Chapter Two: Run. Fast. Persevere.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 15, 2016

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Submitted: August 15, 2016

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“This can’t be true!” I exclaimed as I scanned the notice. My eyes were locked on the date of the track and field trials.

Kyle looked over my shoulder and read the text on the board, murmuring to himself, “Track and field inter-school championships, trials for school team open for all Secondary 2 to 4 students, trials held after school next week, interested students to sign up immediately,” he beamed with excitement “Hey, we’ve been wanting to join the school team for a while now, this is our chance! No wonder you looked so excited!”

I shook my head and pointed to the date written on the notice. Kyle squinted to look at it. Convinced nothing was wrong, he raised an eyebrow at me, “Yeah, the trials are next week, no mistake there,”

I sighed as I rolled my eyes. How slow can this guy be? “Next week is the start of the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting!”

I haven’t even been entirely comfortable with fasting yet. The non-stop rumbling in my stomach and the constant thirst was something I never looked forward to. And running continuously in that condition? My hairs stood as the thought was embedded deeper in my mind. I pictured myself running and panting on an empty stomach, exhausted and about to collapse on the track. Boy, even a hibernating sloth looks in better shape to pass the trials!

Kyle’s eyes were as big as pancakes for a split second. Seeing the distress in my eyes, he shrugged and said, “Well, I guess you might as well just train up and hope for the best,” Even though that may not sound as a good piece of advice, I still took it.

I spent the next few days training as much as I could, spending my evenings sprinting and jogging. But when it was time to fast, I barely ran at all. In school, things weren’t going well either. I was constantly distracted and bullied by the cries of my stomach. It didn’t help either when I saw the other students taking gulp after gulp of liquid, slurping up noodles, ripping pieces of flesh off chicken bones, digging into a fragrant plate of fried rice while I sat in a distant corner, the taste of food seemed to be on my tongue, yet they’re just a figment of my imagination.

The trials were a day away, and I lay in bed knowing that the suhur tomorrow would need to last me till the end of the day. I couldn’t help but worry. I knew that if I was at my best, I could very well be in the school team after the first round of trials. But I was aware that I will most certainly not be at my best physically come tomorrow afternoon.

It was another scorching hot day. I felt uncomfortable, with my uniform sticking against my drenched back and shoulders, I winced as my stomach grumbled for food. I was convinced that even if I had eaten, the food will all be burned up by the weather anyway. Throughout the entire day of lessons, I yawned so much my eyes were damp. I dragged my tired body to the toilet, which just so happens to be right next to the canteen. The smell of all kind of food attacked my nostrils, teasing me, mocking me, taunting me. I was so hungry I was actually relieved that the smell in the toilet drowned out the smell of the food everyone else was enjoying. I washed my face and gurgled at the sink. The hunger and exhaustion must’ve got to me, because I started talking to myself in the mirror, “Gosh, I’m so hungry. Hold it together, Nik. The trials are in a few hours. Have to focus. Hey, since I’m not eating, at least I won’t get stiches and stuff,”

By 4pm a crowd was gathered at the school field. Most of us were hiding under the sheltered areas, patience boiling away with our sweat. While the others drank from their bottles, I stuck out my tongue like a dog. I was certain I looked stupid and my breath probably smelt like rotten fish, but what choice did I have? It was the only thing I could think of.

The trials began with a 400 metre run. It wasn’t too bad, I thought to myself. I finished tenth out of the thirty or so students. Next up was the 100 metre sprint. Again, I did relatively well, finishing third among my group of eight. The rest of the events were quite smooth, and I managed to get through to the second round of trials. For the first time, I started to feel more confident in myself.

But the delight was short lived. By the second mile run, the hunger was really starting to kick in. My tongue felt like the Sahara desert, and I could feel my stomach digesting itself. Exhaustion amplified, I dropped hope of achieving my original goal.

Then came the sudden realization – I was the only one participating in the trials who was fasting! Frustration and envy arose inside of me. This is so unfair! I thought to myself. I had to fast, I was hungry and had no energy, my throat was aching of thirst and I couldn’t rehydrate myself; while the rest had a nice meal and could recharge whenever they wanted. I was clearly at a disadvantage! Ironically, my empty stomach fuelled my anger.

“Nik, you want a mint?” Kevin offered, snapping me out of my thoughts. I was about to raise my voice, but I stopped myself before I could. I shouldn’t yell at him, since he wasn’t a Muslim and didn’t fast. He probably wasn’t even aware that it was the month of Ramadan. “Sorry, but I’m fasting,” I replied with half a smile. Kevin immediately pulled back his hand and apologised. Embarrassed, he turned away. Upon hearing that I was fasting, the other students also went to the far end of the field to drink, out of my sight.

I appreciated what they did. It showed that they respected my religion. Islam taught me to respect all other religions, as it is the basics of achieving peace and harmony, which is what Islam is all about. I avoid eating beef when joined by some of my friends, and celebrate festive seasons along with them. It was heart-warming to see that my respect for other religions had been rewarded.

The trials ended quickly for me as I failed to advance to the further rounds. When I got home, I did what any kid my age would do when they felt a sense of injustice would do. I complained to my mother. Being the wise adult, she told me that knew where I was coming from, but it isn’t the end of the world. Fasting was in a way what led to my frustration, and my mother convinced me that fasting would prove to be my “saviour” in the future.

When the results were announced, I was told that I made it into the mile run reserve team. At least I have a chance at redemption, I thought. So began my training for the track and field championships. I spent every afternoon in school running around the same track over and over again. The coach was constantly screaming at us to pick up our pace. It felt like I was in an army camp, always panting and hungry and legs aching. And yes, I was still fasting. Some were so fed up they wanted to quit. Others were frequently complaining about how tough the training was, how it was torture to be running lap after lap even on an empty stomach, all out of the coach’s earshot, of course.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about training. I guessed I should’ve been frustrated as well by how tough the training was, especially for someone fasting. However, as time went by, I started to actually mind the hunger less. I went from thinking, “Gosh, I’m so hungry, when will this end?” to thinking, “Oh, I’m starving as usual. If I could do it the past few days, I should be able to endure through this one,” Running in poor physical conditions became sort of a norm for me. I slowly eased myself into a mental state where I was able to drown out most of the discomfort and focus on stretching out one leg after another. Even after the fasting month, trainings weren’t exactly easier for me. Although I had more energy, higher expectations and prolonged training periods nullified the effect.

Still, I had a decent time in training compared to my teammates. For one, I was already kind of familiar with the discomfort of running on an empty stomach. And the increase in toughness of training didn’t really affect me as much and I was able to transition quite well. I guess my mother was right, fasting did help me quite a bit.

I tried to help the others as much as I could. I tried motivating them, telling small jokes in between laps, making small talk, anything that I felt would’ve kept their spirits up, I tried. After all, I learned in my religion that lending a sincere helping hand to those in need is like a blessing. The ones who are doing better should definitely assist those who are struggling, out of kindness and sincerity.

Through fasting, I learned to be more resilient and patient. I was also more disciplined as well and had more self-control. I realized that fasting carries a very significant purpose. Fasting has many benefits, from learning self-restraint to training perseverance. I was also, of course, thankful for this opportunity to put what I’ve learned from Islam to good use. 


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