I could never understand those people that said ‘running changed me.’ I just didn’t get it. How could the sound of your pounding elephant feet, the feel of your tight burning lungs or the look of your blotchy red skin possibly be a part of something that made you feel good?
So yeah, it turns out, running changed me.
Now this might seem dramatic (dramatic? me? no way!) but because running is more of a mind game than anything else, it means the more you run, the more you realise how powerful your mind is, and more importantly that you can control it.
You thought it impossible to have an argument in your own head, with yourself? Try going for a run.
Good brain: You are doing so well!
Bad brain: You’re not going very fast, you might as well give up.
Good brain: You can’t give up now, look how far you’ve come!
Bad brain: Your legs hurt and you’ve done a bit now so you should just walk the rest.
Good brain: It’s OK to go at your own pace, just whatever you do, don’t stop!
Bad brain: You’re rubbish and it hurts too much – you should definitely stop!
So this imaginary conversation fills my mind with just about every step unless I’m lucky enough to stumble across a distracting shape in the ground or something (ANYTHING) equally as distracting, or, until I decide to take control of my thoughts.
I think about where I was this time last year – jogging a slow 1 kilometre on the treadmill, with every breath feeling like a dagger at my chest – and I compare it to where I am now, running along at a faster pace, for a few kilometres more, and not feeling (as much) as though I might die. I think about how far I’ve come, what I’ve achieved, what I can do, and spur myself on to bloody well get on with it.
And in the same way that I’ve learnt to control my thoughts in this way while running, I’ve started to introduce this technique to everyday life.
You see, in real life, one minute I’m full of optimism and confidence and feel as though I might just be able to conquer the entire god damn world, and the next minute I’d really like to remain under my duvet for the rest of eternity and never speak to another living soul again. (Hey, I told you I wasn’t dramatic!) So when the latter thoughts creep in, I’m working on remembering that my optimism and confidence and world conquering attitude is in there somewhere, and that I just need to find it – in the same way that when I’m on a really rubbish run, where I feel like I’m literally taking one step forward and two steps back, where my lungs could quite possibly burst at any point and my pounding head might just explode, I force myself to remember that I’ve run further and faster than this before and that I can do it again, that it’s in there somewhere.
Now by no means am I saying that I love to run these days, because the physical act of running is something I’m not sure I’ll ever enjoy. But, what I do love is the way that every time I run, I’m constantly reminded that I can do something that I never ever considered I could. With every step, I’m reminded that if I put my mind to something, and push myself, that I can do it. With every gasp for breath, I remember that a little dedication and a lot of self belief is all it takes to get better at, well, anything.