As a child, I was pretty active. I wouldn’t describe myself as sporty for a second, but I did enjoy going to a variety of after school clubs growing up. Trampolining, gymnastics, ballet, tap, horse-riding, swimming, I even had a brief spell in a majorettes class (I’m pretty sure my bestie and I spent the whole time giggling at the back)! But, much to my poor mother’s delight, I have a rather restless soul and thus nothing really stuck. As I became a teenager, anything mildly active dropped off the radar and music took over. I didn’t even like walking places, and used to moan bitterly if I missed the bus after college and had to either wait an hour or so for the next one or make the half hour walk down Hill Lane into town (as my good friend Jo will attest to!).
So when I announced I was joining the military, people were pretty surprised to say the least. To be honest, I was kind of surprised myself; to this day I have no idea what came over me when I stepped into the careers office. Clearly the idea of becoming a professional musician completely overshadowed the fact that I must first pass fitness tests and then do 3 months of basic military training! Maybe I’ll go over all that in greater detail at another time, but let’s just say it took a hell of a lot of tears to get me to run a mile and a half in under 13:45, and I’m pretty sure I had a complete breakdown on my first night of basics! After the initial shock though, I’m pretty sure I just let my mind go elsewhere when we were crawling through the mud, and miraculously I didn’t only pass, but I did pretty well overall too!
You may think this was what made a runner of me, but oh no dear friends, it took many more years! It wasn’t until I developed Anorexia that I discovered the real joy in running. At the time when I really wasn’t eating much at all, I was terrible at running of course; I had no energy. Once I’d begun the very difficult initial steps in my recovery (basically, eating again), I was filled with a lot of emotion. Anger at myself and the therapist, guilt, fear. So one day I took myself out for a run. I don’t remember it in great detail, I don’t think I really remember much detail from that time, but it must have made me feel better as I went again and again.
As I’d started eating again, I had a lot of energy to burn. In all honesty it also made me feel less guilty about eating too at first. But eventually it turned into something way more magical. It was some headspace, some time away from everything else that was going on in my head. And it was something I was quite good at. Not amazing, but much better than I’d ever been before!
Devastated by the passing of my beloved Aunty, I decided to enter a marathon for cancer research. It was another positive thing for me to focus on, a release for my negative energy and a reason to keep eating. When you’re not injured, I think it’s pretty much impossible to come back from a run feeling worse than you did when you left. The marathon was an overwhelming experience for me, such a big achievement and something worthwhile to have done in memory of my Aunty.
Following the marathon, I decided to enter more, and gradually increased my running. Well, I say gradually, but I think the problem was that I didn’t do it very gradually at all and instead got injured several times over the next few years! Unfortunately this is where running started to turn slightly sour for me. I love running, don’t get me wrong, but given my obsessive nature and unforgiving attitude towards myself, I started to get so frustrated that I was getting slower.
So I would get an injury, not rest, get even more injured, be forced to rest. Come back from injury, be slower than before (obviously), hate my body (rather than appreciate that I needed to be gentle with myself and come back slowly), try and run too fast or too far, then get injured again. This cycle has literally gone on for a couple of years now, with a few brief joyful moments of great (for me) parkrun times and some blissful runs on my travels.
So, where am I right now? Well, I’ve been recovering from plantar fasciitis for several months now, something which wouldn’t go away because I refused to stop running. I’ve only been on a couple of runs in recent weeks. The first was in Bali, where it was so humid I actually had to stop at one point (something I always beat myself up about), so that wasn’t the best experience! After that, and some powerful healing at Escape Haven, I knew it was time to take a break from running. To take a break from the numbers.
One afternoon a couple of weeks ago I was sat in my room and it was a completely glorious day outside, so I thought to myself ‘why not go?’. I was longing to be out there in the fresh air, looking at the estuary, feeling the sun on my skin. So off I went, no watch of course, but more importantly I went at a truly easy pace. Not my usual ‘I’m running at this speed because it should feel easy’ pace, but my actual easy pace. And you know what?
I loved every single second of it.
I ran to the bench I frequently visit to think about my Aunty. I sat there and meditated for a bit, and enjoyed the view. Then back I plodded. It felt like the old times, when I just loved the feeling of getting out there, before I got too overwhelmed with numbers.
So that’s where I am right now. I haven’t been for another since, I was actually going to go today but I’ve had the flu! I’ve got no ‘plan’, no goals of how many times I should be running per week. I’m focusing on yoga right now, but when the mood takes me I’ll get out there and run. I want to race again some day, not for times, but just for the community and atmosphere it brings. I’ll eventually get back to parkrun at some point too for the same reasons, but right now I’m just glad I’ve found that passion for running again.
Happy running to all my running buddies out there! For everyone else, happy whatever it is you do that fills your heart with joy, be it horseriding, painting, dancing on tables or whatever else floats your boat!
Be kind to yourselves.