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As the weather improves slowly, I occasionally surprise myself by thinking, “Ooh. I fancy a run.”
As I may have mentioned before, running is not something that comes naturally to me – my excuse: I’m not built for running. Running, when your legs are as short as mine, is rather a waste of energy. I run at the same pace Hubby walks – at a ratio of about 4 of my steps, to 1 of his.
I would much rather lift something, push something, pull something or turn myself upside down than run, and I spent the years between about 10 and 32 absolutely refusing to do any kind of exercise at all.
After having my second child, and losing a lot of weight (my daughter basically ate me up from the inside), I started to feel different about moving my body. I’d go for walks, and be overcome by a very strong urge to jog. I found this alarming rather than encouraging. I simply couldn’t get past the fact that I was IN PUBLIC, and people might see me running. That seems ridiculous to me now, but I really was THAT self-conscious.
I remember my first run very clearly. I’d been psyching myself up for weeks – telling myself that NO ONE CARED if they saw me jogging. I’m not exactly sure what I was worried about – maybe an altruistic desire to prevent complete strangers from having nightmares about my jiggling baby belly?
Eventually the day came. I didn’t have the ‘right’ equipment – just leggings and a T-shirt, some old trainers, and a bulky water bottle – but I was ready. I walked around the neighbourhood first, then sped up, then walked so fast that it looked pretty silly… so I broke into a jog. I was completely out of my comfort zone – I felt excruciatingly exposed, as if people were hanging out of their windows shouting, “Look at that girl trying to run! Ha!”
After about 20 seconds (no joke) I thought, ‘I can’t do this. My lungs are burning, I can’t breathe, and moving my body feels like stirring treacle.’
Hot on the heels of that thought came this one: ‘But I literally only just started running. If anyone sees me stop after 20 seconds, they’re going to think I’m pathetic.’
So I kept going, hating every second, convinced that our bodies weren’t meant to suffer this kind of punishing torture. How could it possibly be healthy?
Then something weird happened. The pain in my lungs and chest eased up. I could breathe quite normally again. I wasn’t having to think about my legs and arms; they just naturally fell into an steady, constant rhythm.
No one told me about the endorphin release that came with exercise. I had no idea what was happening, but suddenly I realised I was enjoying myself.
The beat of my feet was quite hypnotic, and I found my head clearing. I’d stopped caring what other people were thinking, and just floated through a peaceful zone in complete solitude. What started off as an exploratory 15 minute jog, turned into a 45 minute run – no rest.
I felt euphoric when I reached home, and also very proud of myself – my first run, and I managed nearly an hour!
However, in my ignorance, I hadn’t warmed up before I started; I didn’t stretch after I got back; and it was my first run. You can imagine the glassy and intense pain that gradually manifested itself in my hip joints and back as the day wore on. The next day, I could barely move. I felt weak, unhinged and brittle for well over a week.
However, I didn’t let that first experience put me off. After I’d recovered I started running a little more regularly. Not long afterwards, we relocated.
The house move was traumatic (aren’t they all?) and we had to live with Hubby’s parents for a few months while our new house was rewired, central heating installed, and several rooms were replastered.
It was a huge wrench to leave our well-established friends, and a city that we’d loved dearly since our paths crossed at university; it was unsettling to live in someone else’s house, even though we were catered for handsomely; it was a period of freefall and uncertainty.
During those months, running was a lifesaver. I’d bought running gear, a gimmicky bottle, an armband for my ipod, and proper sports earphones; but there was still such freedom in being able to shut the front door behind me and just… run. For a precious half hour, I could be alone. I could find that calming rhythm and clear my head of all the worrying, nagging and dithering. I found that sensation of stillness-within-movement compellingly addictive.
My running regime has tailed off steeply in the last couple of years – for a couple of reasons. For a start, there’s too much dog mess on the surrounding paths, thanks to lazy, selfish, irresponsible dog owners. I want to run, not slalom around dog poo, mincing like someone doing ‘high knees’ through hot coals.
But mainly, I get my endorphin fix from other forms of exercise these days, and running doesn’t seem as necessary.
Mind you, after today’s Crossfit disaster*, running seems like a very attractive option.
*This morning, for the first time, I failed a box jump – spectacularly. I jumped up, didn’t quite make it, caught my toe on the edge of the box, fell headlong into an ungainly dive over the other side of the box, and landed on my outstretched hands and head, doing a half-arsed karate roll to finish.
My morning has involved lots of ice. #ouch