Had a bit of a WhatsApp meltdown on Sunday all over my running coach and mentor, Dr. Rajat Chauhan.
After patiently hearing me out about my knee pain and my stress about not being able to regain running form, Doc told me to calm down, take things one step at a time, and then this:
Your assignment today, he wrote, is to tell me why you love running. (Otherwise my assignment would have been to update my Excel spreadsheet, setting out what I’d done in my weekly training block. Which was nothing. Hence the stress and the meltdown.)
Like a good mentor, Doc checked in with me on Monday. Basically, where is your homework?
Today he sent me a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon, by way of a gentle reminder that I still hadn’t handed in my homework 😛
This evening, after saying farewell to a cousin who died of Coronavirus, I went for a short, solo run.
I felt sad and, yes, anxious about the virus but 5k in the park, amongst the trees, calmed me down.
And made me realise, yet again, what is is that I love about running.
Having come to running very late in life, it has been a voyage of discovery finding out that physical exertion can cure so many problems, both physical and mental.
It can also cause problems, let’s be honest!
I’ve tripped several times in the past 7 years since I started running, emerging bloody and bruised.
I have lost more toe-nails than I can count.
I’ve damaged my shoulder – oh no, hang on, that wasn’t due to running, that was while mountain climbing in Ladakh.
BUT…on the other hand I have never felt healthier in my whole life.
Touch wood, I’ve never been majorly unwell or sickly, but in the years that I’ve been running, I can, for example, count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’ve had a cold. I sleep much better at night. I feel fitter.
And running has led me to exercise more, to start yoga, to try an overall holistic approach towards health that was sorely lacking before. I’ve even started weightlifting!
Pre-Coronavirus, I would’ve said that running gives me an opportunity to hang out with youngsters several times a week, at running group – but it’s been 9 long months without my running mates 🙁
There are admittedly some sillier reasons for enjoying running – wearing flashy fluorescent clothes “at my age” and not giving a damn.
Discovering great new music for my playlists.
Winning medals. Just think! Me, winning a medal!
But, going back to Doc’s original question as to why I love running…well, this evening was a case in point.
Those short, solo kilometres cleared my head, and yes, let’s be honest, they allowed me to feel grateful for my own good health. Sure, I have that painful knee I mentioned earlier, that has bugged me for over a year now, but on the scale of things – it’s nothing, absolutely nothing.
Running allows me time to think. To listen to BBC podcasts. Many of the opening lines of articles I’ve written have come to me while running.
Running has allowed me to grieve while I forced my body to run, rather than moping around, feeling sorry for myself.
When a friend died of cancer this summer, it was during a long run that the grief hit.
A few weeks after my mother died, I went for a solo run in Malcha Forest (probably not a wise thing to have done, in hindsight). I stopped to explore an old Dargah inside the forest, and the pent-up grief hit me. I sat and sobbed away, with the poor cleric looking very bewildered.
Between my mother’s death and the emotional job of emptying our childhood home and selling it, I came back to India and ran my first marathon. When I panicked and thought about pulling out of the race, it was Doc who told me that no I WOULD run the marathon, and yes I WOULD do it in honour of my mother. The need to head out and run and run for hours was calming, and gave a focus to what were otherwise sad and distressing times.
Does any of this make sense?
I hope so.
So, yup, this is why I love running – it works for me.
Makes me happy.
Calms me down.
Clears my head.