I started running in the dark

Credit: Joshua Ness | Unsplash

I started running in the dark. The slow painstaking realisation that I couldn’t do what once came easily, didn’t happen as quickly as it should. It took a really long time, with plenty of doubt and rationalising what was in front of my face. Sure I can barely breathe but hey running for that train was kinda far… wasn’t it? These stairs are really steep, anyone would be out of breathe walking up them! Till one day I decided that I’d had enough. Enough of being out of breath when I climbed the stairs to my third floor flat. Enough of not being able to run to the gym a mere 10 minute walk away. Just enough.

I’ve always been active, able to move and get my heart pumping, but never very good at prolonged running. I’ve got to admit I was always a little jealous of those girls who just seem to bounce along down the road without a care in the world. Or chatting to their friends as they jog along the river on a sunny Sunday morning.

As a kid I’d run and swoop and leap along with my friends, though we never ran for long. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes at most, as we played through parks, playgrounds and gardens. This kind of running in will always be the best to me. That uninhibited rush as you have a narrow escape from an imagined sea monster, or race to the base in your game. There’s something so brilliantly simple about running around to your innermost thoughts and imagination.

As I grew up I slowly stopped running. Running to play, running for the bus, running to catch that friend just up ahead. I don’t really know why. Maybe it was an overall apathy or maybe, quite simply it was just a part of me getting older. It’s strange how something so simple when you’re little, so fundamental to your day to day life, can slowly taper away. So slowly that you barely notice the change. So that one day you wake up and wonder when you last ran for fun and for the sheer joy of moving quickly.

Once I realised I wanted to be able to run again it was not straightforward. You think ‘hey how hard can running really be?’. Turns out really hard when you haven’t done it in years. At first I tried running to the gym but somehow the mental block that I couldn’t do it, made it feel impossible. Instead I tried the treadmill, but that just made me feel like I was trapped in a hamster wheel, doomed to stare at the wall in front of me. After weeks of trying I didn’t feel like I was getting any where. My lungs felt like they were on the edge of giving up the second they felt the quickening pace of my legs. My heart beating as thought it wanted to leap out of my body for a little rest on the side of the road. Eventually, I slowed to a stop once more.

And then something changed. After a trip abroad I thought I’d give it one last push. One last ditch attempt to succeed at what should come so naturally to humans, but had evaded me for so long. Moving my legs a little faster, putting one foot in front of the other. So I started running in the dark. In the bitter cold of winter, with the early morning freezing fog swirling around the Thames as I huffed and puffed my way along. You know what? I actually didn’t mind it. It wasn’t any easier, I was still struggling and could barely go for more than thirty second bursts at a time. But I slowly started getting better. Running away from everyone else, in my own private bubble of peace and quiet. London feeling like it was there just for me, dreaming as I ran of the people across the city waking up slowly to start the day. I finally found a way back to running to my thoughts and imagination. I started running in the dark.