I started running last Easter. I gave up smoking and invested in the most aesthetically disturbing pair of shoes I have ever had the misfortune of owning. Having always looked down upon these pained, strained, lycra clad lumberers ('get a life' I was fond of muttering as I drove by) I had now joined their ranks and I was hooked.
I had no Idea then what a sanity saving move I was making. These last few PTSD ridden months my running has been the very foundation of my recovery. I was off work for 8 weeks, even now I find it hard to comprehend. Sometimes I worry I was overreacting, how can I have needed to be at home for so long. I kept myself busy, I didn't succumb to the mind numbing lure of daytime TV. My life became ruled by lists, I never managed to cross more items off than I added. I was chasing my tail but at least I was chasing something.
Throughout those dark haunted weeks I clung on to the routine of my feet pounding the earth as if my very existence depended on it. It was my life raft in the midst of a fierce stormy ocean. It kept me afloat, it kept me alive. 'Weak in mind, strong in body' I thought, and clung onto it for dear life.
I was free when I ran, my thoughts wandered, my heart pounded, my muscles strained, it was liberation. The first time I cried I was running. I wasn't really aware of the music playing through my headphones, before I knew it there were uncontrollable tears streaming down my cheeks and Chris Martin was singing to me:
'Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you
Tears stream down on your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down your face'
The tears continued to stream and it felt like something had been opened, the champagne cork had flown off and the bubbles were escaping. It was joyful relief.
I have to confess to being a bit lax since Christmas. I blame the January blues, the grey skies, the dark damp London gloom. Yesterday I went for my first run of 2006. I extracted myself from underneath my duvet, put on too many layers (it really wasn’t that cold) and hit the pavements. It felt great to be out there again. But something was different when I got to the park. The narrow worn track around the perimeter had multiplied, now there were about five muddy lines across the grass. It all looked slightly unfamiliar, it had changed. I kept running and was relieved at the ease with which my legs were moving, I wasn't paying much of a price for my lazy start to the year.
I became aware of people overtaking me, I rounded the corner and found one of them crouched and panting under a tree. 'Pace yourself' I thought smugly. I followed my usual route, enjoying the random mix my ipod was playing for me. I found myself jostling for space. Two chatting girls in front, you could hardly call it running. I overtook them as a burly rugger bugger in shorts flew past me. There were people coming towards us too, it was all getting a bit chaotic, I didn't like it. Then I noticed the dazzling flashes of white against the muddy ground. New trainers, everywhere. I saw the slightly surprised looks in their faces 'what am I doing here?' they seemed to be thinking. I felt superior and rather territorial. This was my park, my earth to pound, it had been invaded. January Joggers, I hope they don't last. I hope February brings a bit of peace to us old timers.