Running isn't a thing I do any more.
I don't run for fitness any more. I don't run for mental health any more. I don't run because I want to be faster or stronger any more. I don't run because it's become a habit. I don't even run because I'm a fidget.
It isn't a thing I do.
But I do still run. You see, something happened in the sunrise at Uffington Castle at the weekend...
Let's go back a few days. I gave in to temptation and decided to return home to run a new race my club was putting on. Just for the fun of the race and to see some friendly faces from the club as respite from my 'holiday', not because I thought I could win or get a PB or anything. So I was in the car and driving from Devon to Milton Keynes at 4.30am.
I did the race. No strategy- just start running, and stop when I get to the end. Like the Caucus Race I think it is in Alice in Wonderland. Went off too fast as it's a while since I trained at any kind of race pace. Slowly but surely I began to overtake people. And then I got to the end. 3rd place overall and 1st lady by a decent margin. Nice!
It was a lovely course- part towpath part field and a little bit of redway. And some lovely steps very near the end. But the best bit was how I ran. It was thoughtless, instinctive. Sure I'm very pleased with my placing and with my time- 4.8 miles in 33 minutes- but it was the feeling of running that was so good.
Then forward to 5.30am the next morning. I'm on my way back to Devon, car is parked at the carpark half way up White Horse Hill. Wouldn't it be fun to run up to Uffington Castle, down the Ridgeway to Wayland's Smithy then back again before continuing on to Devon? Not a serious lengthy run, just a run because it's there and I love early morning running. My little expedition to Dartmoor earlier in the week gave me confidence too- this was a place where I couldn't really get lost and I've got the taste for this kind of impulsive running now.
There's a clue. Impulsive running...
So off I went. Scampered up and down the embankments of the castle like a puppy. Then off along the dusty chalk track of the Ridgeway. I'm sure I'll find Wayland's Smithy easily enough. Find it, reclaim it (but that's another story) and head back again, marvelling at the beauty of chalkland hedgerows- they are so different to the ones in North Devon or around my home. Lots of knapweed and scabious.
But something changed during those 4 and a bit miles. The feeling between my feet and the ground was like nothing I've ever experienced before. I've walked over chalk downs countless times and never felt this. The feeling of the turf and chalk under my feet was one of intimacy- like when you're in love. It was a wordless conversation. The feeling of running was different. All of a sudden it wasn't me doing running; the running was me. The need to be there, running, was as fundamental as the need to eat or sleep. Running was no longer an extra, something to be fitted in somehow. It's under my skin. It is who and what I am.