Tag Archives: Why I run

Why I run

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With just a few other pleasures, running is part of my nature. It is something which I could barely exist without. I run to feel the air cool and my body warm. I run because I want to and because I can. Running has repeatedly surprised me, it has shaken me out of the torpor of daily living. It has strengthened my body and prepared me for days which might otherwise have been stressful or long. At times when I have had to devote every mental effort to a task, running has kept me well.

I have run for the indulgence of physical companionship and I have run to be alone. I have run for the challenge of testing myself, whether against arbitrary goals (such as the time on a stopwatch) or against flesh and blood rivals. I have run selfishly and aggressively at time, I admit, and I have run collectively as part of a team. Running has given me a measure against which to judge myself and others. It has even taught me something of what it means to live well.

I run to live, and when I have run fast my body has been lifted in joy.

[from my book Lives; Running: now available to order from Bookmarks or Amazon]

Why I run

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I run because it is my personality, a trait so deep in me that if I leave it unexpressed, I feel a sense of frustration in everything I do. I see in my life the same traits that I exhibited as a middle-distance runner: a capacity different in its way from the short burst of the sprinter or the stamina of the long-distance runner.

My job requires me to assimilate quickly the life stories of my clients, fields of professional expertise, and even sometimes whole fresh disciplines of the law. I soak these up, absorb them, fire everything into the job immediately to hand. The case learned, and the advocacy performed, the task ends. I want nothing more to do with the case ever again. I have joined my profession late, in contrast to those who began in their early 20s, I will leave it without becoming a Judge or a QC. In a case, in my career, I lack the stamina of a long-distance runner, who can perform the same task in infinite repetitions. Unlike them I rejoice when I stop.

With the same joy in creation and the same aversion to the necessary task of correction, I write.

[from my book Lives; Running: now available to order from Bookmarks or Amazon]

Why I run

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I run to see the same city differently. Leaving my house one October morning before breakfast, I find the pavement on which I run deserted. A squirrel, hearing me approach, looks astonished to find her London occupied by any other being. She stares in growing anxiety as I approach. Only when I am almost at her feet does she finally turn and bound away, to the grass, the safety of a tree. In the street, the cars are still. As I approach the park in which I mainly run, I see no people. The grass is damp and the morning cool. I breathe it deep into my lungs. I seem to be able to see further into the distance than the London work-day air usually allows.

The day itself is a work of autumn beauty. I see a tree, its leaves hanging down in showers of copper. Above me, the clouds are low, cut into clumps of cotton. It is a rare privilege to have all this to enjoy, selfishly, alone. My body relaxes into the morning. My stride tentatively lengthens, I work my arms alongside my legs.

I return home to my partner and our boys, I am renewed.

[from my book Lives; Running: the book is now available to order from Bookmarks and the e-book from Amazon]

Why I run

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I run because life is short and there are no moral imperatives save only these: to the weak you owe solidarity, to yourself you owe change. My father in his youth raged against the “bowler hat”, by which he meant the prospect of a life predictable from day to day, a life structured always around the same few relationships, a life overwhelmed by the routine of work. He saw that possibility and he rebelled equivocally against it. I share with him that restlessness. A life of movement, he grasped, and I agree with him, is a life fulfilled. A sedentary life is a life voluntarily diminished.

Running has taken me to places that I would not otherwise have seen, it has made the familiar wholly exciting and new. It has taught me a discipline in myself that was all the more powerful because it was embedded in my chest, arms and legs. It has taken me away from the person that I might otherwise have been.

I will be old; I do not doubt that I will be alone. And in that moment, when I look back at my life, I demand the right to reminisce fondly and regret nothing.

[from my book Lives; Running]

Why I run

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When I run I escape the commodification of life. I dislike the way our social existence is organised, so that merely to live requires you to constantly purchase and consume. Anyone who has had to wait for a few hours in an unfamiliar town will know the frustration of shuffling from one café to another, all the time purchasing little more than a roof over your head for a few minutes at a time.

Sport is a particular culprit. To join a gym, you have to pay a subscription. To watch football, regularly, you should really have a season ticket with your favourite team, or a subscription to satellite television (either will set you back several hundred pounds), or at the barest minimum a much-favoured local and a team playing regularly enough in the right competitions (but few do). Bit by bit, free sport is being removed from television and radio. I am fed up with sports that I watch as a spectator but in which I am not allowed to participate.

To run, all you need is a pair of running shoes (and it is years since I last bought a new pair). The activity itself comes satisfyingly free.

[from my book Lives; Running]

Why I run

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When I run, I feel my legs unstiffen and stretch. I run to luxuriate in the co-ordination of my legs and chest. Like a person meditating, I run to let my head empty of all pressing thoughts. I run for the sudden, temporary exhilaration as I let my knees pick up and my body moves faster, to its goal.

When I was a schoolboy and I ran, I felt that my body was free with the effortlessness of a perpetual-motion machine. Had someone asked me to run from one end of the country to the other, or had I been asked to run an ultra-marathon through a vast, empty desert, neither task would not have seemed, I would have only wondered how long it would take me. I knew with absolute certainty that I could run any conceivable distance simply by allowing my pace to slacken and my body to keep going.

Even today, reminded as I am when I run of the weakness in my joints and tendons, the exercise makes my whole body buzz in joy. The effort of work lightens, my skin feels loose. I am taken back to other times and I become young once more.

[from my book Lives; Running]

[Lives; Running can be ordered from Bookmarks bookshop]