My wife asked me recently why I run and couldn't think immediately of a logical reason. It's sometimes painful and quite often an intrusion into my evenings and weekends.
However upon more thought I realised it keeps me in a steady flux of sanity. I have suffered with anxiety and depression for several years. Like many it comes and goes to the outside world I appear to be fine. But it my quiet times I can get quite low. Contemplating things in my life that I cannot control, or decisions I made in my youth that I cannot possibly change now.
There isn't one particular reason for it. Sometimes I over worry about my wife's health as it has not been good in recent years; other times work bothers me; however usually it's nothing at all.
I take a pill every day to cope with life throwing its challenges at me. I have counselling and can often break down in tears over nothing. Many men do. Not many talk about it. I didn't for a long time. I didn't even realise I was ill.
I only starting running when I was 38. Never before had I been sporty. I wasn't a member of a football team or enjoyed the Rugby. I barely even watch sport unless perhaps Andy Murray is on the TV.
One day I turned to my wife and suddenly declared I was going for a run. I am not even sure where that came from. It was a knee-jerk reaction to my body wanting to move.
Like many, I have a desk job and mainly sit for nine hours a day and I was getting fidgety. I owned a pair of trainers that happened to be runners, so I though why not; it's free.
I had absolutely no idea how unfit I was. I naturally assumed, quite wrongly, that I could jog around the neighbourhood perfectly fine. Nope. Within one minute, I was out of breath and not fit for purpose as an upright human let alone a marathon runner!
However I continued. I started with a run walk technique and eventually built up to a 10K and I felt good. Although this 'free' exercise became nothing of the sort. Trainers, shorts, tops, blister plasters and knee supports all add up. Not to mention the energy drinks and gels.
The 37th London Marathon is almost upon us. On April 23rd, thousands of participants will carry their sweaty, achy bodies around the capital. This endeavor will last for anywhere up to six hours for the average Joe.
As an average soul, I will be aiming to hit the 4-hour (ish) mark. Something to my non-running friends that seems either really quite plausible or highly unbelievable depending on their own fitness levels. Of course, some do not even realise how long a mile is, let alone 26.2 of them!
This will be my third marathon. After completing London in 2015 and Edinburgh a year later, I feel quite confident that this will be my last attempt. It needs to be before my knees shatter and my toes finally fall off. As a distance runner, injury is unfortunately an occupational hazard and my toenails haven't been all present and correct in years!
So when I take a considered look at why I run I realise that the physical pain I suffer is completely outweighed by the mental peace I encounter. It may not always seem that way at mile 12 or something, but it is.
Prior to running, I had heard about the 'running high'. Thankfully, it is a very real thing. Perhaps not always during the run, but afterwards a sense of accomplishment and self-pride exudes from within. It's not a feeling I ever got when I went to the gym as a 20 something, but I am extremely grateful for it now.
My head can become filled with life's clutter so much that I can't see what I really have in front of me. The 'high' quite often lifts the cloud the rest of my day is a lot more enjoyable.
I pass all kinds of life on my runs; from the kids shouting run faster, to the middle aged man having a smoke looking at me like I'm the idiot and of course the other runners. The 'nod of appreciation' to say I know how you feel, just keep going is always a welcoming sign.
Running is my alternative medicine.