Running My Mouth Off
People have often asked me to write about running. Or rather, I should elaborate, they have often asked me my opinion about running. And when I say ‘often’ I mean ‘occasionally’. Once or twice. Anyway, the frequency is irrelevant because I am finally writing about running. It’s funny, I have always strayed away from the subject because I feel that my interest in running is quite a bit different from others that enjoy the pastime. Writing about running should be easy because, essentially, it is just a marriage of two of my great passions. The difficulty comes because of the motivation behind the action.
Now, as is usual with any of my pieces of writing, I feel it important to insert a disclaimer early on. What follows is not a criticism of any other runners, techniques or equipment it is simply an explanation of why I, personally, love the sport. I am not trying to appear esoteric on the subject but the fact cannot be avoided that I am most likely in the minority on this. My interest in running is one of therapeutic self-actualisation. A way of making one feel better about one’s self. Sounds bloody pompous, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Let me expand.
I have always been very good at running. Fast over short distances and with the stamina to compete over the longer ones. At school I would repeatedly win race after race. I went to school competitions, then area ones and finally the regionals. I hated these. With a passion. It wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough (which I wasn’t, eventually finishing dead last at the regionals and faking an ankle injury) that I hated it. I hated it because of the pressure, the loneliness of running on your own. Competing against other driven and determined individuals who were, in all probability, going to beat me. I longed for team sports, camaraderie and generally a sense that if things went wrong then it wasn’t entirely down to me.
So, I sacked off running for a good decade. That is until my late twenties when a combination of beer, cigarettes and McCain oven chips convinced me that I might have to attempt to lose some weight. I went for a run around the block in a pair of Nike fashion trainers. It was awful and, if possible, I felt even worse for it. But, fortunately, that didn’t stop me and I continued to do the same thing twice a week, wheezing bile all over the streets of Leeds. Pretty soon I could run a couple of miles without thinking that my lungs were going to slide up my throat and force their way out of my mouth. I progressed and ran further and further until, after a year or so, I could run the distance of a half marathon. After a while, I entered and completed three marathons (all of them horrific life-draining encounters that I never want to experience again).
Now, here’s the kicker. It wasn’t getting fit that makes me run every day of the week. Or the thrill you get from beating a personal best. Or even joining a club and meeting nice, like-minded people who you can go on enjoyable running adventures with. What I love about running is the intangible, cathartic sensation that I experience about 29 minutes in. The slow release of adrenaline and testosterone that overrides pain and discomfort. The feeling that you get on a Sunday morning when you run down a winding lane near Shadwell, the perfect song comes on the iPhone, the sun rises over the rolling Yorkshire hills and you realise that, at points, life cannot get any more perfect.