I drove to a run this morning, did a warm up, and drove straight back home without running.
Normally at this time on a Saturday, I 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 (in the middle). This week I was excited because I’d extended my training runs to 10k, and increased my pace to 7.5-min miles, so I was expecting a better time. Then my running child said he’d like to come and I was even more pleased (PB can wait), but he caught a virus, so today it was just me again.
On the way, the car radio played my favourite running songs. Two sugary coffees were making me feel fantastic. It started to rain — I love running in 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. 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.