Once upon a time I had dreadlocks. Not your shop bought weaved in jobs, or your beeswaxed individually plaited hairdresser affairs. No, I had genuine locks, naturally matted that took years to grow. I had hair I could sit on and I was proud of it. I was proud of what it said about me and I found it very revealing of other peoples attitudes. It wasn’t till my hair started falling out and I would find locks lying on my pillow in the morning that they finally went. Of course uninvited guests that my daughter kept bringing home from school in her hair didn’t help either. Why am I telling you this and what the hell has this got to do with running?
During a conversation recently somebody remarked in passing about how they couldn’t be friends with someone with locks. I let it pass, it was probably a joke, but it got me thinking. When I had locks this was quite a common attitude I faced. Some people were quite unabashed and open about just calling me unwashed and crusty, while most were a bit more subtle asking why I didn’t wash my hair, or if my daughter was OK with my locks. Whatever way it was done the implication was that I was somehow abnormal for having made this choice. I then realised that I have had the same attitude from people about my running. People who don’t understand making backhanded jibes. Usually they are masked with faux concern. ‘Are you sure you’re well, you look so skinny?’ or ‘ I am worried you are doing too much and are going to hurt yourself’ are common. The worst ones are when I am told that I have already destroyed my knees and it is too late the damage has been done, I will have crippling arthritis by the time I’m 55. That’s the first thing that running and locks have in common, self appointed experts with no knowledge love to tell you how wrong you are.
Of course one of the big differences between running and locks is that unless I actually get to know someone a little they don’t know I run but, with locks you just can’t hide it. Consequently the snap judgements of others was always more prevalent when my hair was down to my arse and this brings me to similarity number 2. Growing your hair till it’s matted dreadlock goodness is down to your posterior takes some time. I spent about 10 years growing mine. During that time I faced many dirty looks, jibes and missed opportunities but I stuck to my guns. Having dreadlocks is not easy in the same way that running is not easy. Both need to be worked at and need a degree of commitment that is beyond the power of most ordinary mortals. It takes an effort of will to get up and run when the call of the sofa is strong. The external pressure needs to be overcome for you to carry on and achieve your goal. It takes a similar effort of will to stick to your guns when your mother asks when you are going to get your haircut every time she sees you, even before she has said hello.
I often say that running changed my life and gave me the power to stick at something and have a long term goal and focus but, it’s probably more correct to say it gave vent to something that was already present. Since I lost my locks there had not been anything that had required quite such an exercise of will. I had not needed to keep such a sustained focus on anything. A year was maybe the longest I had been able to keep anything in perspective. Without my locks I had become a little lost and unsettled. That desire to commit and do something despite the difficulties that may arise has at last been given
vent. I have a long term goal and bit by bit I am working my way toward it. Every time I make that choice to go out in the rain and run like a bastard round track I am exercising the same will that allowed me to ignore the crap thrown while my hair grew and grew. Both are a sign that beneath the soft interior, which lies under that brittle shell, is a will of iron. I can and I will do that which is important to me….
And that my friends is what locks and long runs have in common!