Thursday, 7 January 2016

Mad about running

So, I put up this photo on Facebook, after my 21 km run in -23 degrees (-31 chill factor) last night:

Everyone was like ”you're mad” and ”did you forget to take your medications again” but I prefer to think of myself as a dedicated person. Because if you love running as much as I do, you don't let a little thing like arctic temperatures, frostbite and pneumonia stop you! You don't choose a warm, comfortable sofa over the gentle, pickax touches of the Northern wind on your face! No! You get out there and you play chicken with the lorries that drive 70 kph through the industrial backside of SkellefteĆ„, throwing a whirlwind of snow all over you as they pass. You run blindly through a dark forest on snow-heavy paths because you didn't think to bring your head torch and your field of vision has shrunk to a pinhole because your eyelashes are covered in ice. You take the detour up the hill, because that's what you had decided you would do beforehand and, besides, you're kind of curious to see if it's just as windy up there as it's down here.

Numbers have the power to intimidate us. Standing at the starting line of our longest race yet, we feel unsure if we can make it, so we take it really easy. Glancing at our clocks during our fastest race, we realise we're running faster than ever before and we slow down just a little because surely it won't hold all the way to the finish line? All the time, we put up arbitrary boundaries for ourselves, be that speed, distance or temperature. Boundaries are good. They keep us safe. We decide where to draw the line, what we can overcome and what will defeat us. Only thing is, we usually err on the side of caution and we sometimes, unnecessarily, end up defeating ourselves.

Our boundaries stand firmly where we put them, if we never challenge them. And that's ok. We don't need to challenge them. In the end, it's all about the eternal struggle between motivation and fear that takes place inside of us. Do I want this badly enough to take risks? Did I want to go running badly enough? I put on approximately every item of clothing I owned and stepped out into the cold. For me, motivation won over my fear of -what? Freezing out there, lying helpless in some back alley and getting devoured by wolves? What was really the worst that could happen? As it turned out, the worst thing that did happen was that condense formed on the inside of my ski mask, made the chin area all soggy and turned it into an icecube. Not what I need to have on my chin when it's -23 outside, but was it that big of a deal?

I took a detour on my way home, too. I was having so much fun, under the stars, on soft snow, watching steam rise from the river, the night sky painted dark pink by the city lights.