‘You seem changed in some way, you’re all smiley’. There are many ways to interpret such words, some less appropriate than others, but clearly the difference was a noticeable one. The recent dips in temperature came with all the usual symptoms of increased need for blankets and tea as well as general aversion to stepping out of a toasty room. But the pull of the memory of being almost in flight lured me away from the havoc of responsibilities.

Running invariably captures my attention within the first few paces, partly because of that instant lightness that comes with each springy step and partly because it demands intentness and scrutiny. Simple actions like minding the way your feet land and meditating on controlling your breathing both demand that you bring back focus to what your body is doing. As you ease into controlling your system your eyes begin to wander and thinking takes on a sharpened edge. Oftentimes, whatever thoughts I had circling and knocking accelerate with my own footsteps, then collide and burst fizzling out like a firework.  Then there is that snow globe transparency with flakes of leftover worries falling nonchalantly and I am happy with the free, unproductive moments, a (sweaty) decoration in the landscape. The springy feeling that keeps sight bobbing up and down at first gets gradually lost, surroundings become level and the effortless flight sets in. In those moments I forget that limbs exist.

I write about this because I sometimes forget about what makes me truly happy and I am forced to re-adjust focus on the things I enjoy when my to-do list froths with ostensibly pointless loose ends.  Sadly, running isn’t always the solution. Sometimes that list just needs facing. Nor is it always as idyllic as described. (Most of the time, but not always.) There are days when I feel myself swarming and hobbling heavily along the road, yet it has never lost its appeal. It was the first type of exercise that didn’t ‘target’ anything; it was something to do for the sheer pleasure of it. Much like with travelling, running doesn’t need a goal to be enjoyed. It’s good to have one, but it’s not necessary.

As (somewhat imperfectly) demonstrated by Phoebe in Friends it’s such a basic and joyful motion. It is worth getting drenched for, risking the discomfort for the experience because treadmills are useless; painful and maddeningly dull, nothing more than the human equivalent of a hamster wheel. I’m always baffled as to what to focus on, the screen, the ceiling or the wall? Because you can’t stare at people, it’s just rude. Weights on the other hand are great for feeling strong in the short burst when you’re actually doing something with them. But there truly is nothing comparable to finishing a long run with so many feelings that bubble up and dissolve and make room for better ones along with the happy pulsing for hours on afterwards.  I know that there are techniques to get back in form and improve faster but I think I’ll take it a stride at a time, at my own pace. That’s the pleasure of it after all.


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