Monday, 23 January 2012

I'm not a runner but.... I ran 5kms around Hyde Park. I know, I'm even more shocked than you are. This has nothing to do with New Years resolutions (of which I made none), really it was just an excuse to get out of the office for an hour and challenge my body to do something new. A girl from my office goes running at lunchtime so she took me along for the ride, despite my many warnings that I would be slower than a snail with a sore foot.

Strangely enough, considering my family and upbringing (my dad is a mountaineer, my uncle is a former squash champion and gym owner, and my grandparents were fitness fanatics who thought a 5 hour walk was "just a stroll") I always came last in the dreaded long-distance running races at school. I've always looked athletic so it was particularly mortifying when even the chubby kids would run past and leave me panting and hobbling behind. Man, I absolutely hated it! So it was with some trepidation that I put on my Reeboks and headed out into the blustery, cold London day for my first run in probably 15 years.

I thought running in London would be horrible with all the pedestrians and traffic, but we are lucky enough to work near(ish) to Hyde Park. We planned on running from our office in Sloane Square through the back streets, into Hyde Park, around the Serpentine and back again. The Serpentine is a long snakelike lake in the middle of Hyde Park which has swans in it, and in the summer there are deckchairs and those little boats with pedals. In winter you can go there and laugh at the tourists who look so cold and miserable as they tick it off their list of things to see (tip: don't visit London in the winter).

Okay, admittedly I only ran about 3/4 of the way. On the way back we half walked/half ran. I was hampered by a stitch, and later blisters. But I found it interesting to observe the way the body repeats this habitual motion. Unlike yoga, which is learnt and to a large extant quite unnatural (for Western bodies at least), running is automatic and instinctive. I played around with placing my attention in different parts of my body - the soles of the feet, the torso or the knee joints and seeing what affect it had on my stride. I guess the ultimate feeling to aim for is weightlessness - to run with a bounce or spring. It's very hard to keep it up! And then there is just the mental attitude, keeping going when you just want to stop. At the beginning of the run, my friend turned to me and said "Your body is capable of this, so do it" and I kept repeating this to myself whenever I wanted to stop (about 35 times a minute!).

I'm back in the office now, and I feel more alert than I normally would at 3pm. Also it was great to break up the monotony of the day - 9 hours in artificial lighting staring at a screen can really get to you. I'm not saying I'll do it again for sure, but I won't rule it out just yet.

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