Saturday, January 19, 2008

Chapter 23: My Morning Jogs

I liked jogging in the morning, before seven, when most people were still in their dreamlands. When the sky was still dark, the streetlamps were still on, the street was still quiet and there were still dews on the grasses. The initial reason for jogging so early was because of the distance between my house and my work place. I needed to start early so that after the jog, I had enough time to bath, take breakfast, get changed and reach my office by eight thirty. But as I got used to waking up at six for the jogs, I realized that I had begun to like the tranquil environment at that hour.

It was a good time to jog because the pavement was mostly empty except for some passer-bys and, well, some motor bikes that were parked illegally. Those guys figured out that if they parked their motor bikes on the pavement, they could save on their seasons parking at the multi-storey carparks. Luckily our pavement was not wide enough to fit even the smallest 1,000cc car.

Some of those passer-bys were people on the way to the bus stops, workers standing by the pavement waiting for their company buses, parents waiting for the school buses with their children and a couple of other joggers like me. Maybe most of them were really only half awaken, like me, thus nobody said a word. They just walked, waited or jogged quietly. Well, except for once. A plump middle-aged woman, in her faded blue pajamas dress and carrying a pink school bag, was striding towards me, while a little girl, in school uniform and carrying a pink water bottle, was running behind the plump middle-aged woman.

“Just hurry up, would you?” the plump middle-aged woman turned and shouted at the little girl. I could swear that all residents staying from the second to fifth floor of the nearby flats were awakened by that stern command. The little girl lowered her head and struggled to keep up.

“How many times have I told you to check your bag before you sleep? Why must you be so forgetful each time? Why must you either forget this or forget that? What if the school bus has gone off? Why don’t you ever listen to me?”

After the plump middle-aged woman threw a series of questions at that little girl, she lowered her head even lower and tried to run in order to keep up with the pace.

What a sad way to start the day. For the mother, and even more so for the daughter.

There were two types of passer-bys which I hated to meet on the pavement. The first was the Pathblocker. These people could only walk straight. Though they could see from far that I was running on the left side of the pavement, they would not shift to the right and they expected me to give way to them. The second was the Smoker. As the name indicated, these people would smoke as they walked on the pavement, leaving a trail of second-hand smoke for me to breathe in.

There was this particular man who liked to walk his dog every morning and let it urinated freely by the trees flanking the pavement. It could have been a refreshing and healthy morning walk for both the man and his dog, but he chose to smoke. Thus while the dog was busy contaminating the land, the man was busy polluting the air.

It was a good time to jog before seven because vehicles on the road would be scarce. One hour later and there would be big tracks and motor bikes from Malaysia spouting dark smoke into the air. Not very lungs-friendly, I would say. However, jogging before seven had another kind of danger. Cars and motor bikes were usually more daring in that kind of hours because they had a near empty road to speed on and they bet that nobody would be there to catch them. Giving way to joggers when coming out from the car park was never an option on their mind. In fact I had escaped death narrowly in one of my morning jogs.

I was jogging on my usual route and was approaching a cross junction. Usually I would jog on the spot at the traffic light pole while waiting for the light to turn green. But just before I crossed the pedestrian crossing that led to the traffic light pole, I realized that my shoe laces were loosened. So in stead of crossing the pedestrian crossing, I stopped and half squatted to tight my shoe laces. Immediately after I finished tying my shoe laces, I heard a “tzzz” followed by a “bang”. I looked up and saw a red Honda crashed onto the traffic light pole. I took a glance at the traffic lights and realized that the car had beaten the red light.

The driver, a young man who seemed to be in his twenties stepped out from the car, followed by his front passenger stepping out from the other side, another man who looked just as young.

“Hey man! What the hell were you trying to do?” Mr. Passenger berated at Mr. Driver.
“I think I’ve braked too hard so the car skidded,” replied Mr. Driver who was more interested to check the damage of his bonnet than the injury, if any, of his passenger.

It appeared that the traffic light pole was more damaged than his bonnet. His front bumper had concaved at the point where it hit the pole, but it had also saved his bonnet from being seriously crushed. In fact, his bonnet had only curved up slightly as compared to the traffic light pole which had bent into an ‘L’ shape. Poor traffic light pole. All it did was standing at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“Damn it! Now I’ll need to get this car to a workshop,” Mr. Driver swore.
“Do you think the car can still move?”
“I’m not sure. I just hope that the damage is not that bad,” answered Mr. Driver as he opened the curved bonnet to check his engine. “Yeh, the engine is pretty far in so we didn’t crash it.”
“Great, at least we don’t have to call a tow truck at this hour.”

Then Mr. Driver realized that he forgot to ask his passenger a question: “Hey, are you okay?”
“Yah! My shoulder hurts because of the seat belt, but I guess I’m okay.”

At that instance, Mr. Driver also realized that one stunted jogger was half squatting behind the pedestrian crossing and staring at them.

“Err… I think we’d better get going before anybody calls the police,” Mr. Driver nudged his passenger.

Then the red Honda drove off, the traffic light pole remained bent and I came to my senses to stand up. After that accident, I kept a distance away from traffic light poles for as long as one month.

Though it was considered slightly early to jog before seven, there were other walkers and joggers who liked morning exercises as much as me. Most of the time, I met grandpas and grandmas who swung their arms as they did their morning walks. Sometimes, I met some gals jogging with their headphones. The male joggers were more seasonal. For all of the guys that I met in my morning jogs, I would see them for a period of time and after that they just disappeared. Perhaps that special period of time was their last minute training period for their IPPT. Perhaps that was also the reason for their heavy pants which were rather unusual for regular joggers.

I learnt that jogging outdoors at such early hours required some planning. When I switched my morning jogs from the indoor gym to the outdoor, I thought all I had to do was to simply ‘go downstairs and start jogging’. Well, I was so wrong.

On the first day that I jogged around my house, I went too far away. A half an hour jog ended up to be a forty-five minutes and very tiring one. On the next jog, I managed to maintain the duration within half an hour but the route was not right. There was one long leg where I had to pass by a very quiet construction site where several Bangladesh workers sat by the road and stared at me. Though I could be too paranoid to think that they would be even interested to rob a jogger, I believed in been safe than sorry. Following that jog, I chose another route that happened to pass by a temple. That popular temple was crowded and noisy in the day time, but in the dim morning, it was so dark and quiet that it felt kind of eerie when I jogged pass it. That leg was too hard on my heart.

Jogging in the gym was so much easier. There was no planning required as all I had to do was to step onto the track mill and press some buttons. The television in front of the track mill might not be showing something I was interested in but at least watching news was still better than watching a long and quiet pavement.

The other advantage of jogging in the gym was that I did not have to worry about the weather. Rain or shine, I would still be in the air-conditioned environment. However when I jogged outdoors, the weather could be sabotaging at times.

Six o’clock, alarm clock went off. I woke up, got out of bed and looked out of the window. It was raining. I was pissed and I went back to bed.

Six o’clock, alarm clock went off. I woke up, got out of bed and looked out of the window. It was not raining and the weather was cooling. I washed up and changed into my running gears, went downstairs and found that it was drizzling. I underestimated the drizzle and carried on with my jog. I perspired in the drizzle, went home for a hot bath, and caught a cold.

Six o’clock, alarm clock went off. I woke up, got out of bed and looked out of the window. It was not raining and the weather was cooling. I washed up and went downstairs to proceed with my jog. Five minutes later, it started to drizzle. At the half way point, it started to rain heavily. I went home all drenched and caught flu.

Like a ‘detour’ in the Amazing Race, indoor and outdoor jogs had their own pros and cons. To me, I would still prefer an outdoor jog. At least I got to see people who were more interesting than the newscaster.

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