Ohhh my aching ankles. This past weekend I did the Bastille Day 15km trail run for the first time, and it was awesome. I love trail running and it’s something I unpack and dust off every winter, given that in summer I am usually too busy partying and drinking wine to keep my fitness consistent.
I don’t really do road running because I get super bored. With trails you’re concentrating so hard on not breaking an ankle that you don’t have time to let your thoughts wander…and anyway, I’m not one of those people who runs to switch off. I run to sweat and wheeze and ache until the finish line, when it’s time to luxuriate in the glorious post-run endorphins. I run because cycling is expensive, cardio in the gym makes me want to shoot myself and regardless how popular the current ballet fitness craze, I’m just not much of a dancer - the few Zumba classes I’ve joined made me feel like an orang-utan attempting the macarena. An enthusiastic orang-utan to be sure, but people don’t need to see that. That’s why I have a bedroom with a mirror, a hairbrush and Britney Spears.
So I run – under my own power, with just my will spurring me on, with nothing but my legs and my lungs between me and victory or defeat. And while I’m running, I’m spending a lot of time wishing that I wasn't. It’s a love-hate relationship, where I am frequently either surprised at my capabilities or defeated by how far I have to go to feel like I’m achieving something. When I’m not running, I want to, and when I am, I’m wishing desperately that it would end.
Some people have amazing epiphanies about life in that quiet time on a run; I have only run rage - the rage I feel knowing it is me who got myself into this position in the first place, and it is only me who can get myself to the end. It’s the realisation that I am the only one responsible for my failure to reach the distance I set myself, just as I am the only one to applaud when I smash a time I never thought I could do. It’s absolutely infuriating….and so self-satisfying.
In that way, running is a lot like life. When we learn to rely only on ourselves for our achievements, we’re halfway to the goal posts already.
Saying that, running differs from life in one fundamental way. Unlike anyone who has grabbed life by the proverbial balls and is giving it horns, most amateur runners will tell you they only really enjoy running when the race is over. So if you’re anything like me, run like the wind, cursing and swearing your way to your own personal victory. But don’t forget to have that glass of wine at the end…