the fear of returning to old talents
how my avoidance of running was more than laziness
Over the weekend, I went for a run.
These are eight words I never thought I would ever say. The idea of running was always quietly appealing to me but soon my mind would conjure images of me being totally out of breath, feeling silly, being in pain and people giving me weird looks on the street as I ran past them looking like I obviously don’t do this regularly. It’s easier than working out, no overexertion there.
If I wanted to stop running, I could just stop and walk instead, embarrassment in front of pedestrians and drivers in their cars aside. But stopping in the middle of a set of crunches? Now that’s just weak. And painful. Very painful. Running on the other hand is just one continuous singular motion. And with it comes a ton of benefits, heart health, weight loss, fitness etc. But there was something always stopping me and I don’t think it was just fitness-related.
I used to be really good at running in secondary school. I held the 100m sprint in the palm of my hand, easily surpassing the rest of my class and qualifying for sports day every single year. I was even cocky enough to slow down towards the end of the 200m sprint and give another girl a chance during the sports day tryouts (who did I think I was?!) because I already had the 100m and the relay in the bag. Charity work if you will.
I was a runner, a sprinter, it was my thing. Then there were no more sports days as I got older, I was too anxious to join any sports club at university and my talents were slowly forgotten—and in its place was an unknowing fear just starting to sprout.
I thought I would just live with the memories of being a decent runner forever and eventually sell the treadmill collecting dust under my couch. Until last Saturday.
I went to my first ever parkrun. parkrun is a free community event where you run 5k with locations in different parks across the country and the world. Even though I felt a little sick at times and had to stop and walk, I absolutely loved it. The atmosphere was so friendly and the volunteers were some of the kindest people I’ve ever met, or rather jogged and aggressively panted past.
I’m not about to tell you that all my running potential came rushing back to me and I dominated everyone there. I did however run continuously overall for nearly half an hour, and I’m still having trouble picking my jaw off the floor about it.
I went with an old school friend who has been telling me (apparently for around 10 years which is horrendous we’re all dying) that I need to start running and that it’s so fun and I’d love it but I continuously brushed him off, that is never going to happen mate. But there I was, in the car driving to a park in Ilford about to run 5k on a Saturday morning after having last attempted jogging circa 2017.
I will add, however, that I started working out around May of last year which definitely had an impact on my ability to run for such a long period of time. Despite this, I was still convinced that I would run for about two minutes and start feeling so out of breath to the point of collapse that I’d have to stop.
This is one of the main reasons I was so nervous the morning of. I knew my friend would be running at a slower pace to accommodate me but I dreaded the thought of him thinking inviting me was a hindrance rather than a good time. This girl can’t even run for five minutes straight, jesus.
I think the main thing I’m getting at here is how fear can really make or break you, mentally and physically. To me, the idea of once being good at something and returning to it after a while and not being good at it might send me into a depression I may never come out of. It means I’ve let myself go, I’ve failed to the highest degree, everything I’ve been doing since then has been a complete waste of time because I was already really good at something and stupidly let it go. And I know this is all silly, but just knowing is never enough.
The fear I had the morning of parkrun was so intense but what was I truly afraid of? Here’s a couple of possibilities:
I had been working out (on and off you know how it is) for around seven months and if I couldn’t do a decent job today then all that work was for nothing
I didn’t want my friend to think I was an embarrassment
I might have finished the run and absolutely hated it which would have hurt something deep inside of me
All this for a little run where people bring their prams and just walk and chat with their friends and are much, much older than me and I’m pretty sure I saw one wearing jeans and just come along because it’s fun and to support friends. It’s not the bloody Olympics. But no matter how much I wanted to calm myself down, it wasn’t going to happen unless I messaged my friend to say I wasn’t coming or run the 5k. Walk the tightrope or untie it and walk away.
I’m still not completely sure I understood all my results and all the percentages and gender stats but all in all, for a first time running 5k, I did surprisingly well. I wasn’t as exhausted as I thought I would be when I finished and I felt really, really good after. Not quite runners high (jury is still out on that one) but so happy with myself for completing a 5k run. And I’m going again this Saturday.
I feel like this has opened a new chapter for me. A return to something I once really loved and more or less completely forgot about. I walked the tightrope and found a pleasant surprise at the end of it.
We have many tightropes in our paths. I’m not saying go ahead and run across them all. If I had done this run at any other time, I don’t think I would have had this great of a result. But if there is one tightrope you’ve been thinking about walking across, perhaps now is the time to see just how high up that rope really is.
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