One of the best things about running is that it’s never the same twice. Funnily enough, that’s one of the worst things about it too. You can run exactly the same route in exactly the same gear, at exactly the same time of day, and the experience will be completely different.
There are days your legs feel like lead. Days your brain has had to do a serious “mind over matter” job to even get you out of the house. Days when if you don’t run you feel you’ll explode with anger. Days when you just can’t be arsed.
There’ll be rainy days, sunny days, days when you’re too hot, too cold, too wet. Days when you’re running into a gale and days you’re running downhill with the wind behind you. And whatever the laws of science say, the same hill can be steeper or flatter, and the same distance can be twice as far.
But there’ll also be days when everything comes together in some cosmic act of rejoicing, and body, mind, soul, weather and music surge together in a glorious experience that makes you so glad you’re alive, and so glad you made it through all the other days. These are the days you want to bottle and keep and repeat every time you run. But maybe part of the sweetness of those days comes from the fact that they’re not always there.
The point is that the experience of running is not uniform and never should be. And that’s yet another of the great life lessons of running.
We expect so many things in life to always offer us the same experience. We expect our relationships to always make us feel good not bad; our moods and health to be identical every day; our work lives to always be tolerable and never too challenging. We have ready meals that we can microwave to the exact second and will always come out just the same. We even expect our fruit and veg to be of uniform shape.
Running gives the lie to all that. It challenges the concept that the restaurant of life should always offer exactly the same menu.
If you zoomed in on the same runner’s brain at the same point on the same route, but on different days, the following thoughts might be whizzing around:
I hate this
I love this
Why on earth did I take up running?
I want to run more
I’m packing this in
I’m going to train for a 10k
What’s for dinner tonight?
What am I going to do about Freddie/Mum/Aunt Esmerelda?
And so on.
But the big picture? I’m running! I can do this! I’m lapping everyone on the sofa! I’m fitter, faster, stronger, less stressed, less angry.
Take a snapshot of running at six-month intervals, rather than every six days, and the picture comes beautifully into focus.
Love running in all its moods – because for every day your legs feel like lead there’ll be one when they feel strong, and for every day of running with the rain streaming down your face there’ll be one of sunshine.
And maybe running can teach us to love life in all its moods too – that our relationships, jobs, families and life in general will bring days that we hate and days that we love. It doesn’t mean we’re in the wrong relationship, job or family. Uniformity of experience is no more part of life than it is part of running.
I’m dragging myself out for a run now on a day when quite frankly I can’t be bothered. But whatever happens, I’ll add it to the mix of running experiences and be glad I can be out there at all.