I give credit to running for a lot of things. Certainly the fact that I can seemingly eat any old shit and keep relatively trim. Then there is the actual fitness which makes me feel quite happy, healthy and alive. I also credit it with introducing me to some of the most wonderful people I have ever met and, up until this weekend I would have given it credit for that bizarre personality trait which makes you do things just because they are hard. Runners tend to do things just to prove they can despite knowing in advance it will not be pretty. I ran 20 miles this weekend and I knew in advance that there was the possibility that it could get very messy. It goes with the territory. It didn’t. I had a fine old time and was joined by friends who I chatted with and it was a good old fashioned sociable long run. One of these chats got me thinking about the things I give running the credit for.
My post on dreadlocks may have hinted at some aspects of an interesting youth. Hands up, I admit I was no stranger to some not very legal substances when I was younger and it was a conversation about these that got me thinking. I know I also pointed out in that article on locks that it involved a certain long term perspective and commitment, something I sometimes give running the credit for. To be fair not brushing your hair is not one of the greatest hardships that can be endured. Running a marathon or doing a 20 mile training run can be decidedly unpleasant and there is a special kind of stupid which makes people do things like that. Maybe it is a desire to test yourself and come out on top? Maybe it is some form of deep seated masochism? I don’t know and I am a bit scared to find out but this is in danger of taking us away the real point here.
Being a twenty something aficionado of chemical substances I knew people who indulged in all kinds of habits. There were the Charlie heads who although very enthusiastic and fun for a short while were actually full of shit. I didn’t have a lot of respect for them, it made you overconfident and stupid. There was the pill popping generation xstacy love munchkins who always had a good time. OK come down was a bit of a bummer but nothing a good days monging out couldn’t fix. They were always guaranteed a good time. Where is the challenge there? My bestest buddy at the time and I were acid heads. As far as we were concerned we were the cream of the crop, psychic explorers, celestial adventurers and all that kind of tripy hippy personal development bollocks. For us, chemical substances were not just about having a good time or feeling good, for us getting high was part of a process of testing ourselves and becoming better people. We had gulped on the Timothy Leary Kool Aid and felt special.
This brings us right back round to the start and that bizarre personality trait which makes you do things simply because they are hard. Acid was not always a good buzz, sometimes it took you to dark and disturbing places but you always felt like there was a lesson learned and the same is true with running. Sometimes you have a bloody awful time but you can always get something out of it. I remember one run when I was really not feeling well but I joined my friends for a long Sunday run anyway. By the time it got to the end I was staggering and the whole experience was awful. I did learn two things though. I was bloody minded enough to just keep plodding on to get the job done and, running when you have a bad cold is really not a very clever idea.
Although I give running credit for a lot of things that occur in my life at present, one thing I don’t think I can really give it credit for is that element of masochistic stupidity that makes me do things simply because they are hard. I have to hold my hands up and admit that this trait is all mine, I have to take ownership of it. It’s probably true to say that it was lying dormant for a while waiting for an outlet, awoken when I made that first stagger down the road in fresh running shoes. Now it’s back I am quite happy. I relish the smug it brings me, and the sense of achievement. I feel like I am a better person because of it and I am happy that it seems to spill out into other areas of life. Now I have another question. How many of those things I give running a credit for are due to running and, how many are things that were already there just looking for the outlet that running provided? Who knows and does it matter? I am quite happy where I am now, feeling like I am growing as a person without all the trippy hippy garbage that I used to think was so important.