[Before you read: Do you ever have the moment where your privilege smacks you in the face like a frying pan on Reeves and Mortimer? Yeah, like that.
I wrote the following blog on the evening of Tuesday 11th January 2022. Not 24 hours later news broke of the murder of Ashling Murphy. This is not an isolated incident. If you think it is, listen to a woman. Since then, I’ve also thought about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. This is not an isolated incident. If you think it is, listen to a person of ethnic minority. I’ve thought about LGBTQ+ people who have been attacked on the streets of Ireland. This is not an isolated incident. If you think it is, listen to someone from the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland.
My heart pains and grieves. Anyone can run…and they should be safe doing so. She was just going for a run. He was just going for a jog. They were just going for a walk.
May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
I’ve not edited the words below from what I wrote that night. They reflect who I am, white, straight, male…and safe to go for a run.]
Reporters: ‘Why are you running? Are you doing this for world peace? Are you doing this for the homeless? Are you running for women’s rights? Or for the environment? Or for animals?’
Forest Gump: ‘They just couldn’t believe that somebody would do all that running for no particular reason.’
Reporters: ‘Why are you doing this?’
Forest Gump: ‘I just felt like running’
I just felt like running.
As the world shut down in March 2020 I just felt like running. So, run I did. It is something I have come to love and hate in the weeks, months and years since. So here in one concise volume is what I’ve learnt from running.
Disclaimer: The Bible compares our faith to running a race and I’m sure lots of other people have used running as metaphors for mission and church and whatnot. If you want to read these as metaphors, be my guest; they aren’t written as such but I’m always happy to play around with ideas and concepts and the like.
Anyone can run.
I’m convinced that anyone and everyone can run. It doesn’t matter if you run 100m at a snail’s pace or 100km at the speed of an electric scooter flying down the N11. The trick is to start small. It’s a good trick for most things. Make it so easy you can’t say no. Sure you could do 100 metres, probably even 500 metres. After that I’d say you could do a 1km. Sure, you’re not far off 1.5km, then 2km, then 3km, then 5km.
On my laps around Bray, I pass by runners of all genders, shapes, and ages. I pass runners who are decked out in the latest gear and runners who are in an old pair of trackies and a stained t-shirt. I pass by seasoned runners and newbies. I pass by a man in his 80’s regularly; he’s not a fast runner but he wins all the prizes in my book. All these runners go at different speeds and for different distances. Anyone can run, even you! That being said…
If you want to be a runner, you have to run.
There is only one way you can be a runner and that is by leaving your front door and running. It’s very much a verb before noun activity. There really isn’t a way to fake it. If you run, you’re a runner. Some of us will run slow and some slightly less than slow. Some of us will run kinda far and some of us will run really far. At the end of the day, we are all runners…if we run…and not before. It doesn’t matter what shoes you have or what apps are on your phone. The only way to be a runner is to run.
‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ Aristotle
You might be thinking that you need some inspiration to get you going. That could be true to a degree, the problem with inspiration though is that inspiration does not get you out of bed and running on a dark, cold morning. Inspiration is a spark, not a fire. It can light a fire alright, if you do the work of sourcing and adding fuel, every day, every week, every month, every year…you get my point. I need more than inspiration because inspiration is weak, even at its most inspiring. I need discipline, habit, ritual. I need to keep showing up to run, trusting that it’s something I want even when I don’t feel it. You see a lot of the time…
Every run I go on is dreadful at some stage. There is always a point in which I question my choices and am convinced of the stupidity of my actions. It always hurts. I cannot avoid it but as I run regularly, I’ve come to expect the moments of doubt and ride them out. As my Dad taught me ‘no matter how bad it is, you can always put one foot in front of the other’ which is true until it’s not and then it’s really bad!! I start my runs running with my legs and end them running with my head. To be a runner is to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
I’ve found that continuing through discomfort, tiredness and a mind screaming at me to stop, brings me to appreciate the moments of peace and togetherness all the more when they arrive. What glory to behold when you realise you are running and not in pain, when you can look at the landscape or the sky and can embrace it all.
The other thing that helps me was when I realised, I didn’t have to run as fast as possible all the time because…
Speed is not the key to running, not stopping is the key to running.
Plenty of experts would tell you that running fast all the time leads to burnout or injury and is not a good strategy to get faster or running further. What’s the rush? It’s been said that 80 percent of your run should be at an easy pace, that is, you should be able to hold a conversation while running. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be Usain Bolt or beat your brother *coughs* but ultimately when you run, you run against yourself.
In April 2020 I completed 5km in under 30 minutes for the first time (This was after doing a weekly 3km for about two years). I almost vomited at the side of the road, but I was so happy! Under 30 minutes, glorious. I now regularly run 5km in 22/23 minutes. My main competition is myself and the thing about running is…
It only ends if you quit.
Forest Gump: ‘I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now.’
‘I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.’ Haruki Murakami