Thursday, 7 July 2016

Get lost


Enough with complaining about how I can't find the motivation to go running. Sometimes you have to kick your own arse into action (although, anatomically speaking, that might be hard to achieve, at least if you want to kick your own arse hard enough to accomplish such action). So what if there are a thousand things to do around the house? They'll still be there when I get back.

On one of my morning walks, I had stumbled upon a promising trail not too far from here. Have I mentioned that the trail head is 300 metres from our doorstep? With beautiful single-track stretching out in every direction? No? The trail head is 300 metres from our doorstep! With beautiful single-track stretching out in every direction!

300 metres, folks.

Now, after many ifs and buts, worrying about the weather and whether it would be too good to waste on running (I promise you'll never hear me utter such blasphemous words ever again) instead of painting the house, I decided to find out if I had read the map right and that that trail led where I thought it led. Before I had time to hesitate, I threw on some clothes and got out the door.

It didn't lead where I thought it led. It led to an Olympic-sized swimming pool infested with blood-thirsty mosquitoes. As I wasn't in the mood to wade through waist-deep, ice-cold, who-knows-what-horrors-hide-within (probably leeches, definitely sharks) water, I turned back. The single-track was so narrow it was almost invisible, my feet danced between jugged stones and gnarly roots in a desperate attempt to hit dirt, a fleeting side-glance informed me that something big had sharpened its claws on an ancient, moss-covered tree. The forest seemed to be untouched by human hands. I hoped I got a good signal on my phone in case I fell and hit my head, and, I don't know, accidentally butt-dialed J while unconscious? I don't know why I thought having a good signal would be useful in that case. I was still shocked from the bear-mauled tree. I wasn't thinking straight.

Back on tamer grounds, I picked a new trail to follow. It was perfect. Just enough roots to make the soft ground interesting and keep me on my toes. Fir trees and pines on each side hid a somber sky that was laden with rain. The trail was short and ended up at a forest road. Lovely, I thought, and ran even further, determined to explore every little corner of this part of the world (or at least my neighbourhood).


This part of the world was a dead end, and not a very pretty one. There was a huge gaping wound in the forest where its owner had felled countless trees. I turned back once again, and this time I followed the forest road to the south, aiming to get back to civilisation. My legs were feeling great but my heart kept playing hopscotch, so I didn't want to push it. Still, when a new trail appeared to my left, I didn't even falter. I left the road. I knew that this trail led back home.

After a while, I got to a crossroads of trails. To my left, the trail I had originally followed. To my right, the trail home. Straight ahead, who knew? Not me. And I wouldn't find out unless I followed it, so I did. What seemed like a broad path at first quickly deteriorated into almost nothing (unless you're a snail, and then I guess that nothing looked like the autobahn to you). I took wild turns trying to follow the sharp corners of the trail, tree branches and needles piercing my arms and legs as I squeezed myself through their narrow corridors. I stopped abruptly, the trail disappearing completely all of a sudden. To my right, something resembling a trail dissolved into the shadows. I turned to follow it and--

I got attacked. By a thin, pointy, murderous, fence-sword tree branch that tried to bore a hole into the side of my head. My fingers massaged my head, looking for blood. Surprisingly, there was none. But I took the warning seriously. I turned back yet again and looked for another trail. 

This one was better, but still an obstacle course

A minute later, I found one, and it led me back to the beaten path. I ran the last few hundred metres with such joy in my heart that my legs picked up the pace. I hadn't even run 10km, yet I had seen so much and experienced the kind of adventure only running can offer.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Rainy day woman

I've been in a weird place when it comes to running ever since I did those 100 km last September. My motivation has been shaky at best; at times I've been as enthusiastic to go for a run as a dog is before a trip to the vet. Some runs just felt uninspired, others like crossing items off a ”to do”- list I made in preparation for some unspecified, distant goal.

Easy runs. Check.
Intervals. Check.
Long runs. Check.

Those gems of a beautiful, magical run you get when you're in a flow, on a pair of fresh legs, maybe on a smooth, pine needle covered single track through the woods, were few and far between. I missed them, but not badly enough to put on my running shoes and get out there.

I ransacked myself for answers. Part of the reason for my reluctance to go running was not wanting to leave the house when there's so much to do. I don't like unfinished business, plus it is kind of awesome to work on an old house and watch it transform into something beautiful. Another reason was not wanting to add another must in my life. Running for me is about freedom. It's not an obligation – but, for a while there, it got very close to becoming one.

A realisation hit me. Running - my therapy, my shelter, one of my dearest friends - was drifting away from me because I didn't nurture it. I only saw the demands it placed on me and forgot about the good times we had had. I let other things come between us, foolishly believing that, while running can (and does) affect my life, life cannot affect my running. Whenever I've felt down, running has lifted my spirits. Whenever I've had important decisions to make, running has helped me clear my head. But it's not a magic wand you can just wave and fix everything. Someone flipped a switch somewhere and now the water is gushing in the opposite direction, and my running is getting flooded by life and it's just not cool, man. Not cool.

Back to the drawing board for me. I needed to make time for running. I needed to get back to what made it fun. I asked some friends if they wanted to join me for a 50K run. I dreamed about a warm, sunny day by the coast, stopping for ice-cream, chatting and laughing for hours while getting to see new places. My first day of vacation.

What we got was a slightly modified version of it. We did chat and laugh, we did see new places, we did stop for ice-cream, but we also got drenched by a persistent summer drizzle that turned the sky grey and the forest dark. Close enough.

While this was a much-needed run that took me one step closer to getting my motivation back, I'm not there yet. As long as life is upside down to the extent that it is, running will have to settle for being ”that thing you do to keep in shape” instead of a lifestyle, a lifeline.