Bad days can come thick and fast. It’s very easy to get caught up in the trials and tribulations of day to day life. A bad day is a bad day nevertheless and there’s always something that one can do as a way of escaping, reflecting and moving on from whatever’s bothered you. Some people go for a drink. Some people cook nice food and spend time with their family. Others plough through a Netflix series.
Don’t even get me started on box sets. It happens to us all.
Back in 2014, I had just ended a long-term relationship. After the dust had settled. I took a look in the mirror and I wasn’t impressed with the reflection looking back — I wasn’t feeling all that great about how I felt about myself. I’ve never had massive weight fluctuations, but at that point in my life I had put on some pudding and wasn’t feeling very confident generally.
It was the middle of spring, the days were long and the weather was warming up, so I thought I needed to get out there and do some exercise. You know; invest in you, love yourself and all that bullshit. I believe in all that stuff and self-improvement is something I genuinely believe in but quite often I think people should check their privilege before they tell everyone else how to live their lives.
I am flawed like the rest of you — this is just my journey — I won’t jump into telling you what to do. I am not successful or qualified enough to do that with any gravity.
I bought a bike.
It was relatively inexpensive, it was a hard-tail mountain bike. I still have it and I feel quite close to it. It got me fit, it got me comfortable being by myself, it gave me the chance to spend more time outside and it gave me those fleeting moments where your phone is away, you’re in the countryside and you have a chance to breathe amongst all the noise of day to day life. It’s not often that you actually have a chance to be truly alone with your thoughts and these memories are very precious and still remain with me today. A stressful day, an idle Saturday or an occasional wet and windy afternoon were spent cycling through woods, down dirt tracks and generally exploring this part of the world I call home.
I’m digressing a little here but a digression can often provide lots of context on the bigger picture so I am hoping you’re still with me.
Fast-forward four years, and I am in a healthy long-term relationship, maintain an active lifestyle, things are good. Then a text message came through — my friend was seriously ill and it struck me that life isn’t as permanent as you generally assume and you have to look after these bodies that a conscious mind has been plonked in.
A few of my friends got together and thought it would be a great idea to run a half-marathon during this time as a way of showing that we care about what he’s going through with more than just words of support and encouragement. Weirdly, I acquiesced and the adventure was set… In four months time, I was going to take part in a half marathon. 13.1 miles. On the road. In front of people.
Sitrep: how far can I run currently? About two miles.
I had some work to do.
The point of this article isn’t about how to get fit and why it was great to complete a half-marathon. I did complete it, I was monumentally slow but I did it, I ran 13.1 miles and I am pretty proud of that.
I pissed behind a tree halfway around. Am I proud of that — not so much.
No one can ever take it away from me, though. It was a great opportunity to set my sights at a target and do what I needed to meet it. The human body and brain are amazing and there are some legs in the idea that when you set your mind to something you can achieve it, but again that’s a different article.
Where am I going with this?
Since that journey, I can safely say that I am now a runner. I am one of those people. Running’s accessible — it’s easy to do and not much equipment is required. It’s also a form of escape and I always tend to feel much better for doing it. If I’ve had a bad day, or not even a bad day, one of those days that don’t get remembered — we all have a lot of them — I go for a run once I am home from the office. Thirty minutes of me and my music, or a podcast or nothing — although that doesn’t happen very often as panting like a Labrador on a hot summer’s day is hardly my idea of catharsis.
I’ve also ventured into the weird world of group running. I was introduced to Park Run last summer. On one of the hottest days of the year and it was a hot summer last year in Blighty. I eagerly turned up to a local park at 9 am on a Saturday morning to run 5km with a load of other people. I was a little apprehensive initially because running with other people just makes me feel slow and 9 am on a Saturday morning was a time I had rarely seen.
The thing is now, I feel pretty downbeat on a Saturday afternoon if I don’t get out early and do Park Run. It’s funny how things turn full circle but now I love my Saturday mornings. I head to the park with a few of my buddies and we fly around the park as quickly as we can before grabbing a coffee to compare times at the end. I’m the slowest, naturally. But I just enjoy the moment.
Running has quite often turned a bad day or a nothing day into a relatively good day. I enjoy that, I savour it and it’s something I think more people should try. It might not be running it could be anything. Walking is great — can’t beat a walk with some good company. Put the screen down, turn the TV off and do something — it could be anything but I find that engaging your brain in a new way will generally have a positive effect on my life.
I’m no expert but it worked for me and I’d be interested to hear what you all have to say.