Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Falling in Love Again

Falling out of love can be sudden and shocking. Often, we don’t notice it's happening until it has, leaving us with an empty feeling in our gut, and lingering questions borne out of guilt and frustration.

Losing the sense of affection for a person can leave you raw, but seeing it fade for anything at all – be it activity, object or something much more abstract – can be devastating too.

I don’t think there was ever a way that my love of running was going to continue seamlessly after the marathon.

Especially in the final months of preparation, I became so enslaved to training, that crossing the finish line was like throwing off the shackles of discipline and regime.  On top of that, my body was screaming for rest and relief. I’d tirelessly tested its tolerance levels, with only intermittent phases of recovery.

I always knew that I would crave a break from pounding the streets, but I didn’t expect it to last this long.
Falling in love again, you know, is no easy feat.   

On Thursday after the marathon - aches and pains subsided and appetite and hydration levels restored to normality – I ventured to the gym.

I had two weeks off work straight after the race – a holiday between finishing my old job and starting my new – and I had vowed that I would use it to recover. I also hoped, though, that the early signs of spring would bring with it invigorating morning jogs through Hyde Park and along the Thames  - gentle workouts, of course, but rewarding nonetheless.

That first session proved to be nothing short of a chore.

Even though I steered clear of the treadmill, conscious that my joints were yet to recover fully, my body seemed off kilter as I laboured away on the bike and stretched afterwards.

By the weekend – encouraged by rising mercury and full of hope that things were “back to normal” – I finally allowed myself to slip back into my running shoes, but a slow slog along the top of the park was all I managed.

Crippled by a stitch, achy feet and – perhaps most painfully - a severely bruised ego, I returned home in a lousy mood, dismissing questions of how the run went. I tried again some days later, but the outcome was equally poor.

So that’s when I went dry, so to speak.

For a week I didn’t run. I barely spoke about running, read about running or thought about running.  I read novels and the news, went for walks, shopping and watched a film or two. But my trainers stayed in the wardrobe – out of sight and out of mind.

Perhaps that’s what did it.

Gradually, something small started growing inside my heart and head, and the stronger and more robust it became, the easier it became to recognize. It was a feeling that something was missing, a desire to run again. And that was delightful.

I waited a few more days, careful not to stifle it, but when I eventually headed out - just last weekend - the running stars seemed to have realigned.

What helped was that a handful of discouraging sessions had lowered my expectations, so I headed out of the door having set myself no standards or goals – except to rediscover my love of running.

I started off steadily, weaving my way through crowds of pedestrians, and adopted a solid rhythm after the first mile.

Five later, I returned home with that familiar and sorely missed feeling of satisfaction, enhanced – very unexpectedly – by finding out that I’d knocked an average of 30 seconds per kilometre  of my usual six mile pace.

I didn’t want to push it, but today, three days later, I carefully laced up again. And this time it had a more tangible purpose.

With London paralysed by a yet another tube strike, a run-commute home seemed infinitely preferable to being packed – like sardines – into a smelly bus.

Initially, I found myself frustrated, my tempo frequently cut by pedestrians, occasional cyclists and other runners, but later I started to enjoy the challenge – a bit like an urban and very human assault course.

The five miles passed quickly and as I turned into my road – rosy cheeked, dry mouthed and pumping with adrenaline – I noticed how beautiful the blossom-covered trees looked in the golden evening sunlight.
I stretched, drank and breathed and then for the first time in over the week - I sat down to do something else 
I’d found myself unable to do for weeks.

It’s now starting to get chilly.

I’m still in my running gear, its pitch dark outside and my tummy is rumbling.

But you know what? Today I fell in love again properly - with both running and writing. And that, I reckon, is one of the very very few things in life that is worth postponing both dinner and a long lingering shower for. 

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