Hello all. Something pretty exciting has happened recently. Do you remember when I told you about this running-around-at-the-crack-of-dawn thing? Well, I keep going back. Every week, for four weeks, I have gone into London Bridge or up to Primrose Hill at 6.30am and run around or stepped up huge steps, all in the name of fitness. I wouldn’t have said I particularly needed to get fit but I just went. I didn’t think about it and I just went. And then I went again.
And I think I like it. Don’t quote me on that because there’s a strong chance I actually don’t enjoy it but I’ll get back to you when I’ve figured that bit out. I just get up and I do it and I don’t question it.
I remembered today that, actually, I’ve been ‘meaning to’ go running for a while now and even put it into a blog post I wrote two years ago because I thought putting in the public arena would oblige me to act on it. Then I proceeded to do bugger-all about it. Obviously. I mean, running, really? What’s the bloody point? You go in a straight line somewhere and then you go back and you’re knackered and what’s the point? So I said it, I said I wanted to go for a run and I put it on my bucket list and then I sat down and drank a cup of tea, safe in the knowledge no-one in their right minds would actually run and so I wouldn’t be judged when I didn’t complete my task.
But, out of nowhere, I saw a friend and he said I should come to this crazy early morning running thing and then I did. And I did again. And now it’s four weeks later and I’ve been every week and I even went twice this week. And I don’t ache the next day after a workout anymore. Not at all. And I bought running leggings (they cling in all the wrong places but are mega comfortable) and running shoes (illuminous pink laces – what’s not to love?) and there are rumblings of actually running in an actual race where you have to run far.
I’d love to tell you that it makes me feel peaceful and at ease with myself or that my consciousness goes to a higher plain and I am able to solve all my worldly woes through running. I’d love to tell you that my legs are enjoying the action of running up and down hills for 40 minutes, that they thrive on it. I’d love to tell you what running or working out ‘means’ to me.
But I can’t.
I don’t know what it means to me. I guess it must mean enough to make me get up at 4.45am, leave the house at 5am and journey to different parts of London for a session that takes a third of the time of my round trip to get to it.
Maybe I’m having or anticipating a mid-life crisis. I’m approaching thirty and I don’t half spend a lot of time doing not very much. Yes, I go to and from work every day and that is fine. But I think there is a reason why women like myself ‘take up’ running as they approach thirty. For me, it’s the voices of older friends in the background saying things like, “Once you hit thirty, it gets harder to keep the weight off.” Or having the constant self-delusion that doing jobs where I stand up means I’m burning loads of fat. It would have happened by now, if it was going to. Catching a glimpse of yourself in a mirror or a photo and seeing the beginnings of your mother’s bingo wings on your arms. I think that’s why I always imagined I would run at some point in my life. Unless it’s high-action, it won’t shift that over-30 weight!
I’m giving the impression that it’s a weight loss thing here, when actually, I don’t think it is. Maybe just a general fitness thing? I don’t know. A level of intrigue as to why runners are so addicted to running? The knowledge that there is something magical that I want some of? Is it the solidarity among runners? I don’t know, although I do know that I like my workout friends a lot, to such an extent where my contact with them has become a way of extending the joy of the brief workouts. ‘Joy,’ really? I don’t know.
Today, when I went to the Friday session, I knew I was in for a total running workout. The Wednesday is climbing up and down huge steps. The Friday is running up and down huge hills. Last week, I slowed to a walk on the way back up from my first hill. Down was glorious. I flowed and (despite the fear of running too fast and smashing my face onto the ground) and it was easy. Then I turned around and ran uphill and three steps later, I walked and wished it were over already.
Today, I had my new running shoes and I wanted to run in them. To prove that I could. So when I reached the bottom of the hills, I did a slow turn and I took baby running steps back up the hill. Children could have crawled it faster than I was moving… but I was running.
“I haven’t stopped to walk at all today!” I kept panting at my running friends, who high-fived me or stopped to hug me. And in some little place in the back of my mind, I think that might be why I do it. That’s where the joy is. It’s in the genuine happiness of others in my teeny tiny successes.
A self-conscious voice sometimes pipes up with, “I bet someone’s told them to be extra nice to you in particular because they see that you’re new to this running thing.” I think I wouldn’t care if it was that that made the others so ready to partake in the pride of my small victories.
I only know that it is nice.
It is nice to enable your body to do new things and to feel it’s ability to go a little further before it screams at you to stop. And it is nice to share these victories with people who want you to do well.