Shake It Out
I imagine it would have made a good time lapse video. For two hours and 13minutes, gym bunnies at my local sports centre came and went on the treadmills. It was a dark autumn night. Most were done within 40minutes. The one constant over this time period was me; slowly jogging away, the grey marle of my oldest t-shirt long since drenched in sweat. I moved slowly but surely at the same set pace, eyeing myself in the reflection of the turned off tv screen on the treadmill. To jog at the same speed for a couple of hours, with only your thoughts and your music for company, takes a certain kind of mental perversion. Occasionally, I danced a little and mouthed some words to the songs. No doubt on lookers thought they were seeing madness in the making.
Recently I ran and occasionally walked my way through my first half marathon. The race itself was an achievement – yes- but by that point it was just the final run on a three month training programme. My training saw me run around my neighbourhood and discover new ones, through my ipod playlist, with chaffed skin and sore legs, and up and down the hills near my Auckland home in sun and rain, from late summer to early winter.
When I finished my race, I chatted to a cousin of Dad’s who was also the official race photographer and he asked why I did it and simply I said ‘For the challenge.’ I reasoned that if I did the mileage, if I put in the training runs, then the goal would be achievable. Not only was it achievable, but it was tangible and temporal. In many ways, it was easy because it was literally just one foot in front of another and I was ever closer to my goal.
I’m not a runner – runners are lithe and wirey and have a gleam of the crazed in their eyes. But I will concede that running appeals to certain character traits I have. It’s done solo, it can be done nearly anywhere with little equipment. It provides instant gratification because you don’t have to have run long before you begin to feel like you’re doing something physical, and in my case, working up a sweat. I never regret a run. I may not always feel better after a run, but I never feel worse. A good run, as with any good work out, sets me off for the day feeling good physically but also feeling good mentally because the day hasn’t even started and I’ve already achieved something. After a day of physical inactivity at a desk, a run shakes out my bones and clears the mind. And when Im wound up and stressed, running calms monsters in my head. It’s hard to stress in your mind when your body is screaming at you ‘just one more step. Your legs can take it.’
I would struggle to run without the familiar comfort of my iTunes playlist, which is creatively titled ‘Run’. Some of the songs there have been on my running playlist for several years now, and when they come on I think of the places I have run to them before. When Ellie Goulding’s poppy ‘Starry Eyed’ starts up, I think of an early morning run in Aarhus in Denmark. When Florence and the Machines ‘Shake It Out’ comes on, I think of a long run I did on my favourite running route around Iron Cove in Sydney. I think of how I got sunburnt because I ran 6kms away from home then had to struggle back in the middle of the summer heat. Many of my running songs make me think of important people in my life. When I was running the half marathon and Foster The People’s ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ began, I thought of my good friend Liv – a fellow runner. Thinking of her and what she might have been saying if we’d been running together spurred me on through a couple of hard sections.
I am writing this from Dubai. It’s too hot to run outside so I have been running at the hotel gym. The treadmill faces a wall and the room is (bizarrely) not as air conditioned as the rest of the hotel. Without the distractions of scenary, of a tv or even a window – the run is almost entirely in my head. The more I run and fittier I become, the more my mind begins to wonder and talk while I run. Great things happen to the mind and body on a good run, and I still always feel stronger for them, even if my mind is now sometimes moving as fast as my body.