Thursday, 16 November 2017

Why I won't run around a track...

Hi. My name is Heidi and I run up and down mountains and along trails for fun. At least I did until I got sidelined with an injury. These things happen. Recovery is important. Acceptance is important. I'm taking each day at a time. And no - I won't run around a track...


Some of you may feel a bit lost already about the way this blog post is going, but I urge you to hang in there. I'll try to help you understand. 

To others, you may just know where I'm coming from and what I'm talking about. Maybe like myself - you're an athlete who's been put in this position. Or just maybe, you're part of the reason why... If you know, you know.

I used to dislike running. 

Okay; I didn't hate running. The movement. Putting one front in front of the other, over and over. I loved that. I still do. The excitement of lacing up your trainers, wondering where your feet will take you today. The anticipation. And then suddenly you're out there. Floating on silent strides. Nothing else matters. You're free, you're alive. You're running and there's no greater gift. No greater feeling. I fall in love with this feeling every time. I could never hate it. 

What I came to dislike was what running became to me.  

The pressure. The over-thinking. The stress. The comparison.

This was years ago. Understand I don't feel this way now; I see it all differently.

So you loved running but you also hated it? 

Yeah that's right. Let me explain. It may be strange but let's use shopping as an example. Trust me, just go with it. 

So you go to a shop and you see this really striking piece of clothing; let's say a shirt. You just fall in love with it straight away. You know you want to buy it before you've even tried it on. Your heart is dead set on it. Only then, imagine your disappointment when you try it on and you realise the shirt is all wrong. It doesn't sit on you properly. It's not like how you imagined it to be at all. But it caught your eye so much in the beginning so you buy it anyway; hoping it'll get better with time. After all maybe it just didn't go with the shoes you had on when you tried it.

Running used to be like this for me. Being able to run and the freedom it gave me was this perfect shirt hanging up in the shop; completely and totally right for me. But then running races and competing became just like trying this shirt on and knowing deep down somehow it was all wrong. It was fine if it was on display, hanging on the hanger. Yes that was brilliant, but once I wore it; the perfect illusion was shattered and I just knew something was out of place. Only this wasn't due to the shoes I was wearing. It was my inner self knowing I wasn't totally comfortable with what I was doing. I knew deep down the shirt I was wearing wasn't me. 

Let's rewind to say 2011, 2012. Yes many years ago. I remember finishing races and actually crying afterwards. I loved running, but why couldn't I translate this into enjoyable racing? Something I'm only just learning why now. 


Racing became something I actually feared. I dreaded the pressure and the feel of everyone wanting to be better than everyone else. The way that I thought if I hadn't run a personal best or won the race; then I'd failed myself. What happened to the freedom running gave me? The feeling of being alive? Through racing too much, against the same girls week in week out, around too similar cross country courses or around the track; I lost my freedom. Running became a chore. Something I was expected to do, rather than something I did because I loved it. The perfect shirt hanging up in the shop was becoming more and more imperfect and ill-fitting each race I ran.

It wasn't enjoyable anymore. I hated the monotony. The egos, the too loud speakers, the too loud screaming pushy parents, the too loud chatter of other kids judging each other on times.

I needed a change. I craved peace. I wanted my freedom and my love for running back. The mountains are where I found it. Mountain running brought me home. 


To the people of the mountain running family, I am sure I don't need to explain myself. Mountain running is a sport not so dissimilar to the perfect shirt that first caught your eye in the shop. Only this time, this perfection isn't an illusion and it fits me perfectly. I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be. There are no feelings of discomfort, no seeds of doubt or worry - only wholeness, happiness. 

Mountain running gives me the feelings that running alone with just my breath and patter of feet beneath me gave me in the beginning. It's brought me back to my roots. The feeling of freedom. 

You may argue, how is mountain running different - you still compete, you still race?

Yes we do but I feel the major differences. The environment and atmosphere within the sport is wholly different because you come to understand the race isn't so much against other competitors but against the mountain you are climbing. It's you against you. You against your own boundaries and edges. Not you against some other person who thinks they're better than anyone else. We all wear the same shirt. We're all equals.


It is because of this, that I have found there are greater levels of respect in this sport.

Friendships, smiles and laughter. No more tears; only tears of happiness. We feel the connection with the planet and with the mountains. Through this connection comes a greater understanding of your competitors and why we do this sport. 

Every run, every race becomes an adventure. Something you look forward to rather than dread. 



So why do I run up mountains? I know I'm being true to myself and my own happiness. It's who I am. Thank you mountains for everything you've given me; the adventures, friendships, growth and dreams. 

So... why would I walk into a shop and buy a perfect looking shirt only to find it doesn't fit me properly? The shirt on the other side, or just behind may have taken me a while to find but it's worth waiting for. This is absolutely the shirt I should wear. This shirt is me.      

Who knows maybe one day the other uncomfortable shirt may fit me a little bit better than before. I'll certainly try it on. But I'll be doing that for me; my own journey and understanding. I'll give it another shot; but in my own time, on my own terms. 

Why I won't run around a track... I'll run around a track when I'm ready to and when I want to. I'm in charge of my own happiness and my own dreams this way. The man-made track doesn't know me as a person, only as a runner and that is where the fault lies. Athletes are first and foremost people; we're not just part of a medal tally, a number or a time on a result sheet...

So now, if you'll excuse me; I've got a mountain to climb. (yes, okay maybe I should wait until I'm off crutches first but I can hear them calling me...)

As ever, thank you so much to those who continue to support and believe in me. It truly means the world. 

I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise you it won't be boring. 

Bye for now,
Heidi x       
 
Picture courtesy of inov-8