not hold it back, I failed. As I went up an incline and I was psyching myself up I lost it. I started hearing all the voices I have been told by my assailants during the attacks. My head started playing up with me. I started having flashbacks of when I was raped and I was so powerless and my life depended on the mercy of my assailants. I tried to silence the voices but the more I silenced them the louder they became. I could not take it anymore. It was too much for me. I remembered how all my life I had been fighting to be ‘normal’. My coach asked me to stop and get into one of the cars. I thought about it and told myself my assailants had conquered me before but not this time. I was going to be a conqueror so I ran, on and on crying and wiping those tears off. I ran and was the last one. At the finishing line I was exhausted but I felt excited that indeed I had overcome and had managed to take full control of my life.
Countless times I have been told to forgive and forget, to pray, to move on but all this I have come to understand are just words and phrases put together. It is easier said than done. I have attempted to commit suicide countless times in my life but ever since I started running I have not attempted to take my own life. It does come to my mind sometimes but I have managed to quieten it and not pay attention to it. Running indeed has given me another lease to life and I do not take it for granted which is why I swear by running. If i am really stressed out or someone rubs me the wrong way and I probably cannot for one reason or the other tell them I just deal with it as I pound the road, afterwards that person and incident is history, dead and buried.
I truly understand why victims are called survivors because indeed after coming face to face with fear as the abuse unfolds, enduring all the trauma and still being able to face another day deserves a salutation and I do salute those survivors I meet in my everyday work.
Running has been the tool I have actively used in my journey to rediscovery. When I am running I am in cloud nine and there is never a better place to find myself. When for one reason or another I do not run for 3 continuous days my feet itch that is why wherever I go I take with me my running shoes. I could forget something else but never my running shoes. They are my lifeline. With running I have discovered inner strength I never knew I had. I have embraced myself in totality. I have a split personality and I always suppressed my introverted side but now I am so in love with that introverted person. I enjoy my personal space in a way I never did before. Before my running escapades being alone was a dread, I could not spend time alone, I needed to be with someone else. Now I can literally spend the whole weekend in my house alone after my run obviously and not feel lonely. It is amazing how I have grown so much in love with myself. Every run boosts the feel good hormones which has immensely contributed to the esteemed self love. Running has made me appreciate ME. After a gruesome run one can only tap one’s shoulder and silently say , ‘you are a conqueror’ and that reminds me always that I truly can do anything under the sun that I put my mind to. I am grateful running reminded me of all these qualities I possessed which somehow had been overshadowed by fear, hurt, bitterness and pain.
A greatest attribute that I have, thanks to running is knowing that indeed ‘I run my own race’. I have learnt and mastered that there is absolutely no need to compare myself to anybody because we all have different narratives. I live my life according to me, reminding myself that, ‘I am an original me and not a photocopy’. I am my authentic self living life according to my own dictates in unison with the Universe. When I started running and I would go for time trial runs that are coordinated by Harare Athletics Club, I would look around and see some old men and women and comfort myself that atleast I would not be last and I was always shocked to wits. I would ‘close prayers’. I would always be the last one. When we would start the run I would want to follow the same pace as others and before I knew it I would be worn out, panting. I would forget that I am asthmatic and my chest does take a while to heat up and open up. I realised I was Tariro and had to do what befit Tariro if ever I would enjoy running. That is what I do now, with my new found love TomTom, my running watch I pace myself as per my personal target for the day without succumbing to any pressure. That is what has kept me going, knowing that even if I am last I am running my own race and I am competing with none other than myself aiming to be better than I was before. This trait I have taken it to all spheres of my life, my social, professional and spiritual life and it has made me grow immensely. I always aim to be a better version of myself.
Having been raped by a priest trainee at age 8/9 my spirituality has always been a shaky ground. I must say with running I have managed to have a great relationship with my maker and the Universe, I have managed to redefine my own spiritual beliefs that suit me and make sense to me without being pressured into believing what everyone else around me believes in. I meditate during some of my runs, I have deep conversations with my maker and embrace what the universe throws at me. This has truly enriched my life in a way I could never explain. I have had people force their beliefs and religion left, right and centre down my throat but with running I am a solid spiritual being living my life in unison with the Universe. I would never tread those meditation moments for anything and that is why I prefer to run early in the morning when nature is giving the best life it can ever give fresh and pure.
Running has made me meet awesome beings. Runners are an awesome community of people who have so much love and discipline. I have connected with amazing people locally, regionally and internationally and I will not tread that for anything. The High Flyers team has just been so supportive and are now like family. There are moments when I have really convinced myself that running was not for me but they kept encouraging me and now I am confident to run.
Not so say we can all be runners but its worth giving a try especially if like me and many others you battle with trauma or chronic depression. Progress in running can be so slow, I have thought about throwing in the towel several times but I hang on to it and although progress is slow it is apparent and is not stopping. Running has helped me get my life back, be fit and healthy, gain a sense of self worth and wholeness which was stripped away from me years ago through the violations I experienced in my life. I feel like a new being in every respect and I always say at times I fail to recognise this new Tariro who is so amazing, loves life, fully embraces life with all its ups and downs and loves the self immensely from the bottom of her heart. I love this resilient me, resilience which has always been there but never acknowledged and running reawakened it. Running is my DNA which has reminded me that I am the one who feels and understands the pain I go through and I am the one who will carry the banner of victory at that crossing line and so it applies in my life. I am grateful I was broken and not shattered and with running all the broken pieces are being patched together one by one and new life is being breathed in me. In choosing to share my story I am hoping many will also heal or atleast begin that journey, I hope the blanket of silence around rape is broken, the victim blaming of rape and sexual violence survivors stops and we begin to have conversations that can enrich and improve the healing path for survivors appreciating the far reaching life impacts that such experiences have on survivors. To the universe I am grateful because it saw it fit for me to go through such experiences which have carved me into the passionate advocate for women and children’s rights that I am. As painful as it is I embrace it knowing this is what my soul asked for so that I could impact on other people’s lives.
What happened, happened. Is it painful? Yes, Can I change it? No. I am taking the best of what it has taught me and impacting other people’s lives and I could not have it any other way. My healing is not a destination, it is a journey a journey that has been so fulfilling. Will I be whole tomorrow? Probably not, I am patient with the process and growing with it. Running has been an instrumental pedestal to my healing and I will continue running for hope and life.

My Vows My Responsibility

The issue of adultery damages usually opens up unruly debates which are never conclusive. Married women in most instances pull out daggers protecting their marriages while men are not amused by such stances when their wives sue the ‘other woman’. What always baffles me is that when a man who has been adamant that a woman should not sue a girlfriend of their husband is asked if he should sue for adultery damages from a man who has an affair with his wife they are incensed.
Adultery is when two people have an intimate relationship and one or both of them are married to someone else at that time. Adultery damages are awarded to compensate the injured party. At law they are compensated for two things: Contumelia and lack of consortium. Contumelia is about hurt, pain and indignity that is as a result of the adultery whilst consortium refers to deprivation of things such as sex, loss of love and affection. From the aforegoing adultery damages seem to be awarded for the wayward behaviour of a partner who brings another into their marriage. However adultery damages do not apply to everyone who stays with a ‘husband’. These apply to people who are in a civil marriage popularly known as Chapter 5:11 previously known as Chapter 37, In this kind of a marriage both the man and the woman can sue for adultery damages. In all other marriages that we call marriages only the man has the prerogative to sue for adultery damages because all these regimes are potentially polygamous.
In essence the law on adultery damages makes the courts the gatekeeper to marriages as they play a pivotal role in preserving the marriage institution by punishing those that are promiscuous and intend to cause havoc within the institution. Those that ‘steal’ married persons from their partners are duly punished and this seems to be in tandem with the provision of the Zimbabwe Constitution of 2013 which in section 25 calls upon the state to protect and foster the family institution.
This begs the question who should uphold the sanctity of a marriage? It is important to reemphasise at this juncture that only the third party is sued for adultery damages. The ‘intruder’ is punished by law for knowingly invading and destroying a successful marriage. Were it not for the intruder’s actions the marriage would have been perfect. Who should adhere to the terms of a marriage contract? Is it society? Is it the two parties to the contract like in any other contract? In all fairness a marriage is a contract between 2 parties who commit to love each other exclusively. Suing a third party for the breakdown of a marriage shifts the responsibility from the cheating spouse who is guilty of failing to adhere to the terms of a marriage contract which he willy nilly signed. An analogy that quickly comes to mind would be if one fails to pay their rentals because they have not been paid at their workplace can the landlord sue the employer? They cannot simply because their tenant’s employer was never a part to the agreement of lease. It then boggles one’s mind how a person who was never party to a marriage contract can be sued for a contract she did not agree to.
Adultery damages seem to suggest that a husband or wife who is very sound in the mind could not prevent themselves from being ‘stolen’ as it were. When there is infidelity there is no doubt that some violation has been committed. The bone of contention is who is punishable for the violation. The most logical conclusion would be that the person who has to be liable is the person who knowing of the contract that they have tied themselves to- a contract which disallows them from engaging in an intimate relationship with anyone else ‘till death separates’ them should be punished for breach of contract. The adultery damages currently shifts blame to a third party for ‘leading astray’ a committed person who had no mens rea to be infedile.
It is important to reflect on the vows that married people make to each other when they are getting married. When people get married they promise each other eternal love. They say, ‘I XXXX take you XXXX to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband. To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times Till Death Do Us Part. I choose you , forsaking all others…’ When one party fails to keep their vows they should be liable because they have violated the contract they swore by. Why is the third person always asked to single handedly pay for the atonement at the exemption of their accomplice? Is it not that the most guilty person is the one who walked away their marriage and brought in a third party.
Society seems to be in a quagmire. When a man has married and he has another girlfriend in most instances his family approves of it. On the other hand the same society will bash the girlfriend for being a home wrecker. Looking at single women they find themselves stuck in between a hard place and a rock. They live in a society that asks women to be attached to a man and belong to some man. There is so much pressure for single women of age to get married and yet the national statistics clearly reflect that there is a lesser percentage of men. Where do they get single men to get married to? Another twist to this is culturally polygamy is acceptable as a way of life for most men. When you hear people talk about men that have multiple wives, they are referred to as, ‘Bulls’, showing that they are strong and ‘real’ men. More so the phenomenon of the so called, ‘small houses’ seem to have been normalised and to some extent acceptable.

There is no doubt that a partner who has made vows of commitment to their partner and is living true to their word will be deeply hurt when their partner violates their agreement. The issue is so how does this innocent party get compensated? If an innocent party finds the adultery irreconcilable with a continued marriage relationship they have an option of divorce. The Marriage Act sets out adultery as one of the grounds for divorce. Adultery damages can never restore a failing marriage. It then seems melodramatic to ask a third person to pay for adultery damages and yet the guilty party is left unscathed. I would in my humble opinion say that shifting the blame to a third party absolves the adulterous partner of any responsibility and undermines their agency in this act. The adulterous partner is treated like a child or a person with a mental disability who has no capacity to make sound informed decisions. The assumption is were it not for this third party the adulterous partner would not have violated their marriage vows. This in my opinion is far fetched. Another way of looking at it is that partners in a marriage become each other’s property which should not be defended by law. How can human beings be denigrated to property?
A third party to a marriage should be absolved from any responsibility in the breakdown of a marriage because she never agreed to the terms of the married couple’s marriage. The restrictions placed on those that are married were never at any point placed on this third party. A marriage by its nature requires the married partners to behave in a certain way and not the whole world which is why in the vows there is no obligation that is placed on the whole of society. Honestly if married people have to heavily rely on the law providing for adultery damages to keep their marriage intact and scare away intruders then that is an appalling marriage because there is no trust in the love that these two people have for each other to keep them together. The threat for adultery damages can never keep an otherwise shaky marriage intact and believing that adultery damages can act as a deterrent for people to pursue adulterous relationships is stretching it too far.

The act of suing for adultery damages is a grave attempt to shift the blame for the breakdown of a marriage to a third party who is in no way a party to the marriage. The third party is blamed but the blameworthy spouse is unpunished and nothing can stop them from doing it again because the root cause of their infidelity was never addressed and they were never punished for their misconduct.
In conclusion adultery damages will in no way help in preserving the marriage institution because the guilty party will not reform as they are not punished for their acts. A marriage which in all fairness is intact can never be broken down by a third party so the law on adultery damages is archaic and finds no place in today’s society. Parties to a marriage should bear the consequences of their failure to adhere to the set out terms of their marriage without shifting the blame for the failure of their marriage to a third party.
N.B The views contained in this piece are my sole thoughts and are in no way attached to the organisations I work for!!!