I think I’ve been rumbled. I thought I’d managed to hide it, but it appears that the cat may be out of the bag. At some point during the last couple of years, I’ve somehow become a runner. Not just someone who goes for a run from time to time, but an actual runner. A proper runner. With all the shorts, mud and chafing that comes with it.
It was Natalie who figured it out. We were having a lively discussion as to the reasonableness of my intention to nip out for a quick four-miler before dinner and a light bulb lit up (metaphorically, I should add) above her head. ‘It’s not that you want to go for a run, is it?’ she asked. ‘It’s that you have to go for a run. You’re addicted.’ And there it was: I have a running habit. I’m hooked.
But what is it that reeled me in? It’s probably not the shiny clothing. It can’t be the mud. And it’s certainly not the chafing. So what is it? Having mulled it over for the last few days, I’ve narrowed it down to three things. Three reasons why I run. And three reasons why I can’t stop.
First, it’s the freedom. The freedom to run. The freedom of the open road. The freedom (and I’m sorry if I’m getting a bit schmalzy here) to follow whichever path I choose. Like Jack Kerouac, but in leggings. It sounds silly, but it’s true. As I run mainly off road, I find myself in some extraordinarily picturesque places, with only my footsteps separating me from the distant horizon.
Second, it’s the control. While we are all subject to the whims of others in many aspects of our lives, when I run I am in control. I choose where I go. I choose how fast or how slowly I run. And I choose whether to take a break or to push myself just that little bit further. All my sense are focused on simply putting one foot in front of the other as smoothly, as efficiently and – sometimes – as swiftly as possible. If only everything in life could be that simple…
Third, and perhaps inevitably with an addiction, it’s the high. Running makes me feel good. In fact, it makes me feel very good. I like (somewhat bizarrely) how I feel when I’ve pushed myself as hard as I can. I like how I feel in the hours post-run, when I’m on what is, I suppose, some kind of adrenaline high. And I like how my body now looks (a little bit) leaner and less like a marshmallow on a hot stove.
So yes, I’m a runner. I run. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that I also have to run. I’m an addict. I can accept that. So, given time, will Natalie (I hope). And anyway, as far as addictions go, I’d argue that running is probably one of the more socially acceptable ones. Even with the shorts, the mud and the chafing.