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.

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