Anyone that saw me on my weekly run yesterday may have mistaken me for someone with Tourette’s syndrome as I took to the odd ‘holler’ in time with the music, plus a few hand-claps and other rhythmic gestures.
I have found that when I tell people about my new-found running regime they ask ‘are you training for something?’ The truth is, yes, I’m training for life.
A couple of years ago I realised I needed to do some exercise, I’m not overweight, but I have an office job, and that coupled with a commute meant in a regular week I was not physically mobile very much. Now I’m in my 40’s I recognise that it’s ‘use it or lose it’ when it comes to my muscles, and as I pondered what exercise routine I could fit into my busy life (I work full-time and am a single mother of 3) running was the only option.
Not only is it free – no costly gym memberships needed, I can also go when it suits me, and with three children to ferry around for their busy social lives, it was a ‘no-brainer’ that running was the thing.
Also, living in England, warm sunny weather is a rarity, and on the few days that we have some, after spending the day cooped up in an air-conditioned office, I began feeling desperate to get outside and feel the warmth on my face before the end of the day.
Those summer runs were the easiest, the scents of honeysuckle and other flora filling the air as I ran past neighbourhood gardens – really made me grateful to be alive. That and the book I had just finished reading, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’, which described a man that had ‘locked-in syndrome’ – a rare condition that meant he was completely paralysed, apart from his left eye, and was literally ‘locked in’ to his own body. Able to communicate one letter at a time by blinking, he was able to reveal to the world that his mind not only functioned, but his imagination soared. Reading of his frustration at not being able to use or even sense his limbs somehow gave me an extra spur on those early runs when my legs would ache. I would think, what he would have given to feel his muscles stretch and be tested, and how lucky I am to have my physical body, with all its strength and movement.
Once I got past those difficult early runs when even going round the block left me red-faced and breathless, I began to find my rhythm, allowing me to go further and to settle into an easy pace which meant I could allow my mind to drift off with my thoughts.
This is where I discovered the benefits of running aren’t just physical, they are mental too. It was often said to me, that running is all in the mind, and not in the legs. The sense of achievement of setting myself a goal, a certain distance, or an improved time – and then achieving it. I was not competing with anyone else, it was just me. My mantra came to me as I ran. Running would make me feel strong, striding out past the glances of passers-by, and this physical strength would in turn help me feel stronger and more able to deal with the other challenges in my life.
Once I had run past the houses, out of the town, I would be on solitary country lanes, with just me, the hedgerows, and the sky. At certain points the panoramic view would catch me every time, the sky, whatever its mood, is breath-taking when it is all around you. Being on my own with the sky, which to me represents God and all things eternal, would inspire me and was like my own private communion with the Almighty.
So I am confused why people ask me why I run. Why would you not run, when it can give you so much.