I am just back from a run. It was not very fast and it was not very far and I really did not want to do it. I wanted to stay in my jammies and eat square sausage rolls with my husband and kids.
I am not a glamorous runner. I do not glide along on slender, tanned limbs, gazelle-like, smooth ponytail swishing behind me. I do not glow. I sweat. I chunter along. I go bright red. I swear a fair bit. Especially going up hills. So I wasn’t exactly pumped about doing it, but I did it anyway and it was my first proper run in ages.
I did not have a watch. I did not set myself any speed or distance targets. I just started moving. I stopped when I got tired and then I started again. After a while, I found a wee rhythm and I knew my body was taking over. My breathing settled into a pattern of its own, in, in, out, out, my feet and legs moving in time.
The sun was shining and the sky was deep blue and I as I ran my heart swelled up with a feeling of total gratitude and thankfulness that I was here. Healthy, breathing and moving on this day, at this time, in this place. Sweaty, out of breath, looking a pure state, but here. What a privilege.
That’s what running can do for me. It simples everything down to in, in, out, out, in, in, out, out. I don’t need to be anything except me. I don’t have to answer to anyone except myself.
Running connects me to my body. It helps me appreciate the amazing things it can do for me if I just give it a chance. Instead of the depressing attention to cellulite and extra pounds, I can be glad and proud that I have a body that can run at all. I can notice what is good and strong.
When you strip away all the nonsense about how far and how fast and how many calories, running becomes about time and space to just move. To be inside your body and be thankful for it. To notice how lucky you really are.
Running has ripped my heart out more than once. When you strip everything back to in, in, out, out, you find out what’s really going on inside your own head. You find out what your self-talk is doing. If I find I am berating myself for walking before I get to that lamppost or cursing myself for stopping on this hill, I know I am not in a good place. Discovering I am being unkind to myself is never easy to deal with, but it is always better to know.
I ran once on a cold and grey Saturday morning, unremarkable in every way until my chest exploded with pure, white-hot grief that had been locked in tight until that exact moment. The force of it brought me to my knees and I sobbed at the side of the road until I was totally spent.
Running locates me in my own body and forces me to appreciate what’s good about it. Running helps me work out if I am ok or what I need to do next to be ok. It opens me up to creativity. It makes me a lightening rod for good, crazy, exciting and stupid ideas. I am too busy dealing with in, in, out, out to filter, so all the ideas and emotions get through. Unfiltered ideas and emotions are often the most powerful. It is time and space to be who I really am. Not a mum or a wife or a teacher or anybody’s anything. Just me, in my body, moving.
I don’t know if running does any of that stuff for you, but I really hope something does.
And I hope you do that something today, right now, on this sunny Sunday.
And I hope your heart fills up.
Photo by Arek Adeoye on Unsplash