Other people’s words about … running
Once he warmed up, once the tension was gone, once the sweat had properly broken and his breathing was rhythmically heavy and every twinge of stiffness and pain from previous workouts had been obliterated by adrenaline and endorphins, when all of that had happened, there was almost nowhere on earth he’d rather be, even on up-and-down back roads with no shoulder or, as now, on the old railroad path too crowded with entitled cyclists or groups of power-walking mums in their pastel tops and self-crimped hair.
For forty-five minutes, or an hour, or an hour and a half, the world was his, and he was alone in it. Blissfully, wonderfully, almost sacredly alone.
by Patrick Ness
One of the things I think I most love about running is that the act itself is so full of mysterious contradictions. For example, it’s hard work, and yet I look forward to it as a luxurious treat, in much the same way I look forward to eating an oversized piece of decadent chocolate cake. Similarly, when I’m running I feel as though I’m moving purposefully forward, following a path to something new. And yet it’s obvious that, unless your plan when you set out is to run away and never return, any run is circular, ending right back where it began.
Even the sense that I am on my own when I run — blissfully, wonderfully, almost sacredly alone, as Patrick Ness puts it in the excerpt above — is unreliable. I am never alone when I run. I run on roads, on shared paths, on trails, on beaches. There are always others inhabiting the space with me, running or walking or cycling or just sitting on a bench enjoying the view (like the views you see in the photographs I took for this post). Running, even for a lone runner like me, is an entirely communal activity.
Another contradiction: sometimes, when I feel unwell — headachey, perhaps, or queasy or tired or sleep-deprived — I know that from the moment I step outside those symptoms will leave me for the duration of my run. Probably, I’ll feel unwell again afterwards; running isn’t ever, in my experience, a cure. But for those fifteen or thirty or forty-five minutes when my feet are drumming the ground in the old, familiar rhythm, I know I’ll be symptom-free.
I have no explanation for this. It’s just part and parcel of this beloved thing I know as running.
Maybe that’s why running appeals to so many different kinds of people — because the concept itself, what it involves, what it means, is so flexible, so all-encompassing. Some of us run to lose weight; some of us run to get fit; some of us run to break records; some of us run to find joy. Whatever the reason, those of us who are physically lucky enough to be able to consider running for the long term, in whatever fashion we can manage, have one thing in common.
We know it makes us feel like a better version of ourselves.
Lately I’ve been reading …
- ‘I don’t feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body,’ Jess tells a butch buddy, before her transition. ‘I just feel trapped’: Eliza Koestelanetz Schrader, on embracing butch in a post-pandemic world.
- During the pandemic I have had less and less of a body, and my physical life has increasingly taken place in my head: Marie Mutsuki Mockett, on learning to reinhabit her body after her mother’s illness and death.
- ‘I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability. I’ll just have to work from a background of these’ (John Steinbeck): Stacey Swann, on taking encouragement from sharing her ‘writerly self-doubt’, ‘whiny pessimism and overwrought fears’ with a great writer.