A whale swam past my office today.
It's not often you can drop that into a conversation.
Unfortunately it has nothing to do with running - so I will have to stop there.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Monday, January 16, 2006
It has been, you might say, a weekend of two halves.
Saturday was one of those miserable grunchy days where nothing goes quite right. Nothing disastrous, nothing to cause howls of despair and anguish, just a succession of low level frustrations that left me feeling anxious and grumpy by the evening.
However Sunday was long-run day but not any old long run, my absolute favourite – the run to Borders. This is an institution that helps my wife and I keep our communication channels open and clear. Every month we have a meeting at the Starbucks inside the Watford Borders. It gets us out of the house and any of pressures of having other things to do. We are relaxed and let our minds wander quite widely and associate freely. However we do keep notes so we can return to what we decided in the last time and see if there has been any progress. Sometimes yes and sometimes nothing has happened but there is never any recrimination, we only trying to look clearly at what we are doing.
Borders is about 10 miles away and I run there, mostly along the canal, whilst my wife drives the car and brings some clothes for me to change into. The stimulation of the run invariably puts me in the right frame of mind but yesterday was particularly good. After tightness of Saturday it was as if a weight had lifted. Instead of feeling ground down I felt as if I could stand relaxed and upright.
Sometimes you just know why you run.
It was also a good meeting. We talked about our main theme for the year – decluttering. We are going to go through all of our possessions and judge them against three criteria: are they useful, are they beautiful or do they have sentimental value? Every week we will make sure we have looked at something. Last week we sifted through kitchen cupboards and threw away bowls and tins that we had not used in years. This week we start on the books – something that is rather urgent as we have more of them than spaces to put them. By the end of the summer we should be able to get into the garage!
After that we tried to think of ways we could reduce our environmental footprint – save energy, recycle more, grow some of our own vegetables. There is a certain irony in driving ten mile to have a conversation about this but nevertheless we were showing intent. We were trying to take control and we made some progress.
So there you have it a weekend of two halves - with running having an important role in the turnaround.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
The summary of Peter Bradshaw’s review of Brokeback Mountain contains the sentence:
'Further than this, Brokeback Mountain is the story of how most of our lives, gay and straight, are defined by one moment in which things go gloriously and naturally right, when everything falls into place, but which is then infected by the bacilli of wrongness.'
For me that this insight is not exclusive to relationships; it applies to everything. I don’t know whether it is just me or whether it is the same for everyone, but with almost every activity I take seriously there is a moment of insight where I can see how things should be followed by a long struggle to try to make it so. Usually that struggle ends with failure and things never live up to the initial promise. Things once clear and simple become over complicated.
When I was younger I got terribly upset at this failure realise ideas. Now I understand that success or failure is not point - it is the process that is important. This understanding is the reason I like running - it is a constant reminder that the only thing that matters is to keep on keeping on. I have goals - if I make them, for a short time I feel good, if I fail, for a short time, I feel bad - they are like bubbles on a river. The continued satisfaction comes from the regularity of activity.
But for me to take running seriously there had to be a moment of insight when things seemed so ‘gloriously and naturally right’. That happened when I realised that I could run long. Until then I had a mental barrier - I couldn’t relate to the way other people could just keep going. Then one day I found a comfortable pace and my mind stopped thinking about what it was doing. I just carried on moving and instead of the world closing in with messages of ‘how much longer’ it opened up with a sense of wonder and the question ‘is this really me doing this?’
Since then there have been frustrations and difficulties - injuries and not being as fast as I want, or expect to be. My expectations shift and I am never quite satisfied. But somehow that initial sense of wonder keeps me going.