Don’t panic. This isn’t one of those features about how I just love to rise at 5.00am, throw on my oyster pink Chloe sweatpants and canter along the wild beach I happen to live on like a majestic pony, with the wind in my heart and love in my hair, before rubbing myself down with Himalayan sea salt and zooming off to my high paid career as life coach and vegetarian human rights lawyer.
I don’t canter, I mainly lollop. And never at 5.00am. It’s only acceptable to see 5.00am en route to the airport, thank you very much. But, as ungainly as I am doing my impression of an otter on dry land, face the colour and texture of roasting beetroot, heavy breathing like an over-exerted bison, I have always found myself doing a version of running. I’ve always been drawn to what the Taoists poetically refer to as ‘flying on land’.
But, it wasn’t until I had to train for an event that I managed to run/lollop for any length of time, and that is when I discovered the hidden benefits of this simple sport. And they are nothing like you’d think…
Running stops you from being a loser
Let me explain. You see, if you’ve only ever gone for a half hearted jog around the block, you’d be forgiven for thinking running just isn’t for you. But if you have to run a certain distance within a certain time frame something miraculous happens. Instead of stopping the run when you feel tired/out of breath/on the verge of cardiac arrest, you simply have to keep going.
And when you do that, well that’s when the magic happens. You realise you have more fuel in the tank, you have more to give – sometimes much more. You realise that the feeling of exhaustion you experienced was merely what proper athletes call ‘hitting a wall’, and most importantly, you realise that 90% of what you were feeling was actually all in your mind. Hitting a wall happens on every run, and after a while you can even predict when it will happen. Not only that, but once you know it for what it is (your brain being a negative prick), you gain the power to carry on.
All of this is a very long winded way of saying that running makes you more headstrong and less likely to give up on things halfway through, therefore stopping you from being a loser. Do you see?
Running can improve your relationships
Nowadays none of us walk much. Which is a shame because walking with a friend or loved one nearly always inspires great conversation. I’m not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with being outside, with the scenery gently changing around you.
Sadly, most of us are generally in a rush, and that means using the fastest means of getting from A to B. And the fastest method of anything is the enemy of relaxed conversation.
I’ve found that running outside with a loved one is when you have your best chats and when the best planning and sorting takes place. Plus it’s almost impossible to argue when you’re running. It uses up way too much energy, and you’ll be needing all the energy you have to get up that bastard of a hill.
Running stops you from being a fat slob
Before you go running to Ofcom, this isn’t because going for semi-regular runs will automatically make you slim. Having run pretty regularly for the better part of a decade I can attest to the fact that the only non-jiggly part of my whole body are my lower legs (for a bloody hilarious explanation of this phenomina, as well as a brilliantly illustrated account of the true motivation of non-sporty runners, please do yourself a favour and enjoy this epic cartoon series at The Oatmeal).
The reason you’ll avoid couch-potatory is probably a little bit to do with various hormones that get shunted about your person during and after a vigorous lolloping session, and a lot to do with self-image.
You see, if you just came home from work and flopped on the sofa, your decision would be telling your ego (that bit of your brain you lovingly refer to as You) that you’re exhausted and fit for nothing more than pizza, sausage, cheese and beer pie with gravy. And there you would remain, for the rest of the evening, shoving various forms of sugar and saturated fat into your face hole, taking solace in the fact that your life isn’t as shit as those chavs on Eastenders.
Rewind to coming in through the front door. Instead of turning right into the pit of doom disguising it’s self as comfort, you take a left into which ever room houses your trainers and trakkie B’s (British for sweat pants).
This decision completely alters the way you see yourself, and informs all decisions made thereafter for the next 12 hours or so. That means you’re far more likely to choose something nutritious to eat (after all, you’ve been for a run, therefore you are a bonafide athlete, dontchya know). Plus if you’re outside flapping along like a heart attack on legs, you can’t very well be simultaneously projecting your soul into the brain drain (TV).
Running gives you a unique perspective on the world
The best thing about running is that you can do it virtually anywhere, almost for free, with little to no skill involved. The only equipment you need are trainers and legs (and if you are lucky enough to be in possession of a pair of functioning legs, may I respectfully suggest that you fucking use them).
Next time you plan a trip away – doesn’t have to be exotic, although the experience is un-fucking-believable when it is a bit exotic – make sure to pack your trainers. The first morning you awake in a brand new place, take those trainers out for a spin. This is the only exception to the 5am rule, by the way.
You’ll get to see the sun rise over a new and alien vista, you’ll get to see real life (because genuine inhabitants of most places will have to go to work in the morning, whereas all the lazy-assed tourists will still be in bed), and best of all people will assume you’re a local, which is always fun.
On our last holiday, my other half was lucky enough to be chased by a family of monkeys during a morning run. Shit like that just doesn’t happen to you if you don’t put yourself out there and get running.