Friday, 11 November 2011

Running Out of Time

It took me a long time to learn to love running; hours upon hours of struggling to keep up, blaming my trainers for my sore knees, aching limbs and breathing so forced it made me wheeze. I nearly gave up on a daily basis, but with such vital motivations as losing weight and getting fit enough to enter a race, I just about managed to hang in there. Joining a group made a big difference; pain is better shared and having a good natter (in between fighting for air) certainly helps take your mind off the trauma you're going through.

Soon enough I had gotten a bit fitter. The motivation changed; it wasn't about making it through the run alive anymore; I wanted to improve my times, nail that eight minute mile and beat my pesky friend Holly in a 5k. In fact not just that, I wanted to beat everybody at everything (not that I'm overly competitive or anything). Every run was measured and analysed; what was my average pace, how high did my heart rate go, how far did I run to the nearest thousandth of a mile etc etc. A 'good run' was defined by a set of statistics. Sometimes what felt like a great run was followed by disappointment as I realised I hadn't gone quite as fast as I'd thought and occasionally what felt sluggish turned out to be the best run ever.

Getting back into running since my bike vs car incident started out being tough; everything has been in slow motion. My first few outings left me feeling a little bit disheartened as I just couldn't push as hard as I wanted to and suddenly I felt like I was at the back of the pack again. It wasn't until a run one morning that I had a little revelation.

I say "morning".. after a few hours one night of very disturbed sleep, tossing and turning, I decided that a little run might help me relax and tire me out enough that I could come back and get a couple of hours kip before the alarm went off. So, at 03.10 I pulled on my trainers, donned the headtorch and snuck quietly out of bed for a jog. I didn't really have a plan of where I was going, I just went. I ended up running around the top of Old Sarum (the site of a medieval castle - for non-locals) and being utterly mesmerised by the blanket of fog sitting over the city, with only the cathedral spire poking out through the top. The moon was shining down, casting an eerie glow across the whitewash below and as I descended again through the field I felt as though I was running in some bizarre alternate universe as the thick mist reduced visibility to nearly nothing (though the bizarre alternate universe thing may have also been due to the lack of sleep). I arrived home feeling massively refreshed and looked down at my wrist only to see that I'd completely forgotten to put my watch on. I had no idea how long I had been out, how far I had gone, what my calorie consumption was or how many steps I had taken per mile. All I knew is that I had thoroughly enjoyed it.

Since that run I have mostly tried to ditch the watch and run just for the sake of running, because - as it turns out - running itself is a very enjoyable activity when you don't have the pressure of times, distances and speeds. Changing from "today I must do 6 miles because that's in my plan" to "Ooh, I might go for a run in the rain because it's liberating" is quite uplifting. I am sure that once my back is fully recovered and race season is approaching I will start monitoring everything again meticulously but for the time being I shall be running when I feel like it, when I fancy a spot of fresh air and a gossip with like-minded friends in the countryside. Feel free to join me, but leave your watch at home!

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