Yeah, I’m that girl that likes to run a lot, with varying degrees of success. The one whose running verges on the obsessive, the one who over-analyses her split times, who cycles to the seaside for kicks, and the one that ran a marathon back in the summer…
My 2 week recovery period turned into a ‘recovery’ period so long it grew its own quotation marks. I sat on the sofa for so long, congratulating myself for running those 26.2 miles, that I actually started using air quotes when referring to my ‘recovery’.
I grew embarrassed.
I tried to get back into my running routine, to haul myself out of bed for a morning run, just as I had done for the previous 12 months. But alas I hit snooze, turned off the radio, rolled away from the tiny streak of sunlight that dared sneak past my bedroom blinds…
Tomorrow I’ll run, I told myself.
The next morning I rolled over. And the next.
Trying to squeeze in a run between rolling out of bed and going to work for my regular afternoon/evening shift was a chore. It was rushed and inconvenient, and I grew resentful of it.
I tried to reconnect with my past running self. I picked a happy training period – my lunchtime 10K training – and attempted to recreate it. 30 minute runs during my dinner break at work, speedy intervals along the straight and flat Mile End Road. Except they were no longer speedy. They were barely runs compared to my pre-marathon training. My legs were heavy and my hips were largely uncooperative, apparently reluctant to fling those heavy legs forward at any pace that exceeded a jog.
My morale sank lower.
One evening, running during my dinner break, I stumbled as I ran past Mile End Park. It was dark, there was a bus stop, and there were 20 or so passengers alighting who were so engrossed in their smartphones and so deafened by their headphones that they did not hear my cries of “Excuse me! Can I come past? Careful… Aaaaaaargh!! My ankle!!” I went over my ankle on some wonky paving as I walked through the crowd and entered a car park. I hopped back to work and attempted to R.I.C.E. my ankle with a chilled jar of blackcurrant jam from the staff room fridge, tied to my leg with a carrier bag from the recycling.
I didn’t run for 4 weeks. My ankle was swollen. It still feels stiff in the morning. But, after 4 weeks of enforced rest and no possibility of even trying to get back into running I suddenly wanted to run again.
I missed my daily dose of fresh air.
I missed seeing the geese in the park.
I missed my daily nodded greetings from the other park regulars.
I missed early mornings.
I realised I had been so preoccupied with the details of my running – my split times, the distances, my perceived post-marathon fitness lull – that I had missed autumn turning the trees…
And most importantly, I missed running. Not the goals, or the achievement, or my slightly narrower waistline… Nope! I missed running.
I missed the calmness a few miles in as your footfall becomes metronomic.
I missed that euphoric combination of physical exhaustion, nausea and uncomplicated pleasure at a parkrun finish line.
And I missed being occupied by the whole length of a thought. Uninterrupted by the need to tick something else off the to-do list, when I’m running my thoughts run on to their own end. Contemplation of the mundane can far exceed current affairs when given the chance, and I missed being fascinated by my own psyche.
This video recently did the rounds in the running blogosphere and it really struck a chord with me. A couple of film makers harassed runners over the course of a year and interviewed them while they were running in London’s Victoria Park. There are many beautiful moments in it, but what I enjoyed most was listening to the runners’ thoughts run to their own end. Seduced into a contemplative state by the nature of running, several opened their hearts to strangers during the full length of their thought.
Over the last month I have realised that my post-marathon problem wasn’t that I was slow and demotivated. It was that I was so busy focusing on what I wasn’t doing that I didn’t even notice what I was doing – I was still running. And that’s the part of running that I love the most.
So I’m back, readers! I’m running again, I’m blogging again, and I’m loving it. My pace is haphazard, but my enjoyment is constant.