So here’s the thing. I love to run. Whether I’m any good at it is another thing, but it doesn’t matter. The process of putting one foot in front of another and doing it faster and faster is something I can’t get enough of. It’s amazing.
You even hear stories about those who suffer from depression and say that by challenging themselves to run a few miles almost instantly makes them feel better.
I’ve been running now for just over 15 years and whenever I’ve been anxious or stressed out about something, going for a run always seems to the make whatever is milling about my brain melt away into the ether. I’ve always wondered why this is.
When I think about it, I believe it comes down to the fact that we live extremely busy lives, filled with (at least) 100 decisions to make, jobs to go to, people to see and things to do. We’ve filled our lives with so much noise, that sometimes it’s hard to be still and actually listen.
And that’s where I believe running helps me be still. How you manage to stay still whilst running feels like a paradox but bear with me.
When you run, your goal (whatever it might be) is simple. Start here, finish there. You might increase the length between where you start and where you finish, or you might test yourself to finish in a certain time, but the basic premise of getting from A to B remains. When the goal is clear, I think that it gets easier to focus. it becomes easier to be still with your thoughts and to think only of what’s in front of you at that moment.
This is the opposite of most of our lives right now. We see in front of us but rather than take it in and enjoy, engage, embrace or endure it, we think about the future, and sometimes, those with us with anxiety fear the worst because of what’s happened in the past. Suddenly, we’re trapped into a negative cycle that becomes increasingly hard to escape from.
Running changes that for me. After about 10 minutes in, my stresses are even further behind me. They’re not gone, it’s just that at this moment, I have this one thing to do, and I’m going to make sure I do it well. Our society always tells us how multitasking is a great idea (although the tide might be turning), but running is the ultimate single task activity.
I usually run late at night or early in the morning, when there are hardly any people around, not because I hate people, but because the environment forces me to focus on this moment, taking everything in and enjoying my surroundings. As I run in these once familiar streets, now shrouded in unfamiliar darkness, I feel immersed in a world where finishing this run as well as I can becomes the most important thing in the world at that moment.
In the real world, we sometimes don’t know what the most important thing we should be focusing on is. So we try and make everything important, which has the adverse effect of making nothing important. We stress out and we worry that we’re not doing well enough, and we probably aren’t, because our minds aren’t focused enough on one thing. The old ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ adage couldn’t be more accurate for the “always on” generation.
So in order to slow down, I’m suggesting you get up, get your trainers on, and go as fast as you can. You know it makes sense.
The soundtrack to my run
Some people run without music. I’m not one of them. Below I’ve shared my Half-marathon playlist which I’ve carefully curated to match my changing mood when I’m running:
Inside the Deku Tree – Leon Vynehall
Aurora Northern Quarter – Lone
All of Us – Zero 7
Turn The Page – The Streets
Get Innocuous! – LCD Soundsystem
Around The World – Daft Punk
I am The Black Gold of the Sun (4 hero Mix) – Nuyorican Soul
Severed – Unreal_Estate
Weakness – George Fitzgerald
Paradisea – Leon Vynehall
Ratio (Full Mix) – Floating Points
Could Heaven Ever Be Like This – Idris Muhammed
Let Me Fall – Laura Mvula
Rope – Foo Fighters
Price of Gasoline – Bloc Party
Hit The Floor – Linkin Park
Daylight – Coldplay
Love Lockdown – Kanye West
The Blacker The Berry – Kendrick Lamar
Stronger Than Ever – Raleigh Ritchie
Iron Sky (Hudson Mohawke Remix) – Paolo Nutini
Icon – Jaden Smith
Can’t Stop – Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Robot (Interlude) – Hudson Mohawke