Outrunning the black dogs.

I always find this time of year tricky. I actually enjoy winter, but sometimes the thought of the long bleak months looming ahead can be enough to make me nosedive into depression. Last year was bad. Despite a sunny dry autumn, SAD pulled the rug from under me and derailed me for the winter. As the black dogs and I have been crossing paths on and off for a number of years, I have a couple of strategies up my sleeve to help ward them off. The trouble is, if I’m already down in that deep well of doom, I haven’t the energy to put any of them into practice.

So, this year, I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to get uber-healthy and I’m going to run this thing out. I’ve been running (and I use that term loosely) on and off, for 18 years. Due to inconsistency, I’m pretty much permanently a beginner but I’ve stuck at it long enough to get through a couple of marathons if very slowly. I’m back to square one again as I haven’t run since I got ill last year, but I’ve roped in a couple of friends to do a run/walk program after school drop off a few times a week, and I’m planning on running the Cardiff half marathon this time next year. Starting to run is miserable, it just is, but you have to get through that first few months before you hit the gold. There’s nothing like the first time you realise that you’re running but it feels effortless. All you’re aware of is the landscape you’re running through, birds singing, the train of your thoughts. It doesn’t get much more life-affirming than that, whatever the weather.

To get to that point takes effort and commitment so good motivational reading matter helps. I do have some running manuals that I delve into, but they tend to be pretty tedious and predictable. The books I love and always return to are these. ‘The Runner’s Literary Companion’ (ed. Garth Battista) and Haruki Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’.

murakami 'what I talk about when I talk about running

There’s something refreshingly unenthusiastic about Murakami’s take on running. He’s not out to twist anyone’s arm into taking up vigorous exercise, he just ruminates about his own experience of running and racing, and even his forays into the burgeoning world of triathlon. In my experience people who run evangelise about how great it is to those who don’t, then moan about their injuries, niggles and flagging motivation to those who do. It can be very love-hate, or at least, love-meh.

The anthology is a great little volume for dipping into It is full of short stories, excerpts and poems about running, that are a great quick fix if enthusiasm is flagging, or for when you’re buzzing about running and want to read something about your passion. Of course, both are open to abuse – reading about running makes you feel like you’re doing something sport-related while you might actually be sitting in your jim-jams eating crisps!

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