Changing My Mind

Yesterday I ran 18 miles without at any point believing I couldn’t do it, wanting to die, screaming at myself in my head for being so utterly fat, unfit, useless and stupid, hitting my legs in a bid to go faster, denying myself food and water as some sort of punishment for not running well enough.

This, my friends, is noteworthy, because all of that was normal to me every time I ran. Absolutely every time.

I kept running for all those years. Of course I did; I’m bloody-minded like that. But it always involved that constant self-inflected brutality, which is to say it wasn’t very nice.

I thought that was the only way running could be, and I couldn’t understand how other people could run so well with that going on; it didn’t occur to me that their minds were different. Continue reading “Changing My Mind”

On being sporty. I’m not, if you were wondering.

We started lined up against the wall, firing squad-style. Usually I watched my feet; then I gazed into the middle distance. I pretended to be interested in what was coming past in the road. (Once there was a lorry that burst a tyre on the bend.) There was always, you see, an element of hope; a hope that maybe this time it would be different. So I waited, while pretending not to care. But it always was the same and always shame rose in its familiar flood. It didn’t even take that long.

Do kids still pick their sports teams like that? Do the captains still take turns at choosing, still make no attempt to hide their disgust at being forced to take a share of the dregs? Is that still how it works?

Continue reading “On being sporty. I’m not, if you were wondering.”

Up and running

The first time I ran I was 19 and a friend who seemed to have it together had told me this was what she did at seven every morning. We were undergraduates, so this was pretty weird; but in my perennial bid to clear my depression and improve my life, I set my alarm, and was out there next day in the dawn light. (Running later in the day didn’t occur to me.) I made it 200 yards down the road, could go no further, walked the rest of my planned route round the University Parks, and knew running was something I just couldn’t do.

The second time was four years later. My boyfriend had promised to teach me to ski, but only if I could guarantee to keep going when physically it got tough. Three of us went out along the river to practise this. Adam ran backwards ahead of me. I gasped and thudded along in the middle. Matthew came behind with a constant stream of encouragement. Continue reading “Up and running”