It took all I had to get out yesterday; I just absolutely, totally didn’t want to go and every inch of me was looking for an excuse to stay home. It was windy on a scale that I hadn’t run in since last winter and I was scared it would dash my spirits.
Deep down though I knew how I’d feel after I’d finished and I really needed that, I needed the sense of pride in myself and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I also needed cake and this was my only justification, our new house is opposite one of the most celebrated bakers in the area and the struggle is arse fatteningly real. Besides, we have the MadDog 10k on Sunday, a notoriously exposed course which although I did brilliantly on last year in insane conditions I have no confidence in now. I was three times fitter and faster then, my spirits and self esteem have dented a little since along with my body.
So I went out and the second I did I was glad of it. The wind was hilariously strong and so I opted to run straight into it, that way I could benefit from a tailwind on my way home. I also had a vague plan in my mind to run 7 miles, my longest distance since my surgery. It made sense, the wind would slow me down and I would take a breather halfway in before I turned for home.
Anyone with a heart condition who runs will tell you that running in the wind is amongst the most challenging of conditions (second only to heat) as breathing is tough and effort is doubled. I’m fortunate that living on the north west coast ensures that I get to practice running in the wind around 97% of the fucking year. I swear to god we get about 10 still days and I’m usually not able to run on any of them. My hair has now adjusted to life on the outside and permanently stands on end and coupled with the recent drunken hair dye disaster I now strikingly resemble the love child of Janet Street Porter and Ken Dodd.
Anyway it was sodding windy but pleasantly warm which kind of made it all tolerable. I made for the canal where I hoped I’d be afforded a little shelter as the beach would have been insanity on a level even I don’t aspire to. It felt soul soothingly happy to be running my old route and my confidence settled in a little. It was hard going but I knew that a break was imminent and I was enjoying the challenge despite the now familiar achy twinge on my left side. At times the canal was nothing more than a wind amplifier but I laughed as the gusts tried to stop me dead and plodded on regardless.
At the turning point I stopped briefly and was knocked practically off my tits by the searching clouds of dope smoke that were billowing from under the bridge. Aware of how my performance over the next few miles might be adversely affected by being mashed out of my head on skunk I prudently opted to head for home.
The return leg was initially tough, the bloody wind was in my face again. Seriously, what the actual fuck? I started to feel myself making death noises over the sound of my music and I started to wish that Ed Sheeran would stop fucking whinging, he didn’t know what pain was, the soft ginger bastard. The Weeknd came on and saved the day, it reminded me of Marc (the three of us share a complicated love triangle) and I began to think of Marc’s precious advice about running the mile I was in instead of thinking ahead of myself and wishing it over. I let my arms relax and allowed the wind to cool my hot face and found my groove. Yeah it was hard but that’s the thing, you’ve got to not give a shit about whether it’s hard or far, you’ve just got to be proud you’re doing it because it was never easy and that’s what makes it so bloody amazing.
The final mile brought with it a kind of magic and misery that I’ve come to love so much, I was so tired but my heart was so full. I ran downhill with my arms outstretched while ‘Defying Gravity’ blared in my good ear and I laughed because I’m a dickhead and I don’t care.
The bangle I was wearing said ‘With brave wings…she flies. I’m not brave but I was slightly deranged (and arguably slightly high from passive drug ingestion) and for that moment at least I soared. With crazy, wobbly legs I bolted across the road into the park and my watch buzzed right next to the outside gym which I made a mental note to try under the heavy influence of alcohol at my next possible convenience.
And I resolved to remember the next time I didn’t want to run how I felt at that moment. Hot, exhausted, pained but with wide open eyes and smiling so hard my face stung. Utterly exhausted and utterly alive all at the same time. Because it was always this hard only now I remember that we can do hard things. And if the wind can’t hold me back then nothing can.