Sunday, 25 September 2011

What I Talk About When I Talk About Love....Running

I love running. No, I LOVE running.

When people hear this or see how enthusiastic I get about running long distances, clocking up the miles early morning, or struggling up a Caerphilly mountain training run, some respond in sheer recoiled horror. I may as well have admitted I enjoy eating puppies for dinner before washing them down with a mug of vinegar once owned by Hitler.

But I genuinely love it. And I wasn't always sure why; until I read Murakami's 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' short book; his philosophy on his love of the pursuit. What he writes is essentially this: running is part of what he is. Like an artist's art, or musician's music. Just because it is an exercise (a sport!) makes it no less valuable or trivial to study and philosophise about.

I had always liked sport as a kid. I spent the first 10 years of my life kicking a football against the garage door, winning Wimbledon against the side of the house, and using my mum's hydrangea plant as a scrummaging machine. But my dad used to run. My main memory of him growing up is disappearing off on Sunday morning jaunts, covered in talc and in tiny running vests- returning back sweated and covered in mud.

My dad was a serious runner. He took up road running after he retired from rugby - and transformed from a chunky prop forward into a spindly running waif - clocking up some great times for marathons in the process.

It put it into my head. I wanted to run. The enjoyment didn't come immediately though, mostly because....Running is tough. In fact, it's not just tough, it's cruel, ruthless even. The pain can be great, the fatigue can be destroying; the mental games your body will play can be exhausting alone.

Why put yourself through such pain? Why choose to hurt yourself so? I went through years of stop-start running training. It never lasted. It was like trying to solve world peace - I wanted to, but it's practicalities just seemed too complicated.

It was during a moment of self-discovery where things clicked into place. I was in the worst shape of my life. I had spent my first year away at university slowly suffocating my body with junk and lack of exercise. I felt terrible, both mentally and physically. I came home from my misery, and visited my Nan.

Pain happens to us all, she said suddenly randomly, giving me a hug. None of us can escape pain. You just got to keep moving and not let it ruin things. 

I made a decision. I was going to get fit, I was going to change my attitude, I was going to work hard. And I did. And I barely looked back. When that moment arised where I wanted to quit, I just kept moving - and the sense of achievement of thinking I had beaten the negative, beaten the pain, was incredible. Slowly but surely, things felt easier...better...I was getting fitter, stronger, losing weight. I was sleeping better, sharper mentally. My mood improved. The changes, although took a while, suddenly hit me like a steam train.
I can understand why people don't understand my love. But similarly how some people can't understand why I love it so much, I can't fathom why people love reality tv, rom-coms or junk food and Jeremy Clarkson. It would be boring if we were all the same.

Since I took up serious running (several 10Ks a week) I never looked back. Running has become part of what I am.
Murakami wrote: Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Not just in running, but in life. Running is my me time; I think, I contemplate, I observe the world around me. I see beautiful landscapes up Caerphilly Mountain; I see foxes and other wildlife carrying about their worlds; I see the light rise; I see the world being. When I go running early in the morning - I feel like the only person alive- the full day lying ahead - all that promise, all that potential, awaiting to be unleashed. You feel alive. Because you are. And I don't want to miss it.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Great read, i love running too!