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The Moanyness of the Wrong Distance Runner.

May 29, 2017


I hate running.  I’ve hated running since I was way way younger than Tom Courtney looked back in 1962.

I hated running at school, hated it worse than any other form of compulsory exercise.  Weight lifting, rope climbing, swimming and pedaling were all preferable to long-distance jogging.

But in recent years I’ve been confronting these decades of fear and loathing.  For the past few springs, I’ve been going out for runs.  I don’t run in the winter because I don’t run with glasses and I fear patches of ice.  I don’t run in the summer because there are too many people on the streets in summer, and these are decent, generous and worthwhile people who deserve to be protected from the grisly spectacle of me running.

I’ve tried recording times for my runs… keeping a little log of how quickly I can cover certain repeated distances.  I gave up because the results merely depressed me.  I have no intention of telling the world at large just how far (or near) I can run or how fast (or slow) I can cover such meagre distances.  Suffice to say that my results are… less than impressive.

I don’t wear headphones to run.  I used to, but they became annoying – one more thing to think about and take care of.  Instead, I simply run to an earworm – a song or sequence of songs playing in my head.  This year, for the looming special anniversary, I simply allow Sgt Pepper to play in my brain.  Since it’s an album that I know back to front and inside out, this works quite well.   You might think it would be hardest to run to the rhythms of “Within You Without You”, but actually “Good Morning, Good Morning” is even harder to pound the pavements in time to.

I dread running, and those mornings when I wake up to the remembrance that the new day is a day pledged to running are bad mornings.  When I return from running I am a blithering idiotic mess.  I’ve concluded that only by running do I get the fullest sense of the deplorable condition of the carcass I inhabit.   It’s a Swiftian exercise in a kind of bodily estrangement that leaves me feeling more imprisoned by own my body than anything else.

But here’s thing… in the past few weeks I’ve been getting the occasional “moment” while running.  I’ve never had them in previous years and I certainly never had them as a child.  These “moments” consist of occasions while running where I actually forget that I’m running.  For whole minutes at a time, I’ve started to find that my mind can actually wander.  I’ve started to experience glimpses of a state wherein I’m thinking of something other than the horrible horrible thing that I’m doing and when I can stop doing it.  For up to ninety seconds at a time, I find I can review my week, ponder the state of the world, or remember a cherished book, play or poem, and all the while distance has been covered without my having to dwell on the agonising process of covering it.

These moments have been so unprecedented, so strange, and so hypnotic that I’m committing to myself to run again next year – just in the hope of perhaps retrieving something similar.

Some hope.

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