I drove to a run this morning, did a warm up, and drove straight back home without running. Back at home, I’d normally receive a text telling me my finish time (a moment I get childishly excited about), but not today.
It was a Parkrun, which I normally love. It’s only 5k (3.1 miles) and I bob along at 26 minutes which puts me between the speedsters (15 min) and walkers (50 min). I look forward to it, and this week I was excited because I’ve extended my training runs to 10k, and increased my pace to three 7.5-min miles; I was expecting a “personal best” time. Then my running child said he’d like to come and I was even more pleased to be running with him (PB can wait).
But he caught a virus, so today it was just me again, running alone. On the way, the car radio played my favourite running songs. Two sugary coffees were making me feel fantastic. It started to rain — I adore the rain. I arrived with loads of time, warmed up, and drank some water. Put on my music. Kicked the Garmin into gear. Good to go.
A magpie shrieked at me. The crowd started heading to the start line. I watched them; nice people in little groups, but didn’t see anyone that I knew beyond a nod and smile. I’ve been running alone for twenty years but suddenly wished I had a companion to run beside – just someone who liked me enough to spend half an hour with me, but I couldn’t see anyone who might want to. (Bearing in mind that all the faster ones would be sacrificing their own PBs to run with me, it seemed rude to ask.)
So, a “PB”. My legs felt springy after the warm-up and I reckoned I could do it, but I realised that even a great run time wasn’t going to help me today – I didn’t need a number, I needed a shoulder-nudge and a hello. Running alone in a crowd felt pointless; I’d just be in the way. Meanwhile my lovely child was at home with my other lovely children.
Why was I here?
I got in the car and drove home.
This is a blog about running, and sometimes this is what running is like. Someone told me that running’s 90% in your head (kindly trying to enable me to run up hills without stopping), but for me, it’s 90% soul (I love running up hills, I only stop if I’m injured or waiting for someone – or sharing a view). I like to feel the joy of it, and if I’m running with people, I want to share the experience. I want to run with my children and watch their confidence and stamina grow, and to run with friends so that we can look back on this part of our life and laugh at the shared mud, pain and achievement. I don’t run to feel lonely or to beat people – where’s the joy in that?
I got home. I said, I didn’t want to run. I must have looked really miserable because my other son – who hates distance running but likes to be fit – took one look, stood up and grunted. The dog bounced.
We ran on the mud trails till we were wet to the bone and covered in filth. It was slow. It was short. It was gentle, and we didn’t need to speak.
Update: Subsequently went on a “sporting minibreak” in a hotel where, aside from almost limitless sporting opportunities, there was a buffet. I have my strengths, but I should not be trusted with a buffet, people. Creamy porridge with figs and apricots, sweet jams and croissants, eggs, beans and hash browns, a salad bar rich with herbs and oils, olives, and coleslaw, Brussels paté with Melba toast, piping hot lasagne, cheese and leek pies, fries, spring rolls, vegetable korma, fluffy rice, cheesecakes (a cheesecake buffet!), bowls of clotted cream and separate bowls of whipped cream, crème brûlée, white chocolate and coconut mousse, banoffee pie, carrot cake, walnut cake, cold champagne, warm Rioja, Merlot, and coffee with more cream and mints. We exercised for about 5 hours a day but still, the chance of me managing a 7.5-min mile ever again is severely diminished. Unless, perhaps, I post a child on the finish line holding one last crème brûlée… that might work? I would definitely run for that.