Monday, 13 January 2014

The Very Bearable Lightness Of Running Or The Tale Of The Bus That Never Came

I'm waiting for a bus that's never going to come. And unlike many first lines of blog posts that I write, that's not a metaphor.

It's Sunday evening and I've just landed from the most invigorating ski weekend in Austria, spent swooshing down the slopes with one of my best friends, who I only see a handful of times each year.

But in stark contrast to the glorious sunshine, heavenly powder and crisp fresh alpine air of just six hours earlier, I'm now standing in a car park in Gatwick, being rained on as toxic fumes creep into my lungs, the sound of airplane engines burns in my ears, and an alleged replacement bus service remains nowhere to be see.

 I've been standing here for an hour, picking up my heavy bag - jam packed with ski kit - occasionally, and then dropping it again when the strap threatens to draw blood or cut off my circulation completely. Behind me, a French girl is swearing into her mobile phone while in front of me a young Russian family is doing their utmost to keep a screaming toddler content.

I'm hungry, thirsty, tired and angry. My phone is running out of battery power and I'm fighting back the urge to scream at the traffic warden. Purely because no one else seems more appropriate.

Most of all though - as I feel the toe of my ski boot press into my thigh, as a dull headache starts to blossom behind my eyes and as my feet turn numb - I think about what I'm missing; what I could be doing right this second.


After a near three-week injury-induced training hiatus, I was going to treat myself to a short, gentle run tonight: Just a couple of miles, to put my recovering sciatica to the test.

I'd put on my new compression running tights, clip a small light to the waistband - safety first on a drizzly evening in Central London - and trot up to the park.

In the hue of the street lamps, I'd pad along the equestrian track, paying close attention to the strained tendons, muscles and nerves and whether they're coping or complaining. I'd focus on my stride, keep my gait measured and balanced, raise my heels as I kick back, conscious of my toe strike.

I’d consider it a therapeutic outing, prolong the wonderful weekend my letting the memories linger, and as I head back, I would use my rhythmic stride to brace for the week to come. I’d make a to-do list in my head, prepare for meetings, calls and appointments, cleave the next five days into manageable chunks – bite sized and contained.

Later I'd head back to the flat, run a bath, stretch, eat and enjoy the glorious and wonderful lightness brought about by running.

Because isn’t that one of the nicest things about our chosen sport? The fact that we don’t have to depend on equipment or a team to practice it? The fact that we can get up and go at the drop of a hat, day or night, any season, any day?

We don’t need a court, a pool or a field, a racket, a bat or a ball or even an opponent.

It’s just us and our shoes, putting the world to right one measured step at a time.


The rain has become heavier putting an abrupt half to my day dream.

The idea of lightness, of buoyant steps along the street, of streamline and agility vanishes instantly and the strap is digging into my shoulder again, toes are getting soggy and back achy.

Almost to mock my inability to do so, my nose starts to run. Thanks, I think, thanks a lot, and my tummy rumbles in accord.

And then out of nowhere, a bus comes. I glance at my watch. I could still make it back in time if we're quick - even if it's just a mile, to breath the evening air, get my blood flowing, heart pumping.

I think I'll wear my New Balance trainers, the Asics are fine but for short runs they almost offer too much support.

I smile inside, pick up my bag one more time, give the French girl an encouraging wide-eyed "looks like we’ve made it through the wilderness" smile, and almost skip towards the curb and up the bus' steps.

"To Dorking Miss?" the driver chirps, stopping me in my tracks.

Even on a Sunday night, in a fumy, rainy, car park in Gatwick, there are something's that are simply far too good to be true.

I suppose now I have at least one thing to look forward to on Monday. 

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