Thursday was Valentine's Day and everybody is talking about love. But having always been cynical about the day itself, I'll leave the marveling over heart-shaped gifts and wilting flowers to somebody-else.
One passion - or more accurately love/hate affair - that I am happy to talk about is running. We've had our ups and downs, but it all started with a 5k Race For Life seven years ago and grew from there. Fast forward past a few 10ks, a half marathon and - *beams* - a full marathon (I have the medal and wonky toenails to prove it) and I am still faithful to my running. Other sports have been and gone but this one has stood the test of time. Although partial to the occasional horse ride or gym membership, not to mention a precarious dabble in surfing, running remains my number one sporting priority.
There are some days when it annoys the hell out of me and makes me sick - quite literally on the odd long-run occasion - and times when I even think about hanging up my trainers forever. Every now and then, to reignite the spark, I'll buy myself a new moisture-wicking top, or a high visibility armband (it doesn't take much), but more often I'll just pry myself off the sofa or away from my desk and loathingly tie up my laces. Whatever it takes to get me back out there, within minutes of pounding the pavement again I feel a great sense of relief and achievement. That's the thing about running; there is always a reason to feel good about what you've accomplished. Whether it's completing 26.2 miles before the sweep bus catches up with you, or just getting out of the house for a quick three-miler, it's completely subjective.
Running has also helped me through some tough times. In 2011 I lost my uncle in a tragic and sudden accident. I hadn't experienced anything like it before and a running buddy suggested joining her in a last-minute half marathon to help take my mind off it. At that point I was running a couple of three and four-milers a week, but 18 days later I found myself at the start line of a race that had 13.1 miles stretched out ahead. Probably the only runner spurred on by the melancholic tones of Adele's 'Someone Like You,' I finished in a respectable two hours and one minute (although being so close to a sub-two finish time still bugs me). Amid friendly suggestions to take up yoga or start cooking, I found solace in running as it provided an outlet for my grief.
We are far from a match made in heaven though. Family members tell me to give it up and find something else, worrying that my asthma, heart murmur and flat feet - probably the most unfortunate out of the three - are better suited to something less energetic. But I find it helps. My lung capacity feels like it has increased and my heart palpitations only occur with stress, which is dispelled by running. As for my flat feet, however, they are definitely better suited to swimming and continue to ache like mad, but that's why orthotics were invented.
So, on February 14 I displayed my version of a PDA (public display of affection) by hitting the streets in my purple Asics and pink New Balance top, running along to the sound of Money Can't Buy Me Love, which reminds me of another reason why I enjoy the sport - it's free!