I’ve got some demons to outrun. I also have a book to finish which requires a far clearer head than I currently have. I need to run. I need to run for sanity and for clarity. But I haven’t been able to really. Confidence has gone, disappeared.
The day after the last blog post I was going to go for a run in the morning. I got my kit ready the night before and laid it out next to the bed. When I woke up I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. I just couldn’t see how I could possibly get my fat arse out there and run. I just couldn’t. Kath gently nudged me towards calm and shaking like mad I put my running socks on. Then the rest of my kit and by the time I was dressed my breathing was almost under control and the tears had stopped. I managed a mile, stopped to say hello to the sheep that are now in the field ours used to be in. There were a few more tears and lots more doubt about running and being fat and being fat and running. Then we headed back, mostly walking but some running.
Today we were meant to run at Bolton Abbey in their organised event for Manorlands, the Sue Ryder hospice. I was signed up for the 10k and Kath for the 10 miles. But this morning Kath wasn’t feeling well and the idea of 1000+ runners at Bolton Abbey which is her safe running place was too much, so we didn’t go. I’ve been wondering about going for a run all day. But the negative voices telling me I can’t actually run have been quite vocal. I’ve also been ridiculously emotional and tearful all weekend. At about 3.30pm though I decided that I should just go. I’d feel better for getting out, Kath was happy watching something on tv I wasn’t fussed about watching and I was making no progress with the book. So off I went.
I hadn’t really decided where to run or how far to go. I ran down the road and through the little housing estate and to the canal, then I just kept going along the canal. The autumn colours were stunning. I was hoping to see a kingfisher but it wasn’t to be today. The ducks were out in force though and one of the fields that comes right down to the canal bank on the opposite side was full of geese. I had a vague sense of working quite hard but the good sort of hard. I was deliberately not looking at my watch. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I passed what we call the stone bridge and moved from well maintained towpath to muddy track and pushed the pace. This is where I’d be likely to slow down. I still felt strong so I pushed a little more. The watch beeped for 3 miles and I ran a bit further to hit 5k and then stopped. 11.58 pace. That’s basically the speed of light for me. I seem to have accidentally run a fast 5km, trying to outrun my thoughts maybe. I had a little breather, checked my phone and wondered what to do about the way home. The light was fading quite fast so I decided that crossing the canal and going home through the fields and woods wasn’t sensible so I’d go back the way I came.
I set off back, much more slowly now and aware of my bad sock and trainer combination – blisters, ouch. I must remember that those socks with those trainers doesn’t work. Once off the mud I realised how dark it had got so tried to speed up again a little – the first mile was 13.40 pace, the second 12.20. I ran 2 miles to the first canal bridge I could use to head home and decided that it would be safest to come off the canal and head home on the road. So in the end I did just under 6 miles with the last 3/4 of a mile walking up the hill home.
I do feel better. I feel good about having got out and about actually being able to run a total of 5 miles with only one little breather. I enjoyed the moments of clarity as I was running, those moments where you’re not thinking but you just know. The clarity isn’t lasting today but it was nice to have it while I was out there. So from barely making it a mile at 14 minute mile pace earlier in the week to running 5 in under 13 minute mile pace -the first three in under 12 minutes per mile – welcome to my rollercoaster.
I’ve not run for a little while and I don’t really know why. Can’t. Something is going on in my head. When I am not in a position to run I look forward to it and plan when I can go and it all feels positive and good but when I have the time I can’t. It’s all in my head of course but it feels like I physically can’t move off the sofa or wherever I am. Sitting on the train home this week I have looked forward to a run. Arriving home the idea of going out again filled me with paralyzing fear.
Yesterday I left the senior leadership team meeting (don’t, just don’t), walked to the station, got on the train, propped my way too heavy head against the window and let my eyes fall shut. ‘You’re ‘that’ kind of tired, aren’t you? I said to myself. ‘Hmmm’. I replied trying not to doze off. ‘No, you need to know this. You’re ‘that’ sort of tired’. I woke up in a bit of a flap at Bingley – the station before mine. But I was right, I do need to pay attention to the fact that I am ‘that’ sort of tired. Tiredness that doesn’t really allow sleep at all or forces way too much sleep, tiredness that isn’t about sleep, that sleep makes little difference to, tiredness that is more mental than physical. Tiredness that makes thinking difficult. The last time I felt this tired, well let’s just not go there.
So I need to get back running, I need to acknowledge this ‘that sort of tired’ feeling and think carefully about what is causing it – to figure that out I need to run and I think I probably need to run far and on my own. Both of those just seem impossible just now. But we’ve been here before haven’t we. So, I once again invite you to come on the roller coaster ride with me. I’m hoping for a short ride but do hang on just to be safe.
Just checking in to report that I had a good run. It was a good run because I enjoyed it, because the autumn colours were stunning in the slowly fading sun light, because the cold felt comforting rather than biting and because it’s been a pretty perfect Sunday so far.
Sundays should always be like this. There were giggles and smiles, un-put-downable books, coffee in the garden, cold noses, gardening projects done together, frogs and logs for the fire (no, just the logs are for the fire, not the frogs, they’re happy in the pond which will soon be bigger) and the cosy warmth from that come from that. There were cosy cats and inquisitive cats and cats being chased by dogs (well, one cocky little Einstein being chased by a dog he probably got too close to) and now there’s cats enjoying the fire.
Running should also always be like this too. I pushed myself, I’m sweaty and the last hill before home resulted in jelly legs and stupid huffing and puffing but it was just nice to be out, to be moving, to feel my body warm up, to feel everything work as it should, to look around, see the ducks along the canal and the geese flying overhead. It felt the right sort of hard and now I am going to join the cats and curl up with Einstein and we can finish off our Sunday in perfect style
Why did I start running? Well I suppose the handful of attempts at various Couch to 5km programmes in my late teens and twenties were about getting fitter but my heart was never really in it. Then there was the 2013 half marathon in memory of Rachel, well my heart wasn’t really in the running bit then either. Then I started again because it was a way to try and shift some weight and then there was Dopey and London and and and… At some point though my reason for running became running. I run to get out, to enjoy being outside, to explore, to see places, to notice nature, to be healthier. But recently that’s not where my focus has been. It’s been on performance. It’s been on distance, on pace and on measuring ‘better’ by how far I could go and how fast. Sometimes that’s fine I suppose because sometimes running regularly means I am able to go faster and further but mostly it’s not helpful for me to measure ‘better’ by distance and pace. Measuring better or even good in that way just makes me miserable.
I was thinking about all this as I was plodding my way through 4.4 miles using run/walk intervals this early lunchtime. After a few weeks of feeling the pressure of running and of trying to distance myself from the idiocy of about 80% of what I, along with most academics, do at work, I could feel myself slipping towards that place where the sofa becomes the safe space and leaving it gets harder and harder. I was beginning to feel like I wasn’t good at anything and that everything I was doing wasn’t good enough. But of course that’s not true and when I stop to think rather than just feel, I know this. So after a morning of feeling like I couldn’t really get out of bed, postponing our planned adventure to Haworth for a run and eventually going out for breakfast instead I somehow made it out the door for a run. I agreed to running intervals and taking the pressure off. I didn’t actually want to go at all but I’d run out or energy to argue. 2 minutes running, 30 seconds walking – that seemed doable.
There were bits of the run where I managed to just enjoy being out and being able to move, to feel the wind in my face and be aware of the sweat tingling down the middle of my back. There were moments when seeing the geese grumbling irritably at the swans and their young made me smile and when I remembered to look out for the kingfisher (no luck today). There were stretches where I was completely aware of my body doing what it can to move as effectively as it can, I was aware of my breathing, of my feet striking the towpath lightly and moving off again, my arms moving in harmony with my legs that even at 3.5 miles weren’t feeling the slightest bit tired yet. Running can be the easiest and the hardest thing to do all at the same time. I couldn’t quite get my head out of better being distance and pace because I was pleased to have gone further than the last run and a little annoyed that it was quite slow but also happy it was under 13 minute mile pace. But if we take a healthier, happier definitions of what a good run might be then this was on the right track. It was a good run because I wasn’t miserable, because I enjoyed being out, because I looked around and saw the autumn colours and the ducks and the dogs going about their business.
So I am trying to re-set my mind – to stop thinking about ‘good’ and ‘better’ using traditional or usual measures of progress. And I don’t mean just for running. It’s all about trying to work out what’s important and hanging on to that. How fast I can go is really irrelevant. How far I can go is a little more relevant but actually not much – I can always walk and if how fast doesn’t matter then the how far question is far far less important. So today’s run was the start of refocusing on the things that matter.
I don’t really like running at the moment. I like that I am running at all – I’d hate to not be running. I am sure I am both physically and mentally much healthier for running but I don’t like it much. I also liked having run this morning and I had a really productive day overall which is probably due in large part to having got out this morning.
I’ve not run consistently really. I need to. I will like it more, or at least hate it less when I do. This morning’s 5k was fairly horrible. Far harder than it should be, far slower than I’d like it to be but it was a run and I will have another run tomorrow and we’ve planned a weekend route which I am really looking forward to actually.
So there – yet another reboot and I hate running but not as much as I’d hate not running