I have started running again. Ahem. I have resumed wearing these great stretchy pants and sometimes I run in them. Mostly I strut about as if I am going to go for a run later but secretly I just like wearing the pants. Because they are stretchy. I would very much like to be a person who runs. I can run, sure, as a function, but I have absolutely no form and very little will power. Once, a gym instructor exclaimed to me: “Wow! You’re not a natural runner, are you?” Yup, he was actually shocked by how graceless my (un) natural stride is. Unfortunately he was right. I caught my reflection jog-shuffling along a shop window tonight and almost laughed out loud. If only I had been able to breathe.
But every now and then I go through a phase of persevering with the insanity of it all, convincing myself running is both healthy and free and I should really give it a go. Running is my frenemy. If it were a person it would be overly peppy, wear velour tracksuits with ironic slogans and these on her nails. I hate running most of the time, but I particularly hate it for the first ten minutes, which feel like ten hours and almost convince me to turn around, head home and sit in a corner sulkily eating Christmas mince pies. Those first ten minutes hurt, don’t they? Your chest aches, your knees ache, you can’t f*%^ing breathe…repetitive thought: why am I doing this?!
I guess the answer is (I hate to admit this) that if I make it through those first ten minutes (not a guarantee) I do sometimes, sort of, almost enjoy it. Maybe I am just stunned that my legs are moving with some speed, despite the horrible gait. That my lungs have not collapsed or knees buckled. Somehow the air starts getting in and my muscles stop burning so vindictively. The body begins to feel okay. Good, even, dare I say it (stupid, effervescent, persistent frenemy). It is nice to actually use the body, for a change, which I normally plonk in a chair in front of a computer and sit, statically, for hours and hours and hours and hours.
As a handy / cursed side effect, running also seems to help with writing in a similar way that showers do. You’re both occupied and free to think. The ‘job’ of running is so mindless it allows for creative thought. There’s probably something in there about negative ions or endorphins too. That said they aren’t exactly the same creative experience, for me at least. Scenes and plot / character solutions from running tend to involve anger, action, climaxes and conflicts. Showers are better for back story, love and grief, resolution and denouement. I guess there’s that whole heart-pounding escape element to running that you don’t get with a nice, cosy, warm shower.
Then there’s the noticing. I’m currently re-reading Anne Lamott‘s wonderful “Bird by Bird” in which she describes how writing adds an extra dimension of purpose to any activity. That you go about noticing things more keenly in order to write about them later and how much of a joy that is (please note that she describes it a thousand times better than I just did there. See?). In that vein – sometimes when I’m running I’ll stop imagining fights and foes or just how reluctant I am about the running itself and simply soak it in. Tonight I ran in the rain. The opportunistic blackbirds were out hunting for rain-soaked worms. There was an entire four person family dressed in head to toe, zip up, wet weather gear. They looked like cute aliens. Hair stuck to my forehead. A similarly slow jogger went by in the opposite direction and I was tempted to do an air punch for him. I learnt that star jasmine smells stronger and sweeter when wet and that I really, truly suck at uphill. I noticed a house that had a birdhouse built just like the house itself and painted the same pink with red window frames. The agapanthus is flowering, they’ve demolished the entire back of that house, how do they make the stones in a stonewall fit together so snugly…
Who knows how long this latest phase of running will last. I know my running buddy Patti, in Vancouver, would be telling me to man up and keep at it. We used to jog together with our B1’s in strollers. Except she had B1 x 2 (twins) and her stroller was the size and weight of a mini cooper. I’m going to try and keep it going for a while at least (ie. maybe another week). I have noticed that “I’d really like to go for a run” works as a better reason to get out of household chores than say “I need to do some online shopping / paint my nails dark purple / sit in the bath eating leftover birthday cake” so that is something. I am enjoying the noticing and little bursts of creativity. The puffing and shuffling, post first ten minutes, around the neighbourhood I love. And, of course, there are… the stretchy pants. Ahh. Now there’s a reason.
HUGS, Hannah x
PS. No surprises that I don’t have a slew of photos of me running so pics have come from this run, which my friend Patti talked me into and which our friend Fran finished much earlier than us. That’s her, above, wondering if we would run faster if bribed with wine. Probably, Fran, yes.
PPS. A talk on TedX by Christopher McDougall who clearly has a crazy love affair with running and lots of interesting, interconnected stuff to say about it.