Rediscover the sheer joy of running

BY DECLAN VARLEY

I’ve always loved running. I love looking down and seeing my feet have a race with each other to see which gets somewhere before the other. I love the swishness of being able to balance on two legs and move fast and not fall over. The best part of being a kid is that you can run anywhere, up town, down the street, to the shop. When I was a Mass server in Ballinrobe, I used to run the mile to the church and run back. I always ran to school. And ran faster coming home. Much faster.

I love to run because basically walking never gets me where I want to go fast enough. And if you walk too fast, it’s a look that's just a little too camp… And when you get older and enter adulthood, running in the streets is not so cool. Because we become so conscious of what we are doing and what people might think, as if running is an immature thing to do. If a guy is seen running now in town, it’s because there’s more likely a shop security guard running 50 yards behind him. Or a pickpocket 50 yards ahead. At least that’s my experience, your honour.

We’ve relegated the joy of simply running to times when we’re kitted out for it in skinhugging lycra that says plainly “This Man Is Running. It’s Ok. He’s Not Mad. Really. Ok Just a Bit Then.” We squeeze into running gear with luminous stripes and colourful runners to clearly signify that we are running because we want to. That we are conforming. That I am running because this is running gear. For running in. OK?

I now run about 25k a week. Not because I maintain hopes of Rio but for the tremendous thinking space that you get when you are propelling your body forwards along a country road. When you shake the bejaysus out of life’s worries on a run, by the time you get home, they are milled and easily consumed and solved. There is a lifetime of music and podcasts to be listened to, if the screenplay is my mind isn't fulfilling enough for my brain. And then there is the tremendous rush that a lashing rain on the face or a strong breeze gives you. A sort of reminder from nature that says “yes man, while you were in the gym rowing a pretend boat, I, the wind, was out here blowing but you were nowhere to be found.” Nature exists so that we can coexist with it. And when you’re running, that coexistence is sheer bliss.

So why am I suddenly talking about running?

Because suddenly it's cool again. And people are lycra-ed and illuminated and geared up. And it doesnt matter whether you wobble or whether your arse is the size of Lahardane. It doesn’t matter that you don’t win. Or should I say that you don’t cross the line first, because by getting up and doing the run, you are winning. The wonderful Mayo 5k series held every year has as its motto that you are only ever running against yourself. And that is so true.

With gym memberships falling due to the recession and with people eager to replace expensive pursuits in their lives with affordable accessible ones, the lust for road running has become insatiable. While Pat Shortt may have lampooned powerwalkers in Kilnaskully, five years on, it seems the whole country is roadrunning.

We don't need tartan tracks or marked out routes. Every town and village has a route that you can map out for yourself, so that you know how much you're doing in the time you allot yourself.

Get out and let that fresh air invigorate your face. For those who are starting out, just try to run as slow as you can for as long as you can. Any day you're too busy to run is just being too bloody busy. Out there on the roads, you discover things about yourself you never knew. You counsel yourself and you make yourself healthier. Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, but everyday push yourself into exercise to do the best you can.

Two years ago, I lay in a hospital bed stricken by a sudden illness that I have since recovered from. Back then, I vowed that if I got the chance again, I would use every day to fulfil myself through exercise and writing and making a difference in any way I can. This ability is within all of us, and this ability you will find out there on the roads. Enjoy the summer sunsets and the morning dews — and run.

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