I started running on the 24th of March. It was slow, painful and frustrating; I couldn’t make my legs and lungs work in the way I needed them to.
Each day I headed over to the dusty backfields and I pushed myself to run just a little bit further. With one foot in front of the other I imagined myself running away from all of the painful memories that were punching holes inside my head. Back then there was no specific goal, I just wanted to quiet my noisy mind. If I was running, there was no room for panic or fear. My attention was on my breathing. The way my feet hit the ground. The wind in my hair. The burning in my lungs. Or the awkward way my arms seemed to flail at my sides.
When I was running, I was moving forward, no longer stuck in one place and one time; it hurt but it felt good too.
I ran in the wind and rain and on days that it felt almost too hot and humid to breathe. I ran at the break of dawn, when the sun began to set and in the dark. Down the same beaten track over the backfields and around the streets where I grew up. Past shops with their shutters down, and back up again when they reopened.
I saw birds of prey circling the skies. Shy foxes darting back in to hedges. The soft white cotton-tail of a rabbit as it leapt off the path. Stag beetles in June. Wildflowers in July.
Every time I spotted an animal, insect or flower, the panic and sadness I felt was chipped away at, to make space for something else – a renewed feeling of hope, ignited by the memory of how I used to feel and express joy, before all the sadness that had come to take it away.
I found fleeting glances of myself in the wildflowers – blooming where they were planted, beautiful and unique in their non-uniform way. Pushed ruthlessly by the wind but rooted stubbornly in the ground.
After 73 miles I come to realise that I was no longer just running away from myself or from the things that were hurting me. I was running because in those hours I felt free, happy and like myself again.
I’m still slow. It’s still painful. Sometimes I still don’t know what to do with my arms- but I keep moving forward.