24/02/2010 by etiennefish
I have fallen off the wagon. In fact, I am standing here in front of you (uh, writing? typing? I’m not really sure. Maybe imagine that I’m standing here in front of you), to let you know that yes, I am an addict. I can’t help it, and furthermore I don’t think I want to. I am addicted to running. This may come as a surprise to you, as many of you might remember my on and off again relationship with this strange practice. Mostly it’s been off in the last few years, with strange, surging bouts of ‘on.’ Well, I am once again hooked, so deal with it.
It’s funny, but even on the days where I have to literally grab myself by the collar and fling my unwilling body out of bed, and drag myself out to meet my running partner more by self-threats than willpower alone, I end up finishing my run slightly euphoric (hell, let’s be honest, I’m generally euphoric about 3 km in), and ready for anything the day wants to throw at me. When I take days off, I notice myself drooping a little, as if the lack of endorphins in my system is starting the withdrawal process. It probably is, but I have no intention of giving up my drug at this point. It just feels too good.
I have, however, given up other things. I’m not drinking alcohol (except for the odd glass of wine with a meal), and I’m eating healthier (well except for the odd haribo package I treat myself with. Enter my other addiction: Haribo frogs, yes it’s true.), and also exercising the brain again. Maybe my life is a little boring here, but after about 4 months in a country, that while beautiful, is admittedly dull, I’m really not doing bad; maybe a little lonely, and maybe little solitary, but not bad. I have gotten used to the routines, and I find myself relying on them. I often bemoan my lack of social life, but I’m busy in my own way, and I believe that the alone time has allowed some self-reflection and self-improvement. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the fast life (no matter how exciting and alluring it may be), and just breathe for awhile. I think that’s what I’m doing here. I can’t live like this forever, but I’m content for the moment.
At half past six and a little bit, I’m passing along one side of the dark, still lake for the first time since the winter season started. It’s a surprisingly warm morning, and I’m dressed lightly. Despite the cooler breeze rising off the water, I’m not cold, and I’m glad we decided not to take one of the normal ‘winter routes.’ My body is not yet quite awake, but I push it forward, allowing myself to slip into the easy, mile-eating stride that I know I can maintain for hours and hours. I relax, forgetting myself, my body, and as I feel the tension running off my shoulders, and taking some of the ever-present knots with it, my mind begins to wander.
I watch the lake. It looks unfocused, somewhere between a simultaneously misty and deep, blue and grey. It’s like an impressionist painting, more surreal than real, like one could reach out and touch the blobs of paint. It’s early enough that even the birds are still asleep. The ducks are little spots of various hues, almost blending with the water or the ships sharing their docks. The swans are more interesting; their long necks gracefully folded to tuck their slender heads under a wing. I comment on them, saying that they look like plastic carry bags, floating out across the water. My running partner more romantically tells me that they look like soft fluffy pillows. But then again, maybe it’s less romance and more wishful thinking on her part.
As we continue on, my fatigue drops away, and my body fully awakes. I can’t help but feel rushes of strength. Today I feel good, and I want to explode. I want to run until my lungs fill like bursting, I want to fly. Instead, I hold myself in check, just lengthening my stride a little, letting me feel my own strength. I have a quiet pride in my body again. Definition that was so often lost to exams, essays, work, pure laziness, and the dangers of living in a land of cheese and chocolate, once again marks my legs, my stomach, my back. I feel good. I feel like a runner. I feel like my body is doing what it was made to do. Maybe I’m no longer/not yet as fast as I once was, but that’s okay, maybe I’ll get there again one day. I’m not too worried. Plus, the warmer weather appears to have brought the more fair weather joggers out of hiding, and I try not to be too smug as I realise that I’ve easily passed each one that’s appeared in front of me. One day someone will surely pass me (and I’m also sure I’ll be slightly crushed by it, my ego bruised and smarting), but until then, my naturally competitive spirit enjoys the fact that without even working hard, without intentionally trying, I leave others in a wake behind me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try to be more humble, but today I feel like I deserve to feel good.
Our run wasn’t long today, 12 km, but it was long enough that we had a chance to watch the sky move from night to day. On the way back I notice that I almost didn’t recognise some of the path that I had traversed only 20 minutes before, as the Christmas decorations are no longer up to light the way. I guess it’s been that long since we’ve come this way. The lake, which may have been an impressionist painting before, now resembles a more renaissance-period work of art. The blues are still more grey than blue, but the mist that was more of this dark, unrefined thing floating over the water, has taken and definite shape and grown, stretching out like a downy blanket over the waking city. The birds are also up, and some ducks chatter reprovingly at me as my path takes me too close for their comfort. I muse that soon we’ll have little duckies to run past.
Most of the rest of the run is taken up by stories, and I forget to live fully in the moment. Over the years, I’ve sometimes learned that it’s best to distract myself from the task at hand, especially when running. I’ve run entire races and trained entire days, chanting multiplication tables to myself, and singing songs. In more recent years, I’ve been guilty of running in time to military cadences heard only in my head, and creating ridiculous stories. These days, I don’t always need a distraction. I enjoy the sport most of the time again. Today is one of those days, but my mind wanders into the land of pretend nonetheless.
As I’ve wished before, I wish that I had some sort of device hard-wired into my brain that could record my ideas. When I run, I sometimes manage to write full stories, novels, screenplays, and other clearly brilliant prose, all in my head. It can actually work as a motivator, pushing me faster, trying to get me home and the ideas onto paper. Sadly, I rarely do, and all the scenes I’ve imagined slip and slink back into the dark unconscious recesses of my mind, only resurfacing again in wisps designed to frustrate and tease.
Anyway, all these words just to say that I love running again. And I’m glad.