We hear a lot about the wonders of exercise, there's always a new class to try, a new study to tell us why interval training is so good for us, accounts of octogenarians running marathons in record times and a few people like me who use the internet to witter on about their experiences. But there's a bit of a lack of honesty going on- yes we've all seen the BuzzFeed-esque lists of things people with exercise don't tell you and why injuries are the worst thing ever, but exercise isn't just about the physicality, sometimes it's also about how it makes you feel. To that end, running is both the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me.
Running is not the very first thing that got me active. Those who have known me for a few years may remember that I religiously used to cycle to research job when I was based in a Docklands office in East London. I rode about 20km for my daily round trip through rain, wind, mist and ice and I loved it. Even on the days I used to spend half of my morning bitching about my cold feet. After leaving my job to embark on new business projects and the management of my family business, cycling to work became redundant, if I'm not working from home, I'm at work about 80 miles away which is not conducive to hopping on my beloved bike for a quick 20 minute weave through traffic. I turned to running in very late 2014 as an easier way to exercise regularly because I (very naively thought) all I needed were some trainers.
Fast forward 2 years and I've run a marathon, I train (running and strength/conditioning) 4-5 times per week, I run 10km in under an hour and I have running kit for every conceivable weather condition duplicated at home and at my base for when I'm working away. Hardcore. I'm fitter than I was 10 years ago when I dabbled with running as a teenager, I'm stronger than I've ever been, muscles you can actually feel and I'm a healthy weight and size for my height, gender and age. So far, so good, right? Doesn't sound so awful.
I've read before that to keep running beyond achieving a short term goal, for it to become something you choose to do, for a hobby or regularly, it takes a certain amount of motivation and drive to achieve that is often associated with so-called 'Type A' personalities or 'Red' personalities. To keep pushing yourself in any sport requires drive, but running, with all it's quirks and foibles does seem to require a special kind of bloody mindedness and self punishment. The kind of belief that means you feel you've failed yourself if you don't make it out for the fourth day in a row because you feel under the weather, even though it would do more harm than good. The kind of 'drive' that leaves you fully expecting yourself to run a 10km as quickly as you did last month despite being advised it's likely that you have a stress fracture. The kind of bloody mindedness that enables a person to punish themselves when they don't think they have put enough effort into a run or a race. The kind of crazy that leaves you wondering if you can't bring your particular time to a particular level if you're just not a good person.
Running is the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me because those are a handful of the thoughts that go through my head before, during and after running, training and racing. Sometimes I come back from a run feeling empowered and uplifted- I can take over the world, I am powerful, I am strong, look at what I have achieved. But sometimes running (and sport/fitness as a whole from time to time) sends me into an unpleasant spiral of self doubt and self loathing. Is it healthy? I don't know. All I know from my own is experience is that the best way to deal with it choose to run with and surround myself with people who run because the love their bodies and the strength that sports and exercise gives them, to surround myself with people who take joy in celebrating not just their own successes but everyone's and those who make a positive choice to lift others up rather than to put them down.
Running is the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to me.