|Local trail route. Photo M McLoughlin.|
It's amazing how ones attitude to running changes over the years, in the beginning; naivety, curiosity, occasional frustration. Then is the mid-phase as I call it; obsessive, hyper-analytical, running-gear-junkie, running-blog-fanatic. The phase after that is the one I'm in now; simplicity and appreciation. It is maybe not like that for everyone but I have noticed these rites of passage in others who take up the sport or graduate from one phase to another. It's natural. As an addict I can readily admit that running filled a huge hole in my quest for sobriety, it did replace, and almost eclipse my propensity to crack a beer at any given hour of the day. No more stumbling drunk to bed at 4 am, nope, I'd get up at 4 am and run a marathon, for fun of course. Putting in 160km+ each week was healthy for my heart and body and mind without a doubt, I looked and felt pretty darn good. Problems? I'm not a professional athlete and running those distances with no job tends to seem pointless, I dreamed of being a running star and realised after years of training that my so called 'idols' were able to run when they pleased and had sponsors to cover travel costs and so on. They were also gifted. I found it hard to accept that even though I put in the work and loved my sport I would never be able to rub shoulders with at these oh-so-cool runners on facebook and various blogs that I had become so overzealous about. I wanted the best running shoes and all the latest apparel on the market, I was hooked bad. But as this phase passed I came back to running and the very source of its hold on me. Whilst recovering over a seven month period (that finally ended this past week with a few solid, double figure efforts) I started to pay more attention to friends who were beginning to get the running bug. Some of them were newbies preparing for a 5k or maybe feeling adventurous to go half or full marathon. Then there was the more seasoned runners whose commitment to rising early in the worst of weather to get the runs in before work, and then nailing a marathon PR, filled me with joy that they had been rewarded. I got emails from people I knew in school back in Ireland who caught wind of the fact that I was a now runner and had decided to take it upon themselves to give it a shot. All of this activity was bustling in cyberspace and here I was laid up with my battered foot that I had grown to hate. I chose though to embrace my friends victories, however big or small it may seem on the outside, they are monumental to the individual who achieves it. The mum who works hard at taking care of her kids and trains for a 5k or 10k is no different to me that the guy who nails a 2:40 marathon. Every individual has to put in the work to get the job done.
My period of inactivity had me thinking hard as to why I run and what my motivation is. The answer slowly revealed itself to be in front of me the entire time. I run because I like it. No medals, no great achievements and not thoughts of grandeur are circling my mind on a day like yesterday where I felt the branches crunch under my feet as I wound my way up through a narrow trail line. No rock star runners kept my outdoor spirit alive during my injury period, no, it was the support of decent 'ordinary' people who, even though they did not know it, were carrying my own hopes and passions with them every step they took in their own training and racing. The selfless, communal attitude of the sport is a strange thing given we spend a lot of time in solitude and I think it's because of that telepathic introspection that we can connect with others so well. Everyone just gets it, like a secret handshake. My current phase depends not on the shoes I wear or the times I post, it is not driven by a goal that will stamp an identity on my contribution to running. It is more about what running has contributed to me, to enable me to analyse the world around whilst being in the world around me. I am able to transcend the 'barriers' that society (and my own mind) surround me with, I am free and roaming under my own steam, exploring and learning, fulfilling my role in life. To all the people who got me back on my feet and kept my mid in the game, thank you, you most definitely know who you are.