epiphany- from the Greek epiphainein meaning 'reveal'
I have had something of a running epiphany. Not a sudden revelation that has sent me reeling, more a quiet lifting of a curtain.
Here are some clumsy attempts to explain what has happened:
Last week's run at Stowe was the start of it perhaps. Or it might have been a trail run with a friend back on 21st June. Today's little 11 mile jaunt here and there made things clearer still. All the runs just mentioned were trail or multi terrain; none were done with speed in mind and although Stowe was a race I wasn't racing it and distance wasn't the focus of the other two runs either. They were all just because it was good to run. Bits were slow, bits were fast; today I got lost briefly and had to walk some because the vegetation was so thick and tall in places. And both mind and body have loved every moment.
Everything about how I've run those 3 times has felt just right. Sure, I got tired and a bit achey, especially today as I'd done 10 miles yesterday afternoon, but with a change of terrain- woods to field, tree roots to sand, stones to packed mud- my energy levels and mental state would revive and it was easy to keep going. It was also easy to run the miles. Perhaps because I wasn't counting them- just going from one path to another, wondering what I would find over the next field. I know for sure that if I'd set out to do 11 miles on the road today it would have been a struggle and I'd have come home feeling wiped out.
So it's time to listen up to what these experiences are telling me.
I guess for a while yet I'll still have moments of being a bit of a speed merchant on the tarmac, but I can't say I ever truly enjoy that. It can be cathartic and I quite like it sometimes but it's no match for the feeling of peace I get on the trails. On the redways I get frustrated if I don't achieve a certain mileage, keep up consistent splits or achieve a certain pace, and I get cross when there are obstacles to slow me down (people, bikes, dogs, whatever). On the trails if there's a tree in the way it's fun to duck around or under it, to jump over tree stumps, splash through puddles. It's fun getting scratched by gorse and ripened wheat; it's even fun negotiating shoulder high nettles. I don't mind stumbling on hidden dips and cracks in the ground and I don't mind wading through mud or head-high grasses. I don't count the miles because it's an adventure- discovering new paths, seeing unexpected things. I love the feel of the ground through my trail shoes- it makes my running more responsive instead of pounding along the redways in comfy road shoes.
Trails are in some ways kinder. If you pay attention to and accept rather than fight against where you're running, you just have to go with whatever the land gives you. It puts me in my place- just a small thing running through a world that is full of beauty and surprises. For me running off-road ticks all the boxes.
It's meditation and soul food for a terrible fidget who is never quite happy unless on the move.