There’s a line in the Irish writer Donal Ryan’s novel The Thing About December.
Interfered with or left alone, everything eventually turns rotten and dies.
It’s a miserable thought. It’s also profoundly true.
This post is about running.
My relentless self-experimentation since early 2017 has brought me to a stage where not only do I know that running is good for me, I have the numbers to show it. I averaged around 90 kilometres of running a month for about six months last year. My levels of energy and productivity and wellbeing were all high too.
Then winter came, and the wet and the wind and the pervasive dark, and the running stats slipped. Not slipped, but nosedived. I went from 90km per month to around 20.
It’s probably too simplistic to say that this alone caused my mood to darken — I could probably come up with a dozen other variables — but the low run numbers coincided squarely with an extended depressive episode which blighted my mood almost every day from December until March.
With run targets on the horizon and the mornings brighter and the evenings lengthening, I came back to running, passing 90km in March and breaking the 100km barrier in April.
I had started the year with a 24-minute parkrun personal best, and the rhythm of getting out on the road several times a week had taken it under 22 minutes I was on a roll.
But things break down. Interfered with or left alone, everything eventually turns rotten and dies.
First to go were the runners. They had served me well over the past year, but my big toes had been peeping through for a week or two and suddenly a gaping hole appeared. For the bin.
Next were my headphones. Taking breaks from technology are essential for me, but I have come to love the company of my headset, listening to podcasts or music interspersed with voiced updates from my running app every kilometre or two. But the on-off button stopped working one day last week, and that was that.
Then, the hamstring. It came, most frustratingly, not from running but from a tennis social night, stretching to reach a shot I would have been better off letting go.
In the space of a week, my essential equipment, my nice-to-have tech and, worst of all, my body had all broken down.
Listening to personal development teachers, a common recurring epithet has been mentions of Jack Canfield’s equation, E + R = O.
Event + Response = Outcome
I’ve had three negative Events in the space of 10 days or so. My Response so far has been to wait it out. To save for the unbudgeted expense of new shoes, to replace the headset, and to allow the hamstring to heal.
Waiting might be the right response, but it might not. There are other responses available to me, which will replace the body movement of running with the body movement of something else, and might shorten the recovery time. These other responses might not be straightforward. They will require some thought and planning. And they will likely be outside the comfort zone that I — unconsciously but so carefully — construct for myself in every new venture.
Because I know this for sure. Another couple of weeks without body movement and the Outcome, for my mental and physical health, is unlikely to be good.
P.S. Speaking of Responses, and thinking of a maxim that goes “The opposite of a profound truth is also a profound truth“, a good response to the everything turns rotten and dies profound truth is offered by wise old Snoopy.