I’m running down the middle of the road and the heat is on. People are in tears. Broken bodies and bottles litter the pavements. Strangers drool and hug each other, and locals scream from their bedroom windows. I’ve smashed through a wall, puked in my mouth and nearly shat myself.
Oh Hackney, I love you.
Believe it or not, this isn’t my Saturday night stumble home from Oslo, but a far more friendly and enjoyable jaunt down Mare Street – the Run Hackney Half Marathon.
The tears were of joy between friends and family embracing each other as they pushed their bodies and did ‘Whatever is takes’ to raise money for charities close to their hearts.
Broken bodies were picked up, hugged and sent on their way to the neverending hollers of encouragement from balconies, windows and front gardens.
The wall I smashed is that old runners’ proverbial one.
The puking and pooing part, well, that’s runners’ nerves for you (it was actually before the race had even started).
And the heat.
Oh my Mo Farah, the heat.
I think I now know what it feels like to be a Rustlers Burger rotating my way to a delicious ping. Come to think of it, a more apt ending to the race would have been a microwave pinging every time a runner crossed the finish line. But despite this, I loved every single sweaty second. Because this race was different.
I bloody love running. I run about six times a week, training hard for the next race, chasing the buzz I get by pushing myself to the limit. But recently this buzz was getting a little bit, well, tiring. It was becoming all too easy to skip to the pub rather than pound the pavements home. Was I, dare I say, falling out of love with running?
This time I tried something new. I took a step back from the blurry tunnel that is ‘the zone’. This time ‘time’ was no issue. I wasn’t going to burst my lungs striving for a PB. I was going to run for fun – sticking with friends, chatting with them, encouraging them and spraying water over spectators (they looked just as exhausted as us runners).
Interacting with my surroundings opened up a whole new perspective on running. I noticed things ‘the zone’ usually blocks out, such as the comradeship between runners and spectators, even the locals moaning about road closures still had time to shout ‘Go on son!’ You can get so swept up in striving for your best you sometimes lose all sense of direction (I mean mentally – the route was marked out pretty clearly). There was a guy in my running crew (Run Dem Crew – look them up) who ran 16 miles (the half marathon is 13.1 miles) because he kept going back to help people finish. It’s these kinds of stories that have helped me see there’s more to running than running.
Don’t get it twisted. My next race is going to be a lung-bursting PB attack, but it’s this recent change of approach that’s re-energised my desire – and something I plan on doing more regularly. Thank you Hackney Half.
I suppose what I’m trying to say with this marathon of a parable is that if you get fed-up or stuck, take a step back – especially if it’s something you love doing, because you don’t want to lose the love forever.
Writers’ block giving you panic attacks? Read something, watch a film, go out and socialise with people (I find the stranger they are the better). The blank page giving you an art directors’ meltdown? Go to an exhibition, or even play Playstation – you never know, stealing a few cars, shooting some gangsters or getting Ipswich promoted to the Premier League might unlock something magical in your mind. Just take a step back, refuel the passion and attack the problem later with a clearer mind and more conviction.
And, well, if all this fails you can always go for a run.
(Copywriter and one very well cooked runner)