Tuesday, June 16, 2020

On Being a Beginner (again)

One of the things I identify with is being a runner. I run regularly, the act of running brings me joy (even if it doesn’t always feel that way mid-session), I've been lucky enough to run in many countries and the running community (and those I’ve previously been involved in elsewhere) I’m an active part of has brought me friends, special friends and people who have changed my life. I can’t remember a time in the last 5 years where running hasn’t been a part of my life.


When we entered lockdown in the UK, my running community, Adidas Runners, and the much loved women’s studio on Brick Lane had already closed their doors to in-person classes and group runs and it became very apparent very early on into the lockdown that running wasn’t going to be possible for me, in my area. Watching people ignore restrictions and hold birthday parties in the park as the number of deaths was doubling almost daily was too much for me, and so began 8 weeks of connecting to online workouts and not setting foot outside the boundaries of my home.


Fast forward to where we are now in June. With easing restrictions out there and a need to up the intensity of my exercise in here as well as recognising the anxiety I had been holding about going outside needed to be confronted too. Fully embracing the fact that I’d need to build back up with a beginner plan of run-walk intervals, I picked a hell of a week to get back out there as a beginner. I say this because there’s a lot you can learn about the journey to anti-racism from this….

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
Just as not every second of every run is a joy, to practise anti-racism, you will need to address your own biases and prejudices as you uncover them. And I’d wager there will be more of them than you think, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable and then work out how to push through the other side.

Consistency is key
Following a plan consistently will build strength, speed and endurance in running. But anti-racism is also about consistency. The world is watching, the Black community is watching. And we must practise anti-racisim consistently and not just this week, this month or this year, because addressing racism, especially at a systemic level, isn’t the only (enormous and widespread) issue to be faced, it’s also a case of keeping it out, just as we have failed to do at multiple opportunities in history.

Rest Days are part of the plan
When you begin running or return to running or indeed if you’re a regular runner, rest days are where the magic happens, your body has time to repair, your mind has time to assess, reflect and reset for the coming days and the next stage of your plan. There are no prizes for reading the entire Macpherson report in a day, and how much are you really taking in if you’re reading history or anti-racist activist publications one after another? In order to learn, we must also allow ourselves the time to process the information so that as well as knowing better we most importantly of all ARE better and DO better.

Comparison is the thief of joy
We’ve been hearing this in many fields for many years, and that’s because it’s so very true. Whatever runnin you’re doing, at whatever pace, for however long or whichever distance, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because you have no idea what their struggles and their goals are. See also your own anti-racism journey. There are many different ways in which you can make an impact on the movement and the current situation. Some are donating, some are protesting, some reading, some are having tough conversations and a magnitude of other impacts and actions are taking place. Don’t compare your journey, just make sure you can be honest with yourself about the work you are doing.

As with so much, what this comes to is privilege. Returning to running for me is a privilege. As a beginner again I get to notice things I didn’t the first time around because something else was hard. I get to choose to run, and to choose to get back out there. Just like getting educated about racism and anti-racism is part of my white privilege, because ultimately I’ll never be subject to the horrors of racism, but I have to power to stop it, and if we can’t accept our privileges, then not only can we change nothing, but we’ll have nothing left to be grateful for either.