Monday, 25 November 2013

Why I ran, run and will run


“So what’s your blog about?” a friend recently asked me over dinner. It was loud in the restaurant and I was straining a little to hear him, but because he’s no running enthusiast himself, I wanted to weigh my words carefully and offer him a response that wouldn’t trigger the traditional eye roll and swift subject change.

“It’s called 26 and a bit miles”, I said cautiously. That captured his attention and encouraged me to be brave and push a little harder.  “And on the surface, it’s about...running?” I tested gently.

Like clockwork, and almost imperceptible: the tiniest roll of his eyes before his once piqued interest levels dwindle visibly and his thoughts resettled on the wine list.

“Well, it’s not all about running”, I tried desperately to salvage some of his attention.

 “It’s about life too, and psychology, and sociology and decision-making and identity and...”

But it was too late,  I was starting to sound ridiculous and I’d probably already morphed into a headband wearing gym bunny, clad in nylon leggings and a neon sports bra, yelping about the benefits of physical activity and how wildly awesome working out can be.

Had I treaded a little more carefully, been more tactful and approached him in a more wise manner, I would have perhaps kept the conversation flowing.  Because the truth is that running – without sounding preachy or mad - is actually about so much more than just...well, running.

DIAGNOSIS AND RECOVERY

When I first laced up as a young teenager, striding the rural roads was about discovering my limits and becoming aware of my strengths – both physical and mental.

Personality traits, circumstances and higher powers unfortunately turned what was once my treasured sport into a vicious poison, but despite battling exercise addiction, eating disorders and rock-bottom self-esteem -  much of the blame for which you might be tempted to pin on running - it ironically might have been the key to diagnosis and cure.

Yes, running depleted me emotionally and turned me into a physical, anaemic wreck, a social recluse and a mere shadow of my former bubbly teenage self, but with hindsight, had running not been the catalyst, something else would have brought out the worst in me - perhaps drugs or drink -  and I may not have come back as strongly as I did.

Weak and fragile, I remember writing in a diary, that being able to run again was my ultimate aim, and I’m sure that having a specific goal propelled my recovery. Each gram of weight gained got me that little bit closer to the start line. The stronger my bones became, the closer I got to being allowed to race again. I always had a vision and that spurred my determination.

After years of figthing, I reaped the rewards with glee.

The first half marathon I ran upon my return to health was all I had imagined it to be and more, and gradually the pride and pleasure I was getting from training banished the last remaining dregs of self-hate.

As the needle on the scales settled, my self-confidence cemented itself too. I cherished being able to fuel my body after a tough work out; give it back what it had given me, and became proud of it and grateful for its services to my mind and sanity.

GROWING TOGETHER

It’s been a decade since the trouble began, since I became embroiled in the vicious cycle of guilt, hate, exhaustion, starvation, regret and denial, and the changes I have undergone as a person have consistently been reflected in what running means to me.

These days, going for a run is my indulgence, my therapy, the gift of solitude I present myself with when I feel like throttling my boss, chucking my computer out of the window or smashing up crockery.

Shona Thomson, my remarkable friend who recently became the first Scottish woman to conquer seven marathons on seven continents, said that her Sunday morning run was akin to going to church. (Click here to read more about Shona)

Every Sunday, it will be there for you, like a dependable friend, an island of contemplation, an opportunity to mull, to appreciate and worship – perhaps not necessarily a god or deity – but your own physical power and self.

Running has taught me to priorities, to understand the importance of a healthy body and healthy mind and to appreciate that one cannot exist without the other. If I face a difficult decision, I will go for a run to clear my mind, rid my brain of bothersome detritus and decide what I really want and need.

I admit that the sport may not be to everyone’s taste, and to some it may just be a method for shedding extra lard, giving your canine buddy a workout or checking out the single ladies who frequent the gym. But for others, like me, running is a passion, a therapy and a lifestyle.

At every stage of my life, running has offered me something new and exciting, whether that be clarity, confidence or a new challenge. I’m curious to see what it has in store for the future and where it will take me next.

So yes, of course my blog is about running. On the surface at least.  But it’s also about life, passion, prioritising and decision-making. Now let’s both allow our attention to migrate to the wine list. Because if anything’s worth drinking to, then for me at least, it’s running. 

(Image courtesy http://img.timeinc.net/time/daily/2009/0912/360_running_joints_1209.jpg) 

1 comment:

  1. It's definitely about more than running! It's got tons of inspirational and empowering writing, tips and lovely Josie-isms. Tell him that!

    xx Sian

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