Running is an excellent way of replacing one type of pain with another. I can vouch for this, having tested the theory this week.
I guess we all have days when the spinning plates all hit the ground together. Suddenly you’re standing there surrounded by bits of crockery and empty poles.
Well that was me a week ago, off piste and off browned. The only helpful thought left in my addled head was the phrase Solvitur Ambulando – a Latin phrase roughly meaning “solve it with a walk” – from a wonderful blog entry that I’d read a few weeks earlier.
Except that rather than solving it with a walk, I decided to solve it with a run. Solvitur Corsando? (Latin scholars please correct me!)
The trusty muddy running shoes were donned, banana and water bottle grabbed, and it was off to my favourite South Downs car park.
A two-hour run later, the hips, legs, lungs – pretty much everything hurt. But the stress, ah the stress was gone. The perfect storm of stress had given way to the perfect calm of stillness and endorphins.
Conditions were absolutely gorgeous: warm sunshine, a light breeze, grass underfoot for much of the way, undulating terrain rather than killer hills. It’s a kindly ridge. Away to the right the English Channel stretches to the misty horizon, on the left is the flatness of the Weald.
Sunglasses on, earphones in, music playing: you create your own mini-world in which all the things that were bugging you fall away. You find the rhythm of running. The whole of life is distilled into the next few paces. The wider world with all its unresolved issues fades and vanishes.
In this mode, you pass families, dogs, horses, mountain bikers but barely notice them. Normally I’d stop at the dewponds to check out the bird life, spot ravens, listen for larks. On this day, I just kept jogging, head down, slow and steady, slow and steady.
For years it’s been an ambition to run from my starting point – Jack and Jill windmills, to Blackcap, a wooded hill around five miles to the east. Every time I’ve been thwarted – by falls, lack of fitness, once by a reckless mountain biker who came crashing off and sliced his knee so deeply you could see the bone underneath.
This time, my slow steady plod carried me all the way there. The exhilaration is hard to describe, but it was all the greater for the anguish which had preceded my run. Perspective regained, spirit soaring, life-saving sense of humour returning, I struck out for the return leg in immeasurably better shape.
Coming back: well yes, it was a lot harder and a lot slower. The sun was setting, the legs were tiring, the hips were hurting, the temperature was dropping. I was running into the wind. Nothing like sheer panic to keep you going. I got back to the car at dusk, two hours and nine miles of running later. I’d had time to think, to pray, to forgive and basically to calm down, dear.
Quite apart from the immediate benefits, there was the joy of running further than ever before. My previous longest run – years ago on a snowy day in Southwold – lasted 1hr 20, but recent runs had been only around 30 minutes long. Going from half an hour to two hours in a single step is daft I know, and the next day I paid for it with sore hips. I’ve now looked up programmes on how to build up speed and distance more sensibly and work has already started on dogleg training.
But for now, to subvert another Latin phrase, “Lente, Lente, currite noctis equi”, I’ll take the first three words only, thank you very much.
Slowly, slowly, run.