Your own worst enemy

Anyone who has taken time out from a sport knows how quickly you can lose form. Even if you find other ways to keep working out, something slips: cardio, stamina, muscle tone, mental strength – and coming back can feel hard.

Yesterday I had a minor existential crisis. Nothing catastrophic, just par for the course as a freelance writer, whose daily ritual includes a certain amount of bravely putting oneself out there and a (sometimes equal) amount of being firmly put back in. Polite rejection is a regular feature of my workday, and occasionally my ego feels over-tenderised. Time to clear the head, and go for a run.

Except I didn’t just want a run. I wanted a Run. Since coming back from an injury break, I’m less fit and slower than I’d like to be. If I push harder, I feel horrendous. I’d forgotten the early days of never-actually-enjoying-the-run-until-it’s-over, and being back here (at least when I’m stretching myself) has felt… sub-optimal. Yesterday I wanted a run that showed me I could do something tough, and do it well.

Overthinking? Yes.

Mired in a negative perspective, I managed to talk myself out of an activity which would wash through my mind, get my heart rate up, send endorphins racing around my system, get me outside, shake me out of my slump, and lever me into creativity and energy.

Instead I swallowed a double dose of bitter humiliation.*

I stared at my screen and grimly wondered how I was going to write my next post about running, given the fact that I’d chosen to, well, not go running… Fortunately it was at this point I realised I was about to be late to collect the children from school.

Still in my cloak of failure training gear, there was only one option. I ran there. Even better, because my kids were on scooters, I ran back too. Just a couple of miles, but enough to do the business.

I wasn’t trying for an awesome workout, I wasn’t pushing a pace, proving a point, or expecting anything of myself. Just running — intially from necessity, and then for the sheer delight of it. It was great. Hard to stop, in fact.

Just what I needed to remember why I run at all.


Hot pink blossom on a grey day. Rose asked me to snap this on our run home from school yesterday: we have to seize inspiration where we find it!

When you read posts about it not mattering how fast / far you run, and the futility of comparing yourself with other runners — they’re absolutely true. Yes, if you want to improve, you need to develop the mental muscle group of enduring a difficult run. But not every day has to be a bootcamp experience.

So, if you’re not really feeling it today? Go and run anyway. Pause and take a photo of a beautiful tree in flower. Take one of your kids, who will need you to go slower. Stop to take in the view. Detour past a friend’s house and pop in.

Make it fun, and remember how much you love to run.

If you run (or swim, or cycle…) this weekend, and dialled down the intensity / dialled up the fun, please share it here — I’d love to know what you did differently…


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