I don’t run to build muscle or burn fat. I know enough about exercise to know that running doesn’t really achieve either of these two things. I don’t run to compensate for my poor food choices of the day before, although I have done this in the past. I run because it makes me feel alive. To me, running feels like the most natural, primal movement the body can make. And bodies are designed to move, not to sit at a desk looking at a computer screen.
I don’t meditate, but running is as close as I get to a meditative state. All I need to worry about is breathing and placing one foot in front of the other on the track in front of me. Sometimes, if I have the energy, I’ll open up into a full sprint when I’m nearly at the end of my run. I’m going so fast my feet feel like they’re barely touching the ground; I may as well be flying! This makes me feel invincible.
I always run alone. This is my opportunity to get away from everyone and everything. This is when all my best thoughts come to me. Or sometimes there aren’t any thoughts at all. Sometimes I have conversations in my head, conversations that will one day be had with the person they’re intended for. They’re draft conversations. Sometimes I get so animated that I catch myself gesticulating with my hands while my lips are moving as if in speech. I must look rather odd.
When I run I strike with the ball of my foot first, not my heel. I learnt this from reading the book ‘Born To Run’ by Christopher McDougall. It’s an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in running. Before this book taught me how to run properly I used to strike with my heel first, and it made my hamstrings tight and my joints sore. If I revert back to my old style of running, just to remind myself of how poor my form used to be, it feels heavy and jarring and cumbersome – no wonder it made my body hurt.
I like to run in nature, not on a treadmill. The last time I ran on a treadmill was at a gym in Auckland, about a year ago. I was struck by the realisation that I was running forwards, looking at a brick wall in front of me, but going nowhere. Plus I’d paid $25 to do it – is that crazy or what? When I’m living in Marahau, as I currently am, I run in the Abel Tasman National Park. My standard 5 km run takes me to Tinline, around a loop track, and back out again. I’ve done this run so many times I could probably do it with my eyes closed.
While I was living in Brightwater earlier this year I started experimenting with some longer runs; around 12 km, and was pleasantly surprised by how do-able they were. Over summer I’m planning to do some longer runs in the Park. I’ll decide how many kilometres I want to run, catch a ride into the Park with a water taxi, then it’ll be up to my trusty legs to get me back out again. I can’t wait!