On my 12k run at the weekend, I was running without any music, as my phone battery was low. Combined with the grey stillness of the day, I found my focus very much turned inward and the thoughts flowed, especially after a small voice casually suggested that “You can stop now.”, just as I tackled the steepest section of Posbury Hill
Now, the gremlins have precious little foothold in my brain these days and were dismissed without a slackening of pace or second thought, until I questioned, where do these voices come from.
I have written on here before about the need to run, which I believe we are born with healthunlocked.com/couchto5... but have never really thought about how we limit ourselves by listening to our inner voices. It is understandable, when doing something that your body is not used to, that you may question the sense of continuing. It is probably just an evolved self preservation ploy to stop you harming yourself by overdoing it. Whether this is innate or developed from our experience and socialisation was my main line of pondering.
Three years ago I could never have contemplated, nor tolerated, the degree of effort that I now routinely subject my body to while running. The voices would have screamed stop. Now they are tamed, to a degree, and this was, in part, accomplished by reading this very forum and realising that these negative thoughts are commonplace and can be banished by sheer will power.
These limitations, that we impose on ourselves, are not just our bodies protecting themselves, but there is definitely an element of conditioning from our upbringing. We have, by and large, become a more sedentary species and the demands that we regularly impose on ourselves and the efforts that we witness other mere mortals achieving, have become less and less. Therefore, we are conditioned to expect our bodies to be capable of achieving less and less. Of course, our bodies are capable of carrying out physical tasks way in excess of what most of us think we are capable of, so long as we train them carefully and that is psychologically easier if we can see other ordinary folk, just like ourselves, doing amazing feats of effort and endurance.
If you come from a family or society that does not exercise, then that is the norm and you might, quite naturally, neither expect nor aspire to do otherwise. We are fortunate to be part of this, very specific, community, which revels and rejoices in our new found ability to run. But we are also part of the larger national and international community and as more and more of us become runners, we are slowly changing the norms for that society. The exponential growth of membership of this forum (5,500 two years ago and approaching 20,000 now) is indicative of the increasing numbers of runners worldwide.
We all know of the personal physical and mental health benefits to be gained from running, but we are also changing the societal norms and expectations, which may in time make it more likely that others will join us. So we are having a positive influence on society at large as well as getting our running fix. One day a critical mass will be reached, where it will seem to be absolutely normal to run, rather than that slightly odd activity carried out by a minority of strange lycra clad individuals. Keep on running.
I was focused inwards again this morning, on my head torch lit run across the fields and was taught the lesson that it is important to keep your head up while running, even in the dark. As my eyes followed the beam from my head torch on the ground, three metres ahead of me, I was suddenly aware of a pair of wide set eyes reflecting back at me. Then through the very black morning gloom I made out the very black outline of a very black cow standing across the path, taking avoiding action only at the last possible moment. It was almost a case of me meeting a critical mass of my own. So, heads up in the future, fellow runners.
Keep running, keep smiling.