I Run, Therefore I Am
Recently I’ve been contemplating why I run and what it gives me. Why? Well when you miss something you appreciate it all the more.
Having missed out on the last two Lakeland Trails events (Keswick and Coniston), I felt very frustrated at my ongoing struggle with #LymeDisease and the inevitable ups and downs my body goes through. In the middle of these two events was a Brussels trip to see the specialist who has amended my medication treatment plan slightly. Overall it is proving very successful but I have to remember to be very patient as it’s a long-term process.
At times like this it’s important to keep thinking positively. Focusing on the benefits and underlying joy of something, helps prevent you wallowing in negativity and self-pity. I can’t deny I’ve been guilty of the latter on occasions because of what this has cost me (in family time, missed events, financially etc.). But then, many people close to me are much worse off. Also, those who care have unquestioningly offered support of some shape or form – all of which I’m immensely grateful for. So I try to look at the bigger picture and appreciate my quality of life.
Why Do I Run Then?
For many reasons. Mostly it is because of the lift exercise gives me and, in my opinion, running is the most natural form of exercise. I was a decent runner during secondary school, a fast sprinter and always in the top 3 at 800m & 1500m. Cross country I especially loved at school. Thinking back, it seems it’s the exhilaration of running as fast as I could over whatever distance, the outdoors, and in particular the connection with woodland, hills, in all weathers – and the added incentive of competing!
You can’t beat exercising in the fresh air – in all weathers! Whether it’s a beautifully bright and fresh autumn day, a nighttime ‘bat’ run, snowbound or lashing it down. Nothing beats the feeling you’re out there doing it 🙂
Sometimes it’s only possible to run in solitude. My mind will gradually drift from thinking about daily things, to running form, to absolutely nothing – a great state to arrive at. I vividly remember running on Pennine Moors and the only sounds I could hear were my [ahem] light foot strike, rustling wind, ground-nesting birds. Looking up at a flock of geese caused me to stumble off a fell single track and giggle at my amateurish slip.
Clearly fitness is a massive benefit. Fitness of the brain, the core, organs and so on. In my late twenties, career meant less time keeping fit. Having a young family from my thirties continued this trend. However, having had a Discectomy when 31, I was told the best way to prevent further issues was to rebuild and maintain my fitness. It was in my mid-thirties that I entered my first trail run – the Helvellyn Lakeland Trails 15km. I’d entered due to working with the sponsoring brand and a runner friend encouraging me to commit. Totally unaware and unprepared for the course profile and terrain I cacked myself 2 weeks before. But I was advised to run to my own rhythm with a smile and I’d get through it. I was totally hooked!
For me, it was all about the people. The ability of elite runners simply astounded me – with their capacity to simply glide over challenging terrain and ‘sprint’ major climbs. But more so was the range of shapes, sizes and ages of fellow runners. Two instances of inspiration in particular stick in my mind:
1) The 60+ vet who encouraged me to keep going despite cramp in my calf as we crested the Hawkshead Coffin Trail. If he could keep going, so could I.
2) The middle-aged lady at the back of a ParkRun field, determined to complete 5km while recovering from surgery. Incredible 🙂
These examples of indefatigable spirit sum up running for me. The joy of the challenge, the ability to overcome the demons that tell you you can’t carry on, the mind’s ability to forget the pain and go again. At pretty much every event I’ve ever been to, the atmosphere created by volunteers, family, friends and locals there to cheer on runners, stall holders at the event village, elderly runners sharing their experiences, all form part of a tremendous community. I’ve met amazing people through this sport and will continue to for many years to come I’m sure.
I am definitely competitive, though running has increasingly become about doing the very best I can. So yes I do try to bridge the gap to the runner in front. And I will be as keen as anyone to maintain my lead over someone else. But that is more about using other people to help me do my very best and potentially improve on my last run in some way.
And the views – oh the views of #trailrunning! Especially places like the Lakes, Pennines, local woods 🙂
And that links to the final reason I run (that I can think of today anyway!)… Exploring new places. Through running events and off-road trails with friends, I’ve discovered places I didn’t even know existed. Opening up new boundaries is simply an amazing feeling 🙂
Below is a small selection of images that convey my joy of running. Hope they bring a smile to your face 🙂