There’s a hill near where I live. My town sprawls under it, and you can see for miles. It’s lovely.

I sometimes just stand there for a while and take in the view. Obviously, this is mostly so that I can get an early warning if there happens to be a Godzilla rampaging along the high street, razing Waterstones to the ground with its radioactive heat vision. But there’s another reason.

As regular readers will know, I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to running. Even back when I was reasonably quick and didn’t resemble a big cube of vaguely-person-shaped butter, I’d play down my successes and find new and inventive ways to belittle myself.

The thing I want to talk about today is distance. When we go out in our brightly coloured wicking fabrics and put one foot in front of the other while making noises like an angry toilet, the end result is that we (and please excuse the scientific jargon here) do some miles. But I really don’t think we appreciate those miles. When we get home and take off our running shoes, the miles are just a number. We feel the aches, and we enjoy the satisfaction of having done it, but do we really comprehend what we’ve achieved?

This brings me back to the hill.

I was stood there a while back, feeling a bit of a failure. At the time, my mileage had gone into a real slump and my longest runs were a fraction of what they’d once been. I’d just run into town and back, which totalled around 5 miles but felt like a marathon. I got my breath back and cursed myself for only managing such a piddly little distance. That’s when I looked out and noticed the church. It’s situated in the middle of town and the big pointy bit is clearly visible on the horizon. The thing that struck me about it though, was that it looked so very, very far away. I looked at it, and I took in the yawning distance between us, and I felt okay about my run. My complaining legs had told the truth about the journey we’d been on, but to my brain it had (up until now) been a trifling distance, barely worth leaving the house for.  It was a humbling moment, and it made me realise that we sometimes need that sense of perspective in order to fully appreciate just what our bodies are doing for us.

I also noticed (with some relief) that the number of Godzillas in the town centre was exactly zero. From a health and safety perspective, this is the optimum number of Godzillas.

Here’s a tip if you want to really appreciate the miles you’ve done. After a long run, go for a drive. The important thing is to take an unfamiliar route. When we make our usual car journeys to work or into town or to that place that gets rid of bodies without asking any awkward questions, we tend to mentally compact the true distance we’re covering. We zone out and a journey of 10 miles can easily be regarded as a quick jaunt. But take a new route and try driving the distance you’ve just run and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and a little bit in awe of what you’ve achieved. I do this from time to time, just to remind my brain that I’m not as crap as it thinks I am, and the welcome thought that always pops into my head is “Wow. Did my little legs really do this?”


Hello nice blog-reading person. That’s an ace cummerbund you’re wearing. Really brings out the colour of your ears. Anyway, cards on the table, there are actually only two people who read this blog: You, and award-winning burglar Fingers McNasty. It’d be great if you could spread the word and share some links to your favourite posts on the Facebookses or the twitters. Or maybe you could scrawl “born to plod = ace” on a bedsheet and tie it to a busy roundabout. The Internet has promised me a basket of kittens for every million hits I get, and I’m hoping to get enough to start a farm. Ta.

7 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. Oh do I ever know that feeling of not getting far. I’ve just had it reinforced this morning in Copenhagen after a whole range of Danes all about 20 years younger than me sprinted past and left me in the dust.

  2. Hi Jay, this is the first time I’ve ever commented on one of your posts but I have read many, and remember first seeing you on a running forum (it’s not as popular as it used to be). I haven’t kept up with your blog though and this is the first time I’ve checked in for at least a year, really glad to see you are still blogging and running!

    You make a good point with this post. I’ve not run further than 6 miles for months now, yet 3+ years ago I did a number of runs of 12 miles or more. It does help to reflect on what you’ve done, whether it is one mile or ten, and appreciate that it’s no small thing. Towns/city centres are good for this, as you realise once you’ve looked back from a useful vantage point such as your hill, or just by looking at the distances on Google Maps, that just a couple of miles takes you through many neighbourhoods, often right out of the area you were familiar with, to little pockets of your locality that you barely knew about.

    • Sincere thanks for the comment and the kind words. Good to know I’m not the only one pining for the runningness of years gone by. I’m just trying to use those memories as a benchmark now – “I ran like that before, after years of being embarrassingly unfit. I can run like that again, after slightly-fewer years of being embarrassingly unfit”.

  3. Er, any advice on how to change my name on this site? I accidentally filled in my real name, didn’t think about it!

    • Hmm, not sure. When I first started the blog I gave it a godawful name. I just signed up again with a better one.

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