So by now you know I have a love hate relationship with running. It’s a relationship though and one I can’t really imagine being without now. I love running, I love not running, I love writing about running, I love writing about not running, I love how running makes me feel, I love what running allows me to do, what it teaches me… I hate running, I hate not running, I hate how running makes me feel, I hate how running can be all consuming and leave no time for anything else and I hate hate hate how crap I am at running and how some of the things it teaches me I’m just not ready to hear. Running keeps me sane and drives me crazy at the same time. It’s the best thing I do and utterly vile all at once.
I wrote before – quite a while ago – that I don’t really remember the beginning. It’s true, I don’t. But I’ve been thinking about the journey lots recently. I know there was a time I literally couldn’t run to the postbox at the end of the road – that must be about 20 metres or so. I couldn’t do it and sometimes it’s hard to remember that now I can. In running terms I had a fabulous January. I was relatively consistent (the longest gap in running was 4 days) and clocked up just over 60 miles. February was disappointing – snow, general crapiness – I managed 42 miles but had big gaps (10days). March felt more consistent but in the end I actually only made it to 40.99 miles and some of the days I didn’t run I had no excuse at all. I just couldn’t be bothered. The last March week was busy with a conference and driving down to Keele Uni I was quite excited that I only had 1.96 miles left to reach 150 miles for the year – except that I must have misread my chart because when I got home and added the miles to my spreadsheet I was still a way off. That upset me. No really it did. I was excited to have hit the milestone and then so bitterly disappointed to find that actually I hadn’t. Just as well I’d been too busy to post it on social media! (Just for the record, I have now gone through 150 miles for the year – I’ve triple checked this time!)
So for the rest of March I just didn’t bother. Yes I was tired from the conference but a run would have done me good. I just didn’t want to go. I had no motivation, no drive, no interest at all. I couldn’t even be bothered to flick through the running magazines I haven’t looked at yet. It crossed my mind a couple of times to maybe check my race number for the Lakeland Trails Hawkshead 10k or to sort out logistics for the Toronto Half marathon but I just couldn’t be arsed with any of it. Thinking about running was not a happy place. It felt like all of it, thinking about it, writing about it, organising it, all of it was a chore. I hate running.
On Saturday we were going to go to Bolton Abbey and run there. Honestly, I only got out of bed because of the promise of a bacon sarnie at the end. It was raining and it looked cold. I got dressed and we drove across. We got out of the car at the car park and were hit by an icy wind driving the rain straight into us needling our faces and making it hard to breathe. We got back in the car and came home. We spent the rest of the day curled up trying to keep warm. Sunday morning Kath went out for a run. By lunchtime there was something niggling me. I wanted to run. I actually wanted to run. Kath said she’d come with me so we headed out on our sheep loop using run/walk intervals of 2 minutes/30 seconds. It was good to be out. I smiled as I went past landmarks that for some reason I was remembering as running milestones. The post box at the end of the road was first. I remembered my first run/walk/run sessions where I was actually quite tired by the time I made it to the Pub just down the road – and it’s all downhill. I remembered the right turn to head uphill – I used to dread that turn. It took me months to not have to put in an extra walk. I smiled as we went past our old sheep fields thanking our lucky stars that we’re not lambing in this awful weather. I made it up the slope. Remember when that was impossible?
Inevitably on the downhill I tensed. We’d watched Cars 3 on Saturday and I suddenly started to giggle as I remembered the ‘trainer’ telling one of the racers who was tensing on a treadmill to think ‘fluffy cloud’. I spent the rest of the downhill repeating ‘fluffy cloud’ in my head giggling at the image of the car relaxing. When I got to the bottom of the hill I thought ‘I belong here, this is my track’. I’d noted two lines from Cars 3 as possible mantras but hadn’t realised how much they’d already lodged themselves in my brain. One was ‘You are a racer’ and the other was ‘You belong on this track’ The rest of the loop felt good. I felt strong and the running felt ok.
Today we headed out again – I struggled to wake up and it was snowing so enthusiasm was about 0. But I did want to go. Somewhere in the back of my mind the ‘can’t be bothered’ had shifted to something else. I was ‘chasing’ Kath again. By just over a mile I’d had enough. I dragged myself to 2 miles and shortly after that I was ready to curl up and cry. I thought about coming off the canal towpath and phoning Kath to tell her I was off home but instead I paused my watch, changed the running interval from 2 minutes to 1 minute told myself I belonged here splashing through the puddles and carried on. I’m remembering the why. Or rather I am remembering the whys. There’s the why of the first time I pulled trainers on and tried to run all those years ago during A-Levels – it was all about being thinner than I was. It’s almost funny how at my overall fittest with several high energy gym classes a week and a solid and consistent gym routine I failed and failed and failed at the running thing. I never made it over half way in a couch to 5k programme. It was the wrong why. Then they why of Rachel’s death and the half marathon that followed. Maybe the right why but too much to soon or maybe just not enough whys – to the whys that led to Dopey and London and the whys that keep me coming back to running now. So what are they. Well there’s the mental health stuff. I might be proper loony without running and I’d certainly get far less of the brain work done; there’s the physical health stuff – obviously I am healthier than if I didn’t run; there’s the weight thing – except I suspect I could lose more and faster if I didn’t run; there’s the being out and seeing the seasons change (or refuse to at the moment) and all of that; but as I dragged my moomin butt up Unity Street and wondered whether I’d ever be able to run even some of this stupidly steep hill, I nearly burst out laughing. I run because it’s all so bloody ridiculous. I run because it’s impossible. I run because it’s hard, it’s the hardest thing I do again and again and again. I can’t do it at all and yet I do it – several times a week. I run because I can’t and that means that anything I think I can’t do (like change the world), I just need to go out there and do it. Yoda was right – Do or don’t, there is no try – by doing you can, even if you can’t. That’s my why.