Like most other ‘modern’ human beings, you are on your phone watching your Facebook newsfeed. After you’ve liked one picture of a cat, three of exquisite meals your friends cooked and one of a woman who’s walking a donkey across Ireland, you see that your friend has put up a picture of herself (that’s only slightly airbrushed) and she looks awesome. You decide that you really must get off your butt and do something about the fact that you’ve put on a few pounds since your wedding/birthday/bar mitzvah*
(*delete where appropriate)
So you dig out your trainers, gym gear, GPS watch and sports bra (which has yellowed a little in the cupboard but doesn’t seem to have lost its support, thank god).
As you leave your house, your neighbor is drinking beer while his sausages get incinerated on the smoking barbecue. You haven’t spoken to him since his cat defecated on your walkway but still you long to join him and to end the run that hasn’t even started yet. You’re not even out of your front yard. This isn’t the highly motivated spring-in-your-step start you’d hoped for.
You pull your smuggest look as you pass, just long enough for it to cause your cheeks to ache. You spring out of the front gate and show him your tail feathers as you disappear down the road at a pace which is quite honestly causing your heart to rattle in your chest.
On the way towards the high street you see your flatmate passing in the opposite direction and quite clearly nursing a stinking hangover. She’s Aussie and she calls it ‘the horrors’. You smile and shout ‘good morning’ just loud enough to cause her to spasm in pain and notice your super-fit self gliding (!) by in running gear.
You try to maintain the smile but inside you’re not really having much fun at all. Your body hurts. You can’t hear your own thoughts over the sound of your legs screaming “Just sit down!” You’re cursing the stupid person who invented running.
Getting back from your run, you look like you’ve been for a swim in your clothes and your smile has completely worn off, to be replaced by a scowl that lets the still-stationary neighbor know that if he mocks you, you will smash his face into the sizzling coals of his grill.
You load up your data to your computer which posts directly to all forms of social media, letting your friends know that you’re just back from a dazzling run on this beautiful day. You don’t mention the sweat and the screaming legs.
Who the hell wants to know how many miles you’ve run? I’ll tell you who! Your Mum and Dad. That’s who. Why not pick up the phone and call them? Tell them all about your amazing morning, energetically bounding around and doing ‘outside things.’ Wait, I’m forgetting that you just had the most awful time dragging yourself round the local estate, breathing in car fumes.
What are we to do about this situation? My answer: put some adventure back into your run.
Do you remember that feeling when you were a kid racing round the running track? When did you lose that buzz, the love of running you used to get each time you pulled on your trainers?
IMG_9223First things first. No adventure should be undertaken without a companion by your side to share in the joy. Forgive his cat and grab your neighbor or your flatmate and use your best persuasive talents to get them to join you. If you can’t find people to join you, join a club. There are thousands of runners who are at the same level of fitness who want to train with you. Better still, if you’re lucky enough to live in London, join my fitness community, Project Awesome. It really is everything it says on the can.
Secondly, running on crowded pavements is rubbish. Find a park or a warehouse even, a bridge or a stadium – something with less people or obstacles to distract you.
Now’s the fun part: you don’t just have to pound the ground one step after another to make sure you hit the right number a miles, miles don’t matter, smiles do!
(Whilst we’re at it – ditch the sports watch. Go home when you’ve had enough fun.)
Play a game of Follow My Leader to warm up, run over fallen trees, over benches, up steps and down them again, revisit the child you were when you used to love running. My best friend has a penchant for leading me through crowded restaurants as a way of keeping our attention away from our screaming muscles and on the people who are chasing us.
As a main event, decide you’re going to run a certain number of hills, stairs or bridge crossings. Then before and after each one, throw in some burpees, push-ups, sit-ups and box jumps. Keep it varied. Keep it exciting. Throw in a game of ‘It’ or ‘Bulldog’. Make a deal that if you recruit someone to run with you for 100 metres, your running partner shouts you a coffee.
Collect high fives from each other and the people you pass. Wish people a good morning and show them a big smile – unless they’re experiencing ‘the horrors,’ they’ll smile back and in that moment you’ve changed someone’s day, just a tiny bit. Then you’ll start realizing that by running you’re not just helping yourself but also helping the world (more of this later).
Be loud. Be proud. You’re a runner.