Six weeks in and I don’t know where to begin. In early May I decided to start training for the 2020 Hong Kong Marathon in hopes of running a personal best at the tender age of 37, and in the spirit of commitment decided to give up booze in the process.
Eight months of hard labour counting down to one climactic morning, and I can say the changes have already morphed my body, mind and psyche. The initial support from friends and family was almost completely positive, my decision reverberating through the people in my life as I navigated numerous conversations that ranged from unmitigated backing to questions of personal sanity.
“You crazy, I hope you know what you’re getting into. Do you know what city we live in?” wrote one friend on WhatsApp.
Regardless, here I stand, wavering on sore legs after a gruelling 10km trek this morning along Bowen Road, sweating profusely and dropping weight by the second. Truth be told, the impact of cutting out alcohol is undeniable. After a few weeks of mild detox, everything started to clear up: my mind, my sleeps, my skin, my vision and my entire constitution. Alcohol, an elixir of epic proportions, gives as much as it takes. Inebriation, a temporary life and social lubricant, followed by a day of mild to moderate pain so remarkably unique it has its own name: a hangover.
But, sans toxins swimming through my veins, I have new life. I’ve started running in the morning, and a few times a week also squeeze in a workout at night. My off days have been drastically cut in half, and it must be noted my wallet also feels a bit heavier these days too.
My training regime for the first two to three months is simple. Before I start on a legitimate running plan, tracking my kilometres specifically and building up to longer mileage, I have an immediate goal: get in tip-top shape.
With a solid sports background playing high-level soccer and hockey, I’m not starting from zero, thank the lord. But getting into high-quality shape is no easy feat. My weekly workout regime is as varied as I can make it: stretching, running, hikes, yoga, high-intensity interval training classes at my gym, weights, swimming and regular cardio sessions. The idea is to build up my muscles, lungs and work out any kinks before I start pounding the pavement and putting serious mileage on my milometer.
With major back surgery in my past, that part of my body needs special attention and my weight needs to be low enough that I don’t stress my joints simply by rolling out of bed.
Alas, I have a secret weapon: sobriety. I’ve already found new gears when it comes to physical limitations. I can do another set, knock off another kilometre and withstand another lap without my pores leaking and crying out lager like a whimpering schoolboy.
The fact that I can now knock off a sub 50 minute 10km run a few times a week without feeling pushed to any substantial degree has me wondering why I ever started drinking decades ago in the first place. I’ve been reading about the growing trend of “sober curious” people, those like myself, who have never had life-altering issues with alcohol, but most definitely were inclined to have one too many more often than not. Establishments are opening in cities like New York, Los Angeles and even here in Hong Kong that cater to the nightlife crowd, but do not serve alcoholic drinks.
Drinking rates all over the developed world, especially within the millennial and Generation Z crowd, are falling, or not even taking off to begin with. The culture is changing and the teetotaller lifestyle is no longer for the hard core 12-step AA crowd.
I will say, there have been a few nights where I’ve decided to stay in knowing going out would put me in the middle of a serious p***-up, or on a junk boat with drunk people in swimsuits all day. Lonely, maybe, regrettable, probably not. I’ve partied enough of my life to know I’m not really missing much. The second thoughts are fewer and farther between as each day passes, and I love watching a friend struggle to exist as a human being at brunch after a night of debauchery while I was in bed early, slept like a log and got up at the break of dawn to sneak in a quick jog.
At this rate, pending injury or major setback, a sub three and a half-hour marathon should be an obtainable goal. The question is, how many minutes can I shave off from that?
Only time will tell, but it’s nice to know without any crutches or vices, the sky’s the limit.