Coming back to running is like re-reading your favourite book

I did something today I haven’t done for ages: Instead of walking to where I needed to be, I ran there. Ok so it was a mile and a quarter going the long way round to my Mum’s but just last week I would have dropped in on my way to or back from somewhere as I drove past or at a push I might have walked. It’s all downhill really and I walked back up… see what my brain is doing here? It’s focused on the negative, on the ‘I never do this’, the ‘I walked back’ and the ‘It was only a mile’. Well sod off brain because it was a rather marvellous mile and a bit.

I packed my little red rucksack with an extra top to put on for the walk back up, a few bits and bobs I wanted to take to Mum’s and a lunchbox filled with mince pies and then I set off in the rain and made my way down the hill. The rain was blowing in my face with the cold droplets nipping at my face but still my breathing settled quickly, movement felt smooth and my feet light on the ground. It felt like running. The good running, the running that makes you want to go out again and again. There was no tightness in my calves and no sore feet. I stopped thinking about running and my mind drifted off enjoying its own journey.

It’s quite amazing how much you can think about in roughly a mile and a quarter. I picked up a thread of a thought I had a couple of months ago when Kath and I drove up to Keswick and walked round Derwentwater. It’s about running and favourite books. The thought struck me again as I reached the bottom of Ilkley Road and turned left to continue down our hill: Once you have some experience of running, running isn’t something you have to start again as such. It’s like going back to an old favourite book. You might not remember the storyline, you might not remember details or what happens next or who is who but it’s nonetheless familiar and comforting. It’s also a little irritating because you’ve read it before and it feels like you should remember but don’t quite or you misremember and get something wrong but fundamentally things come back to you more quickly the more you have read the book. You can skim bits, you don’t have to read things in order, you could skip to a favourite chapter and go backwards to read it again later. Going back to running after having some time out is the same.

No really it is. The act of running is familiar. The movement, the feeling in my lungs as I get out of breath pushing up the slope, the relief of air being sucked in as it levels off, the instinctive placing of my feet (in still awful running form – but that will change) and the feel of my muscles working and eventually the reminder (though not today) that there are plenty of weak spots to be worked on as something or another begins to tighten or niggle. I know this, I understand this. I have been here before and I got from here to Dopey fitness and to more and more effortless running. But the purpose is not the race at the end of a training plan or to be able to run a mile in a certain time or to be able to keep going for a certain distance. That’s not a reason to run. Like reading where the purpose is not to finish the book but to savour the story, running is also about the story. If the story about getting from A to B on a single run or from A to B in terms of a fitness goal isn’t a good, happy, healthy and fun story then what’s the point of having got to B?

So here’s the story of today’s A to B. It was a mile and a quarter – roughly. I have no idea how fast it was because I still don’t feel like knowing. I didn’t wear my watch. The cold rain made me happy and I missed it when I turned the corner and it came from behind me. Running downhill was easy and I felt effortless until the last few steps of the slope upwards when I realised that I a) had no real idea of how I’d got there b) was quite puffed and c) was too warm in my waterproof jacket. I turned again, went down a little baby hill and a long very very slight downhill slope, the rain was back in my face and all was fine again. My whole run was set to the rhythm and sound of the mince pies bouncing about in their box in my bag as I ran and I laughed at the thought of them being bounced into tiny little pieces. Almost disappointingly they were fine. I crossed the road, sidestepped one and jumped another puddle, got to the traffic lights and caught a glimpse of my rainbow laces as I waited for the lights to change. I smiled and that smile carried me to my destination.

How was your story?

8 thoughts on “Coming back to running is like re-reading your favourite book

  1. For me, the point of the run is always the running, never the result. I simply enjoy running. But books, I read to complete. My wife on the other hand keeps a stack of special books by her bed that she grabs and rereads passages from almost nightly. And when she runs, she’s doing it to get fit and lose weight. Polar opposites in this regard I guess. Introspective post. Well done.

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