There are times when running is not about speed, distance, time, pace, intervals or even calories.
There are times when running is not about calves, quads or glutes.
There are times when running is only about one thing: being alive.
That's when you exercise the most important running muscle of all - when you run from from the heart.
The middle years of life are not what I'd expected. I'm much busier and I have more responsibilities than I'd expected, but that's fine, who wants to lie in til lunchtime anyway! What makes the middle years a weird experience is that you're youthful and old at exactly the same time, equidistant between the cradle and the grave and both can seem equally clear at times. In the middle years, you're acutely aware that life is brief and precious and to be made the very most of. I understand the urge behind those mid life crises - do it now before you get too old!
Never have I felt this as much as I have this week. It's been a week of hospitals, surgeries and the vets as various two legged and four legged family members fell over (me and Mum); got scanned and screened (me) and helped through their final days (my pussycat Kyle).
We're all still here and in one piece, at least for now, but it's been hard going facing certain and uncertain doom. As well as the love of a truly good man, family and friends, the one big thing that's kept me going has been my running.
I've run almost every morning this week; early, before the day gets going and people start coming to the beach. I've been waking very early and as the worry-worms began to invade my sleep-addled head something instinctive kicked in and I knew in my very core that I had to run. And not just any run, anywhere, I had to run on the beach. Nothing else would work, nothing else would get through the day.
Most days, the mornings have seen a thick white mist, barely able to see my feet never mind what lay ahead. Ghostly, mysterious, still mists that hang round the ragged rocks. Spiders' webs heavy with misty droplets, marine grass beaded with diamonds. Not thinking, just running; driven by instinct and the knowledge we hold deep in our bodies that knows what we need to do to get through.
Every morning as I ran, I began to feel strong, healthy, connected to the earth. My strong legs carried me firmly and confidently over the rocks, tip toeing between stranded jellyfish, splashing in the salty puddles of the departing tide, full of life. My arms powered like pistons, pivoted from the elbows. My head lifted, my body straightened, my brain switched to 'I can'. As I run, I am strong. I am me. I can do this. I smile at the passing heron and the startled curlews.
I trot back up to the house feeling normal, with a clear head and a light heart. I knew that whatever the day throws at me now and whatever comes next, I will be fine because I am strong, I am a runner and runners keep on 'til the end one way or another.
On Friday morning when the worst was over, I ran in celebration. The rain poured, the wind pushed and shoved and tried to send me home. But I ran. I took off the trainers and ran barefoot on the beach until I was drenched and my calves began to protest. It was blissful to be alive and healthy.
I forget about the science, the physical and biological things I usually focus on when I'm running. Maybe I ran out of an ancient human instinct to run from what we're frightened of, I was definitely scared and if I could have run away I would have. Instead I ran the demons out of my head and came home strong, powerful and ready to face whatever came my way.
Today Ali and I went for a long walk together from North Berwick to Gullane. The beach was very different today; sunny, warm, busy with children and dogs. We felt alive, youthful and happy, glad we made it through in one piece, glad we have each other. As I type, dear old Kyle is curled up on the floor at my feet. His running days are over, he can barely walk a few steps now, but he has a warm soft bed, tuna on tap and lots of love.
I did about 10 miles running this week; one a barefoot 3 mile session. My long run was a 6 mile walk to Gullane. I went barefoot almost all the way and I practiced my Chi Walking. I'm going to have a think about what running I want to do next week, but I won't plan too much as things still feel fluid. For now, my feet will follow my heart ands all will be well.
Have a good week, whatever comes your way I wish you health and happiness.