Writing about running is definitely tougher when you’re not running. I’m taking things very slowly just now, nursing a somewhat intractable knee injury, and once again, I’m back to that old question of balance.
Last night I heard someone cautioning that it’s in our nature to be extreme – when we hear a new idea, our pursuit – to some extent – skews us. We follow that influence and can become consumed by it. When friends become parents, we’ve all seen it: their world is their baby. No one’s ever really been a parent before (well, not properly, anyway), and they alone must navigate this terrifying and thrilling new landscape for the first time. And when I discovered running, for a while at least, I began a similar magnificent obsession. I started to see everything through a runner’s lens. I noticed other runners in a way I’m not sure I’ll now ever shake off – I weigh up their stride, their gait, their foot strike, time of day, whether they look like they’re having a good time, how hard they’re pushing… When in the car or watching through a window I constantly appraised my fellow runners with a mixture of appreciation and envy. Food became fuel. My daily routine oriented around running, or other supplementary exercise to support running. My intellectual diet flexed too: Gladwell and Pink were supplanted by Karnazes and Romanov – or at least their books jostled for position on the nightstand. My FB and Twitter feed collected more articles from Runner’s World, and fewer cat videos. (Although I think we can universally agree that’s a good thing, whatever you enjoy doing.)
And since the intensity of my running life has been forcibly dialled down, some of these things feel almost painful in their capacity to remind me what I’m missing. It’s tempting to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I can’t hear. To swing crazily away from exercise and all thoughts of a really cracking run.
So – again – I’m bringing back the balance. Because it’s never just been about running. I have been on a long journey of integrity: of pulling into coherence that which I know to be true with the way I live. Eating right. Developing strength. Treating myself with kindness and discipline, to become a complete and whole person who continually strengthens her core in every sense. Sitting down and writing, getting out and running.
When we see a new pull on our life, it’s natural to chase hard after it, track that thing down and get it mastered. But then there must be some kind of assimilation of what we’ve discovered so that we can live sustainably, without warp and distortion. There’s no strength in developing my fitness if I neglect my family (or other parts of my development) in the process. There’s no wisdom in restraint whilst healing from an injury if I lose all future focus on training and recovery.