Tuesday, 25 September 2012

“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” - Plato

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Steve Jobs

You are an explorer. Your mission is to document and observe the world around you as if you’ve never seen it before. Take notes. Collect things you find on your travels. Document your findings. Notice patterns. Copy. Trace. Focus on one thing at a time. Record what you are drawn to.

Ponderings and observations on today’s run.


On today’s run I noticed (well, I always notice it lately) the precariously hanging branch that is suspended right above my head whenever I run past a particular patch of trees. It has been pretty stormy/ rainy/ windy here over the last few days and every time I run past I am surprised that it is still just hanging there, biding its time. It is quite a big branch. I do hope it continues to hang around and doesn’t fall down whilst I am actually running underneath of it. This is actually quite a big fear of mine. Not with regards to this particular branch (it isn’t that evil), just any precarious shrubbery. Being hit by falling branches, wacked in the face by leaves and branch, falling acorns, large tufts of grass upon the moors and narrow pathways lined with stinging nettles are all very valid obstacles of the plant variety that runners face. 

On my run today I explored. A little. I dodged a lot of snails. This is odd because during a run last week I dodged (funnily enough, my spell check just put that I ‘judged’ the slugs…maybe I am) a lot of slugs and now snails. What determines whether or not there are more snails than slugs out there and vice versa? One thing is that snails are ‘prettier’ than slugs. And there is more crunching if you fail to avoid them. You’re not simply destroying the creature…you’re wrecking a home! It is a much tougher game than ‘Sludge’ (slug dodge). Not only are you stepping on them, but there is both visual impact and sound effects. It is more traumatic all around.  So on today’s run as well as properly philosophising about shrubbery, I also spared some in depth thoughts for snails and slugs and slimy creatures. Runners are thoughtful.

Running up a particular road and a particular long hill on my route I tried my best to keep a steely look of determination upon my face. It is an excellent test of willpower. You can’t stop. It is quite a busy road and your inner voice screams ‘NO, you cannot stop up here, you have to keep on going, they expect you to stop because it’s such a strange hill that seems to drag on…even bus’s and some cars (my little banger) struggle up this hill, you HAVE TO keep running!’ And so you do.  And I notice my arms swinging much more ferociously as I get to the mid-point and my heart is beating much faster than before. I’m pushing out strange breaths and my lips are making an ‘O’ shape…I imagine. But I get to the house at the top and I can’t help but grin. Like some manic crazy mad woman I am stood there in the dark, in the drizzle, alone and grinning. Smiling to myself. And to the hill. In this moment I am pretty satisfied with myself. 

I’ve dragged myself out for the second night on the run to run up the hill I have avoided running up for quite some while and now I’m on a little streak. And it’s a really great feeling. I stop for a moment and turn around and know that I now get the best feeling. I get to leggit down the hill. This type of running is like being a small child and just going with it. I’m not sure with what. But you just go with this feeling you have at that particular moment and you’re free to run full pelt down a hill, in the dark. It’s your own little adventure. You dodge fallen twigs and little stones and there’s no-one else about. Sure I was running in a place surrounded by countryside, but I was far from the most idyllic place in the world. It is a big road. It is countrified, but it is still a road. And yet, it’s a really good run.

I didn’t collect anything I found on my travels. Well, a daddy long legs flew in the house when I got back home. Did I collect him? Maybe he just needs a place to camp out for a while away from the wind and rain. I did think about pulling down the overhanging dodgy branch, but I probably wouldn’t have brought it home. It was massive. I don’t know what it is about branches and trees today. I also made myself laugh whilst simultaneously scaring myself (I jumped) as I skipped over a weird spider-shaped (yes, really) rogue branch/ plant/ thing. I laughed because I realised it was way too big to ever be a spider; unless bird eating spiders have moved to Britain. Also, it was without doubt on second glance, a plant related obstacle. Silly me.

A useful thing I learnt tonight and something that someone has told me before is that I like to run whilst holding onto things in my hands. When I completed the Brathay 10 marathons in 10 days challenge I nearly always held a banana or a bottle of water or a buff in one or both of my hands during my run. I got to thinking: Is it a comfort thing or a practical thing? I actually think it helps me position my arms better and run better. Tonight I had a fleecy buff in one hand, as well as my mp3 player in the same hand; my nose kept running, invisible spider webs kept getting in my eyes and I needed something to wipe both away. Music wise, I have an annoying habit of sticking my mp3 on shuffle and then skipping pretty much all of the tracks that come on, before settling on a truly motivational tune that’ll get me running at my best. Maybe I should change my music, but I kind of like it the way it is. I mix it up. 

Anyway, in my other hand I had my torch. My hands were both clenched and I don’t know, it seems to make my lower arm muscle more taut and angular to the elbow and I just end up swinging my arms ‘better’; more efficiently. Thinking about it even more, I seem to straighten my posture and look ahead more, rather than down (I have really bad posture and slouch a lot…long body) and my running feels smoother. See, the simplest of actions can provide revolutionary thoughts and answers. Well, it was quite insightful to me anyway. 

Today I was drawn to the simple things. It is easy to overlook the simple things. In fact, sometimes all the massive crazy things that happen in the world and in our lives demand that we neglect thoughts surrounding the simple things. Every now and again it is refreshing to think about the simple things; about the snails and the gravely sandy bit on the bridge over the canal; upon which I dramatically fell over once on a run and ended up with very bloody knees.  It is relaxing to let your guard down and just ‘go with it’. It is liberating to look a complete mess and like I have been dragged through a wet hedge backwards and still come out smiling. It is ok to smile to myself out in public along a long dark road. It is fun to dodge puddles. It is fun to splash into puddles. It is amazing to be out in the cold biting air and to see all the nice cosy warm cars driving past and be certain that you would never want to switch places with them at that moment in time (okay, on the Grand Union Canal ultra I did want to snuggle up on a nice warm barge…there was crazy torrential rain & I was wearing a bin bag & I had about 90 miles left to run and they look so cosy).

So there we go. That was today.  I rediscovered the simple things. I also rediscovered my mega padded, furry hooded winter coat. Not for running in. That’d be interesting. But it is snugly. Hey, it’s even okay to write random bloggage that won’t make too much sense to others. Just exploring.

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