How I Fell In Love With Running
This is no ordinary love story.
The running app on my phone – I’m using the Nike Run Club one and loving it – may suggest that it all started back in April 2018.
Yet this is not the full story. Like a TV series romance that you watch slowly unravel for an agonizing period of weeks until it manifests itself, my running affair began on Tuesday, 13th February of the same year.
A nurse pulls the curtains around my hospital bed aside, allowing the grey morning London light to fall through. An IV drip is connected to my left arm while I’m trying to balance Arianna Huffington’s Thrive on my chest. It feels both ironic and defiant reading this book in the given settings.
I am devastated. Not because I have spent the previous day waiting in A&E. Not because I have spent the night in the hospital, being woken up every couple hours so that the nurse can administer a new dosage of medication. Not even because the first person I stumbled upon after walking out of the initial consultation was a guy I had ghosted on a year earlier (yes, karma has a curious sense of humour).
I am devastated because my body, the body I had so long considered indestructible has proven me wrong. It felt weak and fragile. [Disclaimer: I am well aware that there are people out there battling far more complicated and serious conditions than I did/do, but this feeling came from the arrogant viewpoint of excellent health.] I feel broken and let down. I joke when my friends and colleagues come to visit me but deep down I am afraid.
Fast forward to a couple weeks later, I’m sitting in a yoga class. I’ve been in this class before enough times to know that the pace and intensity are moderate, and that the instructor always offers alternatives for beginners, but I’m terrified nevertheless. What if something happens to me while I’m doing a downward facing dog? What if I hurt myself in some way? Well, I survive the class. And I show up again the following Saturday. And the week after. Until the faith in my body’s dependability is restored.
Fast forward to several weeks later, it’s a beautiful sunny April morning. It’s such a beautiful morning that, even though I want to train, I cannot bear the thought of confining myself within four walls. So I lace up my sneakers and set off for a run. Nothing ambitious, just a slow-paced 5k around my neighbourhood. I arrive home drenched in sweat and beaming so I follow up with a second 5k a few days later. And another one.
Each time I explore a different route and on Saturday mornings I test my limits; I try running a longer distance each time. One grey Sunday morning, I go all the way to Bethnal Green to run along the canal with my closest friend from work. I’ve never run that far and I think it’s unlikely that I’ll make it. An hour of electro house and dubstep later, we’ve done it.
10k runs become a staple in my summer weekend routine; I’m obsessed and, at the same time, incredulous that my body can do that. I gain a newfound respect for it. For the first time in my life, I feel genuinely confident in my skin; I’m learning to love my body, firstly for how strong it has become and all the things it can achieve, and then for the way it looks. This time around I know that I’m not invincible but I feel like a fighter.
[Funny disclaimer: I have become so notoriously religious about running that every single guest that has stayed at my place since the affair began has in some way shyly suggested that their presence shall not prevent me from continuing with my morning runs during the visit, not wanting our sightseeing shenanigans to interfere.]
Fast forward to December 2018, I’m still running even though the weather clearly disagrees. Even though when I leave home shortly after 6 am it’s pitch dark outside. Even though my flatmate wholeheartedly believes that I’m mental. I stick to a route that is central and well-lit enough to feel safe and I clock my 5-6k before work.
As long as I’m running, I’m happy.
I told you that this is no ordinary love story. Have you ever seen a honeymoon period that has lasted for so long?