It was field hockey at a grammar school in east London that turned my mother off organized sports, and I inherited her dislike of all things “gym” for many years. The good news was that I grew up close to the Rockies and so spent much of my spare time hiking in those lovely mountains, running up and down trails like a mountain goat.
I also played the clarinet, and for fun my music teacher would get us to lie down and put heavy dictionaries on our bellies and teach us to breathe with our diaphragms. As an adult I kept myself fit: for many years I hauled cement, small children, water and wood and as we renovated and ran an old farm in Italy.
But years later, I started running. My sister took me for a run one day and I was hooked! I had run a little before then, around a park, wearing unsuitable clothing and big old tennis shoes. In 2012, just after my father died, I went for my first real run. In 2014, after my mother also passed away, I decided to try a race. In 2015 I ran my first half and since then I have run several races, and I try to run at least two or three times a week. I did a half last year on my 60th, beating my PR by four minutes at 2:33.
Its not quantity that matters, though, with running. That’s the beauty of the sport. Its what you do with it, how you incorporate running into your life, and what you learn from those hours on your own or with friends, moving quickly through your world, conscious of every footfall.
Everything I’ve learned running can be applied to life itself.
What have I learned?
I learned about gratitude. I’ve learned that every run is a gift; my health is a gift; every full breath I take is a gift.
I’ve learned to accept my body, which I used to look upon with disappointment and disdain. It may not be perfect, but its still running after all these years!
I learned about competition. Every runner has a competitive streak, even if you’re just competing against yourself. Healthy competition is good; comparing yourself constantly against an ideal or another person is useless.
I learned about play. Running is fun! It’s great to run through the world, by myself or with my friends or my dog. Loving what I see and what I feel.
I learned discipline. The act of lacing my shoes and piling on the layers, when it is -16 outside and a light snow blowing can be an act of defiance. Running that extra few kilometers when I’m done and I want to eat and drink is a lesson. I can use that strength when life is not going exactly the way I want it to. I can breathe and keep my mouth shut and think good thoughts.
And I’ve learned that its not “running” that taught me: it was me! I ran all those kilometers, I trained my self to be disciplined about it, I worked on strength and speed, I got up early to run before work. I rested when I had to, and learned to eat better.
The biggest lesson, though, has been about happiness. You take it where you can find it, just like you go for a run wherever and whenever you can. And guess what, I’m happy!