On the road again.
There’s something quite invigorating about running outside very early in the morning — especially this time of year. It’s pitch black. Hours before the city stirs awake. The roads are lit by streetlamp. The biting cold is brisk, yet refreshing on the lungs. The air is filled with a sense of peace that the daylight promises, but never seems to bring with it.
It's a time often synonymous with bakers, delivery drivers, and night shift workers clocking off, but as of the past few weeks — and after years of not running — I find myself out there again: the early-morning jogger.
I dash along with a puff, a pant, and a patter; thrash metal surges me forwards with every lengthy stride. My red clip-on bike light illuminates me like a man ablaze as I follow the shadowy pathways, beneath a starlit Cardiff Bay.
By the time I get back to my door and fumble for the keys, I feel recharged. Awash with a sense of clarity that wasn't there before. I'm ready to start my day.
Come what may.
The road behind me.
Around this time seven years ago, running was my lifeblood. It was the only thing holding me together at the time, as the ominous "black dog" had chosen to darken my doorway. And it showed no sign of leaving.
Every morning before uni started, I'd get up and out of bed while it was still dark, jump into my training gear, and head out to run around a nearby lake.
It was a ritual.
Come rain or shine. Hail or snow. I'd be there; figuring things out, putting the time in, and planning my next move.
Usually one lap, sometimes two. Maybe even three. One mile, two miles, three miles...twelve. It all depended on how I felt. There was never a set distance. No complex route. I wasn't trying to beat an arbitrary time, nor was I training for any sort of challenge or race. It was all for me.
I simply ran until I felt ready to face the world.
The road ahead.
The other Sunday, I was sat at my desk trying to write, but my creative cogs weren't turning; my brain like a stagnant swamp.
It was one of those days; the drizzly, dreary ones that get lost in time. Where nothing of note ever seems to ever happen — except that day, for some unexplainable reason, it did.
I just felt like running.
Me: Maybe, I'll go for a run?
Brain: Yeah. Or, you could just...not?
Me: No, I think it'll be good. I''m going to go for a run.
Brain: Netflix? You hungry? Uh, maybe play the Xbox?
As soon as that first shred of resistance arises, I force myself into autopilot. I don’t allow my brain any further time to rationalise, as I frantically begin digging through my drawer for a suitable pair of shorts.
Brain: Please don't make me do stuff.
When I get out onto the road, I head for the coast. The downpour continues, but this only spurs me on further. Within a couple of miles, the slump that I was in miraculously melts away. The rain stops, and a small ray of sunshine cracks through the clouds.
And just like that, the creative spark is reignited.
Brain: Well, I feel pretty awesome right now.
Me: I told you it'd be worth it, didn't I?
Back at the house, I brew a coffee, shower, and jump back into my chair to write. This time, the ideas flow with ease, as if they were always there, and it was a case of just typing them on out.
Word after word. Page after page.
After a productive session draws to a close, I sit back and feel a sense of personal accomplishment; even though the words might not ever see light of day, in that moment, I'm satisfied with what I've produced.
Soon, a profound realisation strikes me: running wasn't something I did just to maintain a standard of physical fitness. To me, it was more than that; it was a form of therapy; a dose of medication; active meditation, even.
Me: Why the hell did I ever stop?
(The short answer: excuses and laziness. Simple as that.)
The more I thought about it, the more annoyed I became at letting it slide, but was quick to remind myself that no amount of stressing would ever change the past.
So, with that in mind, I made a vow to myself — one with self-care in mind:
For as long as my legs will carry me, I'll keep on running.
Come what may.