It’s been one whole year since I started running.
Or 446.61 miles, 93 hours of on my feet, 149 runs, just over 40,000 words.
As avid readers will know, I somehow managed a Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago. Now, the thing about achieving a distance that a year ago you’d never have thought possible is that it really fires you up and takes your running to a whole new level. All of a sudden, new goals zoom into view. Shiny new challenges ready to be tackled with a merry gusto the like of which hasn’t been seen since they announced all-you-can-knit Tuesdays at the Stotfold Ladies Temperance Society*.
Except in my case the opposite happened.
In the (nearly) two weeks since crossing that finish line I’ve managed the grand total of three runs, and one of those was a half-hearted two miles on a treadmill. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to run; in fact the day after the HM I was champing at the bit, desperate to get out and play but sensible enough to know I should give my body at least a bit of time to repair itself. But then after that, life just sort of got in the way. “I really want to run, but I was late home from work”. “I fancy a run, but I’ve just eaten a big dinner”. “I suppose I should really run, but when else am I going to get the chance to watch this She-Ra DVD box-set”. It’s not that my enthusiasm has dwindled; I still felt the same elation whenever I thought about running, the same sense of wistful camaraderie when driving to work and seeing people on a morning run. I still read running blogs, running forums, running magazines. I still made sure I had running kit with me wherever I went. All the pieces were still there. It’s just that I wasn’t actually running.
I’ve learned many things over the last twelve months. I’ve learned that everything is relative – back then three miles seemed like it may as well be an ultramarathon, whereas now a marathon seems like it may as well be an ultramarathon, so that’s progress in my book. I’ve learned that the joy of running can be found in the most simple of pleasures; a new set of laces or a cheerful “Morning” shared between trail runner and rambler/dog walker/probably-a-murderer. I’ve learned (to my delight) that runners aren’t the self-obsessed, humourless lycra-clad snobs I used to think they were**, and that I was wrong to harbour prejudice against a group of people just because of the sport they do. Cyclists are still a bit odd though. It’s fair to say I’ve learned many things since first lacing up my trainers, but right now the most important of those things is the fact that running is very much prone to ups and downs. A few months ago, if I’d found myself in the running limbo I’ve just described, I’d be feeling utterly deflated by now, mourning the loss of my beautiful hobby and wondering where it all went wrong. Was it bad luck from when I stepped on the cracks in the pavement the other week? Perhaps karma was paying me back for that thing with the brass band and the jar of wasps. But no, armed with the wisdom of a whole entire year of running, I now know that these things happen. For every effortlessly speedy 10k there’ll be a five where your legs feel like they’re made of spanners. You’ll just be getting bored of your usual route, the season changes and you see every aspect in a whole new light. A week of unexplained lethargy where dragging yourself around for a few miles seems like torture will suddenly give way to a period of fizzy motivation, throwing yourself into every run with such enthusiasm that you wonder if perhaps Lance Armstrong has shrunk to microscopic size and is inside your head, pulling levers and shouting inspirational slogans. He hasn’t, before you run off to fetch some cotton buds and a jar.
But anyway, you get the idea.
So that’s it. A few weeks ago I assumed that when I blogged about the anniversary of my love affair with running, it’d be a nostalgic and slightly mawkish look back at what I’ve achieved over the last 12 months. But I suppose that running is actually a lot like a love affair; the soaring highs more than make up for the occasional low, and the lows themselves aren’t really all that bad, they’re just easy to dwell on when you’re feeling sorry for yourself. And it’s an excuse to go into specialist shops and buy lots of weird gadgets and tight clothes. Okay, best to leave the metaphor there I think.
I’m off for a run now…
*Okay, honestly now… Hands up any of you who checked to see if that spelled out a swear. You know who you are!
**Well, some are. But so are minority of any group of people, such as milkmen, taxidermists or Belgians.