Wild and Free

Grey Wagtail Source: crowboroughcommon.org

Grey Wagtail Pic source: crowboroughcommon.org

Jettisoned. Hmmmm, I like that word. And I’ve been wondering for some time how to work it into a post. Well, it’s moment of glory is here:

Yesterday, I jettisoned my Garmin, and my iPhone, and headed off for a most enjoyable five mile romp along by the river.

The thing about these little additions is that they often prove to be just another thing to get anxious about. I fret when the Garmin bleeps.

“Oops, my virtual partner has caught up with me.”

And fret when it does not

“Gosh, I hope that battery hasn’t run out.”

And the iPhone can be a proper nuisance. On my runs, I use it for its camera and radio. For my long slow runs, it’s nice to have both. Talk radio keeps me entertained and the camera is an excuse to stop.

But suddenly, the radio reception can time out, or I’ll spot something and have to wrestle the phone from my armband. Or a text will bleep in or a call will come through and, if I don’t stop to check, I’m left wondering who on earth it could be until I do stop, oh, maybe five minutes later, and discover it’s one of the kids looking to be picked up now and I shouldn’t have stopped at all.

Well, yesterday I was having none of that. I stowed both Garmin and iPhone in the car, along with the armrest, the earphones and all my anxieties and trotted off to enjoy glorious September sunlight down by the river.

It wasn’t long before I spotted my first surprise. I recall very clearly my first sighting of one as a little girl, holding onto my mother’s hand. “That’s a yellow willy wag” said Mother. Years later, I could confirm she was almost right. Grey Wagtails are indeed yellow, but his continental cousin is decidedly more yellow and bagged the name before poor Mr Grey came along. A yellow rump doesn’t quite qualify and, as he is mostly grey otherwise, grey wagtail it is.

But, he is still beautiful, despite his dull name.

Like their pied wagtail cousin, greys have the constantly moving long tail. If anything it seems a little longer and more mobile. They’re mostly seen along fast flowing rivers and streams. favouring canal locks and river weirs, in particular. I had last seen one seven years ago in a stream in Glendalough and prior to that, along the Boyne in Drogheda. So this was my fourth sighting ever of this bird. Oh, he’s fairly common apparently, in Ireland. It’s just that I am not always paying attention.

That’s why I need more runs like yesterday. Attentive ones.

I pay more attention to my fellow runners when I am not deafened by my earphones. Some-the really serious elite runners-just whizz past without noticing me, or anything else. You can just read their minds from the severity of their expressions and the efficiency of their gait “ I will break sub-3 in the marathon” Then Zoom, they’re gone.

Or the couples who are out together, one egging the other on. It seems to me that there is always one of the pair that’s really into running and trying to convince the other one that they should be. One who is deliberately slowing their pace, looking cool and refreshed while the other is plainly less fit and struggling just to hit jogging pace. I sometimes wonder if the delights of running are best discovered on one’s own, in one’s own time and pace. That first phase into running is a battle with oneself that too quickly, in accompanied circumstances, can turn into a battle with the well meaning, but sickeningly fitter, other party.

But I trot on, glad of solo runs.

And then a girl whizzes past. Yes, whizz. The draft from her passing like a tornado, almost knocking me off my feet. But-get this- she is carrying a litre bottle. One litre bottle in one hand. Now that’s awkward. Awkward size. Why not cart a 500ml, if you must? Or two 500 ml bottles in either hand? Or, carry a couple of euro, take the short trot into town and buy water there. Awkward hold. An average sized woman’s hand just won’t go around a litre bottle and hold it comfortably at speed. It’s a distraction.

Well it certainly was a distraction for me. I did a double take when I saw that almost almost missing an oncoming pothole in the process. Sure, it would have served me right if I’d tripped: I am constantly slagging my fellow runners off, if only in my head.

I hate holding anything when I run. I will never, for instance, be part of a couple that holds hands throughout their entire run, or,as I spotted in one half marathon, holding a piece of string between them. Well, snigger to that one. I mean they actually had to put a bit of forethought in there. It’s not like one caught up with the other and held their hand to encourage them along. Even cynical me can get that can happen. Nope, in the case of the string holding couple, one of them-or maybe both of them-have engaged in a little forethought the night before the run. They’ve thought about it long enough to think (a) it’s a great idea and (b) where on earth will I find a piece of string?

I don’t know about you, but here in the Chook House, there isn’t a suitable piece of string to be had.  No, I’d have to head to the stationery shop for some proper string. More forethought, more effort and for what? To show the world what a great couple you are. Blah, to that then.

Another trend I am noticing lately, is a more recent one: people running in old clothes. Now I love this one. Often it’s older people -that wonderful post-fifties age group-that indulge in this practice. And the rationale is pretty easy to make out: post fifty you don’t give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks about the way you look. But you may not be sure about this running lark. Is if for you? Well, no point in investing in all the high tech gear, just throw a pair of runners, a loose pair of bottoms, and old T and run.

Or at least try to.

Like the old guy I saw yesterday, who shuffled by in a white vest and white cargo shorts. The guy was sixty, if he was a day. He was quite a sight with long white flowing hair, white vest-an actual cotton vest, now, not a vesty type t shirt -and the aforementioned shorts. The whole all over white look was great. The beer belly, not so much. But if he gets the hang of the running lark, that will disappear and the guy will have added quality years to his life. Cheering him on, or slagging him off? Cheering him on, of course.

Once he gets a taste of progress, he can ditch the old gear and slip into something cooler and more comfortable. I hope he gets to that point. Discomfort can be a good thing in running, but only when it spells progress. Your only discomfort should come from pushing into a better fitness zone.

But that’s not even always. Some runs I like to feel free. I like to jettison all non essential items, all my cares, feel the wind in my hair, the sun on my back and just be glad I can be out there. I am not looking to get fitter. I am not looking for negative splits, or more intervals, or personal bests. I am just looking to enjoy.

The French call it joie de vivre. For me it’s just-and in every sense of these words-feeling wild and free.

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20 thoughts on “Wild and Free

  1. It’s interesting the things one’s brain will seize upon when out for a run, eh? Yes, I think I meant that how it sounded. When you run, your brain goes on walkabout, too. Particularly if freed from electronic distractions and enabled to interact directly with the world around.

    • Unfortunately, my brain tends to pick the wrong terrain for it’s walkabouts, generally critiquing my every move and reminding me of what a lousy runner I am. So I sometimes stick in the earphones just to shut it out.

      • Mm, yes – I’ve had that, too. My brain complains a lot. “We want to stop now, don’t we? It’s sooo hot. This would be a very good place to stop. Feeling kind of hungry. This hurts, and we should stop. There is nothing chasing us – no reason to keep running.”

      • I wonder how those mind squabbles work on the back of a tandem though? You know, when you know it is possible to take it a little easier, does the mind stop teasing one so much and just let you get on with it?

  2. Conversely, you’ve gotta laugh at the other extreme – those who spend inordinate amounts of cash on getting just the right equipment for their new “hobby ” and then jettisoning the idea after a few weeks and move onto something new. All the gear and no idea, as they say. I’m sure we all know someone like that … 😃

  3. Great post!
    Having tried to start running years ago with my OH, and failing badly, and now successfully running (jogging…) 5km regularly by myself, I definitely think it’s better to start on your own!

  4. RH, love this freedom post. It’s beyond me how people can walk or run in lovely places with music or whatever blaring in their ears. How could anything beat birdsong or the roar of the sea?

  5. Great post RH. I used to look upon running as a challenge – train, improve, suffer, hit those splits etc. Now it’s a way of life and to be enjoyed to the full. And the full enjoyment comes when you’re able to take in everything going on all around – nature, other people, whatever. And yes, much of this can only come on ‘no pressure’ solo runs.
    The only injuries I’ve ever got are turned ankles, simply because I’ve been gawking at everything except where my feet are going. As a coach my instinct is to critique each and every other runner that I see, whilst giving them a ‘hi’ or a nod – not always reciprocated 🙂
    So, my latest Couch to 5k programme starts tomorrow and you’ve reminded me to emphasise the one most important tip – smile and enjoy.

    • Oh, I must post about the reciprocated and non-reciprocated greetings some day! Fun is essential to everything, isn’t it? I think it’s the kid in us. They learn through play and how wise is that? If we’re enjoying, very often we’re making even better progress than when we’re doing something through gritted teeth. Though the gritted teeth runs have their place too.
      Best of luck with your coaching tomorrow-that’s a great contribution to your community.

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