The Thai Competitive Spirit: Disaster Strikes
This is the third and final story about the long journey my Thai wife and I have traveled, or run, on our quest to complete our first marathon here in America. At last report, I had convinced my wife that this was a noble endeavor; worthy of possible resentment from her Thai friends with a sanook-dee at the post-race festivities. With seven weeks left to go before the race, we ran our first 15 mile practice run and although we both thought we were going to die at the end, we eventually recovered later that day with no ill effects. This was a little baffling as our previous long runs had us in bed early and rising late the next morning. This time, we stayed up late with unexpected energy and rose early the next day. One of my running buddies said our endorphins were kicking in. I had never heard of this before but we certainly enjoyed the feeling. I guess this is why long distance runners are so dedicated; a feeling of orgasm that lasts all day.
The natural highs continued as we completed another 15 mile run two week later and then prepared for the final conditioning run: the 20 miler, just three weeks before the race. As usual in between these long runs, we did short runs of five miles or less during the week. It was on one of these runs that I noticed a twinge of pain in my right calf. As all runners know, you occasionally get these as your body pushes back against the strain or running. Over time, you learn to tell the difference between a whine of displeasure and a cry for help. This one was definitely a whine so I continued my run. A few minutes later the whine turned into a cry so I stopped and stretched my calves. This helped initially but when I resumed running, my calf bypassed the whine stage and went right to the cry. I decided to walk home but even this limited exercise produced a cry of a pain I had never felt in my calves before. When I made it home I was limping noticeably and I immediately put ice on my calf, but the next morning the pain had not subsided. A few days later when we were supposed to run 20 miles, I was constrained to the couch with a heating pad on the affected calf and a couple of ibuprofen in hand. My wife decided not to try this by herself. I suspected it was more in sympathy to me than apathy to run alone.
The next day I checked my email and discovered that a proposed business trip to Asia that was supposed to start the 2nd week in November was moved up to the first week. This would mean my Asian customers would want to see me the day after the race; a practical impossibility even if I took a taxi straight from the finish line to the airport. As this trip was very important to my team, it had to take priority over everything else. There was some small hope the trip could be pushed back, but as the days passed into the following week, I began to realize that running my first marathon was not going to happen this year. I became despondent thinking that God again was again laughing at my well-laid plans. Reluctantly, I deferred my marathon registration until next year and made my travel plans for Asia.
My Thai wife on the other hand was taking everything in stride. Sure, she wanted to be in the race but not without me. She made some lame excuse about not knowing how to get the starting line and what would she do when it was over, but I suspect there was another answer. You see, my wife is old-school Thai, raised in the rural south in a very Buddhist family. When she was a young girl, learning to get along with your peers was prized more than individual achievement. If someone in your group had a problem, then everyone had a problem and worked together to solve it. I know this because I know her family and have seen the strong cohesion between all the family members. Now it was me who had a problem and my wife was going to help by showing her solidarity for me. As much as I appreciated this gesture I also felt bad that after all the crap she had been through, she was not going to race either. Yet, as I thought more about it, I silently rejoiced that I now had a partner as much in tune with my needs as much as hers. But what made my wife this way?
It doesn’t take much googling or personal experience to know that all Thai women are not created from the same mold, as is the case for anyone else in this world. My wife was raised in a farming community by a school teacher father and a hard working mother, both of whom lived by the strict rules of Buddhist dharma. They and their six children did not have much, but they had enough to get by. My wife and three of her siblings found a way to graduate from university and get into well-paying jobs in Bangkok. The family, of course, had heard of the bright lights of the naughty venues of Bangkok and the huge amount of money some girls brought back to their families. Yet notions of sending their female family members to become prostitute to make life easier at home never entered their minds. Everything had to be done by the dharma or father would step in with a heavy hand. There was no other way.
I still tried to convince my wife that she should race. I found some friends who would be in the marathon and they volunteered to drive her to and from the race, but it was a lost cause by then. Her mind was made up and that was that. Only then did I defer her registration as well. I wondered if her friends would think less of her or if her boss would try to extract some kind of I-told-you-so penance, but these things didn’t seem to be in her thoughts. When I returned home from my trip, we would begin again the long cycle of marathon training. Only this time, it would be without the questions of ability or legitimacy or Thai jealousy; only whether or not we wanted to do it. I was already looking forward to our first post-race run together.
After landing in Singapore’s wonderful Changi airport near midnight, I was whisked by taxi to my hotel and after drinking a Tiger beer from the mini-bar, I fell asleep an hour later. When I awoke the next morning, I had a terrible sore throat.
Even though I have slept a solid seven hours, I felt groggy and light-headed. I took some aspirin and started to read in bed while the sun started to rise. The next thing I remember I am lying in my bed, sweat soaked, as the sun is beginning to
set. My throat was still raging and my head ached more than before. There was no doubt; I have a flu that I probably contracted 7-10 days prior. I realized that back home this would have been the actual time the marathon was going to start. Even
if I didn’t hurt my calf or go to Asia, I would have been flat on my back at home with the flu. I guess some things are fated not to happen. I thought of my wife’s very Buddhist father and how he would have reacted to this disappointing
situation. I imagine it would have been with a true feeling of mai bpen rai; let bad things go and find other ways to be happy. As I thought of this, my disappointment drained from my body and I drifted off into another flu-induced
Disappointing to hear you didn't get to run the marathon but wonderful the way your wife is there by your side, only willing to compete alongside you. That's the sort of dedication in a relationship must guys dream about.