When I don’t like feeling ‘ordinary’, a run can always make me feel special
WHEN I STRUGGLE with being ordinary – aka a bit of a failure – the grown-up thing to do would be to accept the way I’m feeling.
If I went with a psychotherapist-type solution, I’d accept the reality of being ordinary, and try to change the way I thought about that reality.
And if I went the Mindfulness route, I’d try to just ‘be’ with the feeling, which means accepting that I’m feeling shit, and that feeling shit is OK.
More often, though, I think: Fuck this for a game of soldiers! I’m going for a run!
Because – frankly – I don’t want to reframe, or sit too long, with the fact that I’m a 50-something man who hasn’t achieved many of his dreams.
I don’t want to accept the fact that I live a dreadfully unremarkable – if loved and very comfortable – kind of life.
No, I’d much rather go on a run because, afterwards, I know for sure that I’ll feel special.
Some while ago, I feel a bit special was a code for being off your tits on Disco Biscuits – but it also describes perfectly how I feel at the end of a run, particularly a long, steady one that allows both endorphins and self-satisfaction to build slowly to a crescendo…
Take the route I’m currently running at weekends – always going the same way but adding another 5-10 per cent of distance each time – that starts in the ultra-mundane and colourless streets near Crystal Palace’s football stadium.
These are the ‘hard yards’ – a hilly, three-mile section that I see as a kind of foundation for the edifice that is the run, a platform for my getting stronger.
They are also where the endorphins first start to kick in, early stiffness wears off, and my breathing and heart find a happy, patient rhythm.
And, as I go along, the run gets lovelier: it opens up onto commons and richer, wider streets where there’s light and beauty, and then follows the timeless (and, thankfully, flat) Thames to the quasi-royal splendour of Battersea Park.
Near the end – a full circuit, then some hairpins around Terrace Walk and North Carriage Drive – I start to congratulate myself for having hung in there and made it, and find that it’s unusually easy to be positive about me: the endorphins are taking care of that…
And when it’s over, I congratulate myself on the (to me) eye-popping number of calories Strava says I’ve burned, and mentally convert them into beers I’m now allowed to drink.
I stretch near the golden Peace Pagoda, gazing wide-eyed on the river and marvelling that I’m a Londoner; that I’m lucky enough to live in one of the world’s greatest cities.
One time I completed the run recently – the day before Storm Ciara – both the tide and the sun were high and the river was a tranquil, singular jade green.
The temperature was mild, and so I sat for a while on the benches and watched the beautiful people pass by, many of them runners like me.
Then I closed my eyes for a while and let the early spring sun warm my face and felt: something… communion with the world, with the seasons, with the divine, even.
So why would you settle for ordinary, when you can feel special?