Nothing beats it: the mist hanging above the estuary with the sun desperately trying to break through; the damp cold hitting your bare skin, your sweat struggling to decide whether to heat or whether to cool. Cars, humans, rabbits, all appear in a ghostly silence. Each seems like its own version of The Fighting Temeraire. Going for a morning run can be the greatest kind of pain there is.
The scene I’ve just described is a one in ten event. Often, it’ll be raining, grey or icy. And yet, for that one in ten chance of running into that perfect scene it is worth persisting; breaking away from all sense and comfort to see something nearing perfection.
There’s a noticeable difference between days where you’ve been for a run and ones where you haven’t. Even if it’s a slow plod over a short distance, the very act of running creates a perception that the world is yours to conquer.
Often, I find my mind going blank. I can tell you where I’ve been and what my pace was but in the moment of moving one leg in front of the other repeatedly for around half an hour, I think nothing, and I feel very little. This departure allows you to be purely reactive. You look and you see but you don’t have to think. Your body is sorting out the mechanics of movement, you’re just coming along for the ride. We all need a bit of nothingness, a retreat away from the tangled web of reality.
Running is one of the last Commons. What I mean by that is that it is something that anyone can share in. Every pavement, pathway, and park is there for everyone to share. Perhaps the embodiment of this is the Parkrun project. Every Saturday morning, across the UK and parts of Northern Europe, people with a shared love of running come together to do a free, timed, 5km run in the local park. There are a lot of smiles, prams, and dogs: it is a fantastic community event. You leave it brimming with a warm glow.
Personally, this warm glow means a great deal. I, like most other people in society today, get exasperated with my workload and often find myself stressed out from things that should be fun. I can keep this in check with running; I quite literally run away from my problems.
In a figurative sense this phrase gets a lot of stick but in reality, it’s a great way of dealing with issues. You run away from them, yes, but once you reach halfway, you have to run back towards them. At the halfway point something changes. You get stronger, you are ready to return. With each step you get closer to home and your motivation increases. For me, the final mile is always the fastest.
Solace, beautiful scenery, and guaranteed motivation: it’s time to dust off those trainers and find your happy place.